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Heinz Otto Schild

Elected in 2014

Born on 18 May 1906 in Fiume, Austria-Hungary, now Rijeka, Croatia
Died on 15 June 1984 in Leatherhead, UK


  • Schild’s work laid the foundations for many major developments in pharmacology. Originally trained in medicine, he remained interested in the application of pharmacology to clinical problems
  • A major theme of his research was the mechanism of the anaphylactic response, and the role of histamine as a mediator. Using a range of in vivo and in vitro techniques, he discovered the inhibitory effect of adrenaline on histamine release, as well as the effects of temperature and calcium ions as controlling factors. It has been said that no one “could study any aspect of histamine’s role today without being influenced by Schild’s ideas”
  • To pursue his studies of histamine release, he developed a simple, statistically rigorous, method of bioassay (the 2 + 2 assay). This design, which minimised systematic errors and enabled confidence limits to be calculated, has found many applications
  • He applied similar quantitative reasoning to the analysis of drug antagonism. The Schild plot is a widely used graphical device to describe drug antagonism. Applied to competitive antagonists, it provides an estimate of the binding affinities of drugs and so allows different types of drug receptor to be distinguished – an important foundation for later developments in receptor pharmacology and new therapeutic drugs
  • Based on these foundations, he made the important proposal that there were two distinct types of histamine receptor, which explained many earlier puzzles, and ultimately led to the development of novel (H2) histamine antagonists for treating gastric ulcers by Sir James Black

Personal life

  • Schild was born into an agnostic Jewish, Eastern European family while Europe was going through immense upheaval. WWI and the rise of fascism meant he was uprooted to be schooled in Budapest and Munich
  • Because he was an enemy alien, he faced internment during 1939-1940. His release from a camp on the Isle of Man was eventually secured by appeals from the UK scientific and academic community. He stayed in Britain and gained British citizenship after the end of WWII

Published: 29 Sep 2014 in Pharmacology Hall of Fame