Marthe Vogt

Marthe Louise Vogt (1903-2003): World-class neuroscientist

The chemist and physician Marthe Louise Vogt, who was born in Berlin, left Germany after the National Socialists seized power. She found her second home in Great Britain. Here she researched the chemical transmission of nerve impulses and received international recognition for the first evidence of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Marthe Louise Vogt was born on September 8, 1903 in Berlin as the first child of the doctors Oskar and Cécile Vogt. Her parents were important brain researchers at the neurobiological laboratory of the Friedrich Wilhelm University, now the Humboldt University in Berlin. The laboratory headed by Oskar Vogt (1870-1959) later became the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research in Berlin-Buch, which is now based in Frankfurt am Main as the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research. Ten years after Marthe Louise was born, her sister Marguerite was born. She, too, later gained worldwide recognition as a scientist. While Marthe Louise Vogt made a name for herself in neuropharmacology, her younger sister is considered a pioneer in tumor virology.

Marthe Louise Vogt enrolled in 1922 after graduating from high school to study medicine and chemistry with a focus on biochemistry at the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin. Her academic teachers in chemistry, Wilhelm Schlenk (1879-1943) and Friedrich Adolf Paneth (1887-1958), aroused her interest in answering medical questions with the help of chemistry.

After completing her studies and a practical year in a hospital and in her father's institute, Vogt received his doctorate in medicine in 1928. She then worked in the working group of Carl Neuberg (1877-1956) at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Biochemistry in Berlin. Just a year and five months after earning her doctorate in medicine , Vogt earned a second doctorate, now in chemistry. For this dissertation, she dealt with carbohydrate metabolism under the title "Investigations into the formation and behavior of some biologically important substances from the three-carbon series". She then got a job as an assistant at the Pharmacological Institute of Paul Trendelenburg (1884-1931) in Berlin. After his early death, she worked in the neurochemistry department at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research, which her father had founded.

Like her father, Vogt was an opponent of National Socialism. In 1935 she left Germany and went to the National Institute for Medical Research in London on a one-year Rockefeller Fellowship. There she did research together with Henry Hallet Dale (1875-1968), who received the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1936 together with Otto Loewi (1873-1961) for discovering and decoding the chemical transmission of nerve impulses. The two scientists revolutionized neuromedicine and also influenced Vogt's scientific Career.

After her research stay with Dale, Vogt found new places to work at the Department of Pharmacology in Cambridge, UK, and at the College of the Pharmaceutical Society in London. In 1946 she seized the opportunity to set up her own working group under John Henry Gaddum (1900-1965) in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Edinburgh. When Gaddum became director at the National Institute for Animal Physiology, now the Babraham Institute, in Cambridge, she followed him. From 1960 to 1966 she headed the pharmacological department of the institute. She continued to work there after retirement until 1990, when her eyesight began to deteriorate and she moved to live with her sister Marguerite in La Jolla, California. Marthe Louise Vogt died on September 9, 2003 at the age of 100 in San Diego, USA.

As a neuropharmacologist, Vogt made important contributions to the physiology of the neurotransmitters acetylcholine, adrenaline and noradrenaline. She was the first to prove neurotransmitters in the brain. In doing so, she made a significant contribution to clarifying the function of muscle-relaxing agents and psychotropic drugs. Her research also helped to better understand mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. Vogt's scientific achievements have been recognized by numerous medals and honorary doctorates. In 1952, around five years after her naturalization in Great Britain, she was elected a Fellow of the British Royal Society, the venerable academy in London. Up until then, only a few women had received this award. In 1983, Vogt became the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Cambridge. She is not forgotten in the city of her birth either: Since 2001, the Research Association Berlin has been awarding the Marthe Vogt Prize for the promotion of young female scientists every year.



  • W. Cuthbert in: Marthe Louise Vogt. 8 September 1903 ? 9 September 2003, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, Volume 51, 1 December 2005
  • H. Bielka: History of the Medical-Biological Institute Berlin-Buch, Springer, Berlin, 2002
  • U. Trendelenburg: Persecuted German-speaking pharmacologists 1933-1945, Frechen, Dr. Schroer, 2006

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The texts published in this series do not claim to be scientific publications. Authors and other people involved are not experts in the history of science. The purpose of the series is to introduce the mostly unknown women chemists and to remind you of the well-known women chemists. We encourage readers who want to know more to study academic Literature on the women featured. In some cases there are detailed chemical-historical works.

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last modified: 21.01.2022 15:01 H from K.J.Schmitz