John Lycoudis

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Physician (1910 – 1980)

John Lycoudis was the physician who first discovered that gastric ulcer was primarily caused by a bacterial infection, now known to be H. pylori, and used his own treatment consisting of a combination of antibiotics to cure thousands of the disease. A man way ahead of his time, he faced extraordinary opposition from the medical and pharmaceutical establishment both inside and outside of Greece. Widely dismissed and discredited by the academia, he was justified 4 years after his death and his work accepted worldwide after almost 50 years.

Lycoudis practiced medicine in his hometown, Mesolonghi, where he was known as the “Doctor of the Poor” for not charging money for his visits. This resulted in him being very beloved by the people and was elected mayor of Mesolonghi twice. The money he earned went to a public pharmacy, which he had established for the poor.

His discovery was not my chance. Lycoudis suffered from chronic gastritis himself and in 1958 he suffered from haemorrhagic gastritis. This led him to search for a cure by himself. Believing that peptic ulcer was caused by a bacterium, he tried different combinations of antibiotics to see which would cure the disease. His discovery was patented and published in 1961 under the title “A method for the production of a pharmaceutical mixture for the treatment of peptic ulcers, duodenal ulcers and gastritis”.

The new drug which he had created, named Elgaco (from the Greek words ἔλκος, γαστρῖτις and κολῖτις meaning ulcer, gastritis and colitis respectively), was used successfully to treat an estimated of 30.000 patients suffering from peptic ulcer. Elgaco was never allowed to circulate in the market by the Greek authorities. Clinical trials were never performed by any university in the world that he had contacted to prove its efficacy. Throughout the following years, Lycoudis lectured around Greece in attempt to raise awareness about his treatment method.

The medical establishment and the academia did not remain apathetic to Lycoudis’ discovery. In spite of his enormous treatment success, the medical establishment, driven by profit and envy, sent him to court, charged him for “Creating and distributing unapproved drugs… He was using his method to attract patients to earn money from it” and fined him 4000 drachmas (11 euro).

Lycoudis was ultimately vindicated four years after his death in 1980, when scientific validation came from the other side of the globe by two Australian doctors, Robin Warren and Barry Marshall. The two won the Nobel Prize of Medicine in 2005 for Lycoudis’ discovery. Barry Marshall, who had been treated in a similar way by the academia, said “If he had been accepted by the scientific community, then he would have won the Nobel Prize 20 years before myself and Dr. Warren”. When asked about the Nobel Prize, Lycoudis prophetically replied “Bring it to my grave, when it has been discovered that I was right”.

In 1999, an article was published in the eminent medical journal The Lancet titled John Lycoudis: An unappreciated discoverer of the cause and treatment of peptic ulcer disease, in honour of John Lycoudis and his work. In 2002, Barry Marshall dedicated an extensive text to him in his book, entitled John Lycoudis: The general practitioner in Greece, who in 1958 discovered the cause of, and treatment for peptic ulcer disease. Marshall would always cite Lycoudis in his lectures. He was posthumously awarded by the Academy of Athens, the same people who 50 years ago had restricted him from treating his patients.

Today, 50 years later, Lycoudis’ reputation has been restored and his name is known worldwide as the man who challenged the medical world with his radical discovery, considered the greatest medical discovery in modern Greek history.

Bibliography:

  1. Δημ. Γουλές – Ι. Σουφλερή. Γιάννης Λυκούδης: Ο Μεσολογγίτης ιατρός των φτωχών, το ΕΛΚΟΣ και το Νόμπελ. MEGAMED. Megamed.gr. Web. November 20, 2016.
  2. Παπαβασιλείου, Ευστάθιος. Αφιέρωμα στη μνήμη του Ιωάννη Λυκούδη. Πρακτικὰ 11ου Ελληνικού Συνεδρίου για το Ελικοβακτηρίδιο του Πηλωρού, Αθήνα, 2006. eemep.gr. Web.
  3. Ρογδάκης, Αθανάσιος. Ιωάννης Λυκούδης. Πεμπτουσία. Pemptousia.gr. Web. May 26, 2011.
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John Lycoudis

Nikos Kazantzakis

Writer, Poet, Philosopher, Statesman (1883 – 1957)

Nikos Kazantzakis is the most widely translated Greek writer in the world. His enormous bibliography, ranging from philosophy and poetry to plays and literature places him at the top of modern Greek literature. He is regarded as one of the giants of modern Greek literature whose reputation still holds ground all over the world.

He was born in Crete. He studied law in the University of Athens and in the University of Paris. From a young age he began studying Nietzsche and attending lectures of Henry Bergson, two philosophers that would have great influence on his career. His two greatest teachers would remain Dante and Homer. His debut in the Greek letters was in 1906 with his essay The Disease of the Century and his novel Snake and Lily.

He was a close friend of Angelos Sikelianos and the two traveled extensively throughout the world. It was a spiritual journey that introduced him to the ideas of Buddhism, communism and most importantly nationalism. Both Kazantzakis and Sikelianos had envisioned the revival of the ancient Greek spirit, something that brought him in conflict with the Orthodox Church.

Except novels and essays, Kazantzakis wrote plays, poems, travel books, philosophical books and memoirs. He gained worldwide attention with his book Zorba the Greek, the story of a young man who meets and befriends a strange man full of energy for life called Alexis Zorbas. The novel was adapted into a critically acclaimed film by Michael Kakoyiannis in 1964, which won 3 Academy Awards, as well as a musical.

Other works that made his name famous across the world are novels Captain Michalis, Christ Recrucified and The Last Temptation of Christ, all of which were negatively received by the Orthodox Church for their themes and Christ’s portrayal. The latter was included in the now abolished Index Librorum Prohibitorum of the Church. Kazantzakis replied to them by saying “You gave me a curse, Holy Fathers. I give you a blessing; may your conscience be as clear as mine and may you be as moral and religious as I”.

Ascesis: The Saviours of God, published in 1927, is considered to be Kazantzakis’ greatest work on philosophy influenced by Bergson, Nietzsche, Marx, Christianity and Buddhism, expressing the writer’s metaphysical faith. Other works include his spiritual autobiography Report To Greco, Toda Raba, The Fratricides and God’s Pauper: St. Francis of Assisi.

In 1938 he published his epic poem Odysseus, a part of his epic poem called The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel based on Homer’s Odyssey. It too was written in 24 rhapsodies and consisted of 33.333 lyrics, each with 17 syllables. What was to become Kazantzakis’ magnum opus was reworked 7 times and was published after his death. It picks up from where Homer’s Odyssey ends. Furthermore, he did renditions of Homer’s epics from ancient Greek to modern Greek.

Kazantzakis was involved with politics sporadically throughout his life. In 1919, he was appointed Minister of Public Welfare by Eleutherios Venizelos for 1 year, until he resigned. During this short time period, he was responsible for evacuating 150.000 Greeks from Asia Minor. He served as Minister of State from 1945 to 1946 and worked in UNESCO for promoting the translation of classic literature to foreign languages in order to bridge civilizations.

Kazantzakis was nominated a total of 9 times for the Nobel Prize of Literature. The first time was in 1946, when he lost the award to Albert Camus. Camus himself expressed his opinion that Kazantzakis deserved the award more than him. In 1956 he was bestowed the International Peace Award in Vienna. He died in 1957 in Freiburg from leukaemia. His funeral was held in Herakleion and was a major event in Greece. On his tombstone is inscribed: “I hope for nothing, I fear nothing. I am free”.

Bibliography

  1. Editors @ TheFamousPeople.com. Nikos Kazantzakis Biography. TheFamousPeople.com. Web. Retrieved on August 5, 2017.
  2. Νίκος Καζαντζἀκης. Σαν Σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web.
Nikos Kazantzakis

Alec Issigonis

NPG x165931; Sir Alec Issigonis by Godfrey Argent

Car Designer (1906 – 1988)

Alexander Arnold Issigonis was an engineer and car designer born in Smyrna, Asia Minor to a cosmopolitan family. He was the man who made the legendary Mini Cooper, one of the most significant cars in British history.

He fled from Smyrna in 1822 during the Great Fire and settled in London. He enrolled in the University of Surrey to study engineering, but failed mathematics three times, forcing him to continue his studies in the University of London.

He began his career in the automobile industry initially working for Humber and then for Morris Motor Company. His first major success as a car designer was when he developed the Mosquito in 1948, shortly after World War II. The Mosquito would continue being manufactured up until 1971. Another vehicle designed by him was the sports car 750 cc Lightspeed Special.

In 1952, Issigonis retired from Morris Motor Company and joined Alvis Car, until 1955, when he joined British Motor Corporation. It was in August, 1959 when British Motor Corporation unveiled the Morris Mini Minor or Mini Cooper, as it came to be known, designed by engineering genius Alec Issigonis. Hailed for its overall simplicity and comfort, the Mini Cooper was an unprecedented success that changed the way cars were designed by the industry. It later went on to become the best-selling British car in history, producing 5.3 million vehicles. Numerous models were released over the years which continued being manufactured until 2000. Another one of his major success, the Austin 1100, was developed in 1961. His last car was the Austin Maxi in 1969.

Issigonis, the “Greek God”, as he was called by his contemporaries, received enormous recognition in England. He was made Knight Commander of the British Empire and was knighted by the Queen of England in 1969. Streets were named after him in several towns of England. Today, the original surviving Mini Cooper vehicles have become very valuable for collectors.

Bibliography

  1. Sir Alec Issigonis 1906 – 1988. jannaludlow.co.uk. Web.
  2. Sir Alec Issigonis (1906 – 1988). Uniquecarsandparts.com. au. Web.
  3. Αλέξανδρος Ισιγώνης. Σαν σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web.
Alec Issigonis

Georgios Joakimoglou

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Physician (1887 – 1979)

During a council in Greece, a German professor said: “You can sleep quietly because Joakimoglou remains sleepless to ensure the safety of your medicine.”

A pioneer of modern pharmacology, he is credited as the first person to combine modern medicine with experimental pharmacology as well as the first person to prove the potential hazards of drugs and modern medicines. His research expanded to fields that had never been researched before.

He was born in Asia Minor in 1887 to an affluent family. He studied medicine in the University of Berlin and chemistry under Nobel prize winner Emil Fischer. He was appointed curator of the pharmacology lab in the University of Berlin in 1913 and Associate Professor of pharmacology in the Medical University of Berlin 1918. He became professor of pharmacology at the same university and then served as director of the university’s pharmacology lab.

In 1928, he was appointed Professor of experimental pharmacology in the University of Athens, director of the biochemical lab at the Greek hospital Evangelismos and became a regular member of the Academy of Athens, among many other honors. He also took over and the Athenian Pharmacology Lab, saving it from closing down.

Throughout his academic career, Joakimoglou published a series of books on pharmacology and numerous papers in medicine. Indicatively, 123 of his papers referred to pharmacology, 10 to physiology, 16 to microbiology and 9 to chemistry and toxicology. He also published several articles on hygiene, microbiology, chemistry, physiology and toxicology in German scientific magazines. At the time, he was one of the most respected and cited academics in Europe.

His biggest contribution was in the field of pharmacology and research. He was the first person to medicate arsphenamine in order to treat syphilis that was plaguing Smyrna. He developed groundbreaking methods of tracing poisonous substances in drugs. These methods were established in the international pharmacological bibliography and made Joakeimoglou a renowned pharmacologist.

He became the first person to research the chemical components of drugs and warn of their addiction and dangers both within and outside the medical establishment. He was responsible for banning by law several drugs and toxic medicines in Greece, including hasish and heroin 25 years earlier than Germany.  He was also able to predict the disastrous hazards of the teratogenic drug thalidomide, which caused over 10,000 infants around the world to die from phocomelia. Thanks to Ioakimoglou, the drug was banned in Greece, saving thousands of lives.

He also became one of the first people to declare legal war against drugs. He served as vice-president and later president of the drug control division of the World Health Organization, inspecting and banning several drugs and hazardous medicines. Furthermore, he proved that several food colouring chemicals caused cancer and objected to their import in Greece.

Joakimoglou’s contribution to the science of medicine and pharmacology was recognized around the world at a very early stage of his life. In 1920, he was invited by prime minister Eleutherios Venizelos to establish and organize the University of Smyrna along with renowned mathematician Constantine Caratheodory. When he presented himself to the high commissioner of Smyrna, the commissioner remarked: “You are very young!”, to which Ioakimoglou replied: “Indeed sir, it is a setback. But trust me, it will improve over time“.

Bibliography

  1. Cosmote Tv. Those Who Dared. Cosmote Tv, 2016. Film.
  2. “Ioakeimoglou”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1946. Print.
  3. Laskaratos, Giannis. “Αφιέρωμα Ο Ελληνικός 20ος αιώνας τα πρόσωπα”. Ta Nea, 1999 Web. 29 Jun. 2017.
Georgios Joakimoglou

Konstantinos Tsiklitiras

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Athlete (1888 – 1913)

The greatest athlete in the history of track and field of Greece and the greatest Greek Olympian, Konstantinos Tsiklitiras wrote history as one of the legendary Greek athletes who won 4 medals in the Olympic Games of 1908 in London and 1912 in Stockholm. He possessed a rare talent in multiple sports as well as a sense of patriotism.

He played several sports on competitive level such as football, high jump, javelin throw and polo, but he is most remembered for his performances in standing long jump and standing high jump. His achievements began in 1906 when he won third place in the Panhellenic games in standing long jump. In 1907 he won three golden medals in the Panionian Games of Smyrna in high jump, standing high jump and standing long jump as well as two more golden medals in the Panhellenic games that year. In the years 1907, 1908 and 1910 his team won the Panhellenic football championship. Tsiklitiras was playing as their main goalkeeper.

In the 1908 London Olympics, Tsiklitiras won two silver medals; one for standing long jump and one for standing high jump. In the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, he was the flag-bearer of Greece during the opening ceremony. There, he won the gold medal in standing long jump with a 3.37 meter long jump and a bronze medal in standing high jump. Earlier during the year he had tied for the world record in standing long jump (3.47 meters).

The 24-year-old had beaten Panhellenic records and held a world record in standing long jump. He was apotheosized upon his return to Greece and made the headlines as Greece’s most celebrated Olympian at the time. He was also offered a working place in the National Bank of Greece, since he had studied economics.

In 1912, the 1st Balkan War broke out. Tsiklitiras volunteered to fight on the first line in the Battle of Bizani. He contracted meningitis and died at the age of 25, having sacrificed his career and his life for Greece. In his memory, the Athens Grand Prix Tsiklitiria athletics were founded and continue to be held every year to this day.

To date, having won 1 golden medal, 2 silver and 1 bronze, he ranks as Greece’s greatest Olympian with the highest number of medals ever conquered by a Greek athlete, a title he holds together with Pyrros Dimas and Nikolaos Georgantas.

Bibliography:

  1. Κωνσταντίνος Τσικλητήρας. Σαν Σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web.
  2. Ο αετός του αθλητισμού –Ο κορυφαίος αθλητής και Ολυμπιονίκης Κωνσταντίνος Τσικλητήρας. Pronews. Pronews.gr. Web. January 8, 2016.
Konstantinos Tsiklitiras

Nikiforos Vrettakos

Brettakos

Poet (1912 – 1991)

Nikiforos Vrettakos is regarded as one of the greatest writers and poets of modern Greece. He lived an adventurous life with multiple struggles during some of the most difficult times of modern Greek history. He was honoured by multiple prestigious bodies inside and outside of his homeland.

He was from Laconia. After graduating from high school he enrolled in the University of Athens where he studied law. Because of his family’s hardships, however, he did not graduate and he remained in Athens, working to survive. Nevertheless, his big love for poetry did not stop him from publishing his first two poetic collections Under the Shadows and Lights and Down to the Silence of the Centuries, at the age of 17. It was not long before Vrettakos rose to fame, intriguing Kostis Palamas, who wanted to meet him in person.

During the Second World War, Vrettakos enlisted in the army and fought against the Italians in the Albanian front. He partook actively in the Resistance in the midst of the axis occupation and became member of EAM during the guerrilla war of 1946 – 1949. He was removed from the Communist Party of Greece following his disagreement with their politics. He was self-exiled to Switzerland during the junta for 7 years. When he returned to Greece he settled peacefully in Laconia.

Throughout his hard life, Vrettakos never ceased writing poems. The poems he wrote between 1929 and 1938 are characterized by a melancholic tone that reflects his life’s hardships. The second period of his literary work, which spans from 1939 to 1950, is characterized by optimism and struggle. They predominated the Second World War, the axis occupation, the resistance and the guerrilla war. The poems written between 1961 to 1974 are characterized by love and purity and are mostly about nature and the light. The final poetic era from 1975 until his death in 1991 have a similar aura. His works have been translated in several languages such as Turkish and Russian.

Numerous awards were bestowed to Vrettakos. Among them were the National State Prize of Poetry in 1940, 1965 and 1974, the Ourani Prize in 1974, the Knocken Prize of the Sicilian Society of Arts and Letters in 1980 and the Academy of Athens Prize in 1989. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize of Literature 4 times, one of which was nominated by his friend Yiannis Ritsos, with whom he was schoolmate. Vrettakos himself claimed to be a “servant of poetry” and that he would not have anything to live for if God hadn’t given him poetry. His highest virtues were love and homonoia (solidarity). He believed that with these two, man could achieve anything.

Bibliography

1.  Νικηφόρος Βρεττάκος, ο πάμφτωχος ποιητής που είπε: «Αν δε μου ’δινες την ποίηση, Κύριε, δε θα ’χα τίποτα για να ζήσω». Ο δικτάτορας Μεταξάς έκαψε το βιβλίο του, πολέμησε στο μέτωπο του ’40 και προτάθηκε 4 φορές για Νόμπελ. Μηχανή του Χρόνου. Mixanitouxronou.gr. Web.

2.  Cartali, Anna. Νικηφόρος Βρεττάκος,Ο ποιητής της ειρήνης και της αγάπης. Artic. Artic.gr. Web. January 22, 2013.

Nikiforos Vrettakos

Georgios Jakobides

iakovid

Painter, Scholar (1853 – 1932)

Georgios Jakobides was one of the chief representatives of the Munich School. His paintings have earned him the nickname “Painter of Childhood” because they depict scenes with children. He held a significant number of powerful positions in the academia, allowing him to influence and direct the art movement in Greece. He is considered one of the most important oil painters of modern Greece.

He was born in the island of Lesbos in the then Ottoman Empire. He studied sculpture and painting in Athens. One of his teachers there was Nicephorus Lytras. After earning a scholarship, he continued his studies in Munich. There, he founded his own art school for girls. He was member of the German Museum of Nuremberg.

Jakobides painted primarily sceneries from everyday life, which included children, flowers, nature and in-door places. He also painted portraits. Some of his most well-known paintings are The Naughty Grandson, Girl with Distaff and Spindle, The First Steps, The Flower Seller, Grandma’s Favourite, Children’s Concert, Cold Shower, Reversal of Roles, The Smoker, Granddaughter’s Combing and The Toilette. His paintings were characterized by realism expressed through movement, vivid colours and lighting.

He was the recipient of numerous achievement awards, namely the golden medal of Athens in 1888, the honour award from Bremen in 1890, the economian award of Trieste in 1895, the golden medal of Paris in 1900, the excellence award of Letters and Art in 1914 and many others. He became the first headmaster of the National Art Gallery of Athens in 1900 and was a professor of fine arts in the University of Athens. With the foundation of the Academy of Athens in 1926, he was chosen as one of its initial 38 members. Jakobides was one of the few wealthy painters in Greece as well as the most beloved painter of the royal family as shown by several of his portraits of the Kings and Queens of Greece.

By the end of his life, he had painted almost 200 paintings. Today they are found in museums all around the world, primarily in Greece and America.

Bibliography

  1. Uzunoglou, Maria-Zografou. ΙΑΚΩΒΙΔΗΣ!!Ο ΖΩΓΡΑΦΟΣ ΤΩΝ ΠΑΙΔΙΩΝ!!. ΤΕΧΝΗ ΚΑΙ ΖΩΗ. Texni-zoi.blogspot.bg. Web. November 7, 2014.
Georgios Jakobides