Ludwig Guttmann: Google celebrates Jewish doctor who fled Nazis and founded Paralympics
Ludwig Guttman was honored by the International Olympic Committee by being awarded the Sir Thomas Fearnley Cup for the social and human value derived from wheelchair sports
"Let's not forget that the Paralympics, just like the Olympics, are built on a rich history," comedian, journalist, and disability rights activist Stella Young once wrote. The founding father of the iconic sporting event which was first organized in 1948 on the day of the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games - is being honored by tech giant Google on July 3. It's a celebration of the Jewish, German-born British neurologist Professor Sir Ludwig “Poppa” Guttmann, founder of the Paralympic movement. Guttmann was born 122 years ago on this day and a Google Doodle commemorated the day with a fitting tribute
The illustration by Baltimore-based artist Ashanti Fortson sees Guttman at the fore in his signature spectacled look with a barely-there but endearing smile and wheelchair-bound archers, basketball players, and gymnasts in the back. Guttmann's journey to becoming the founder of the Paralympic Games began in 1924 when he received his MD degree, His research on spinal cord injuries and several neurosurgical procedures cemented his position as one of Germany's top neurosurgeons by the time he was in his early thirties. He had to flee from Nazi Germany after the passing of the Nuremberg Laws in 1933 which prohibited him from practicing medicine professionally. Fifteen years later he went on to organize the first sporting event then known as the 'Stoke Mandeville Games' which garnered massive attention globally.
After escaping to England with his family from Germany in 1939, Guttmann furthered his research in paraplegia. By 1944, he was appointed the director of the National Spinal Injuries Center at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Four years later he organized one of the first official competitive sporting events for wheelchair-bound users. Sixteen people participated in the archery contest which was called 'Stoke Mandeville Games' or 'Olympics for the Disabled' which demonstrated the power of elite sport to break down barriers for disability and garnered the attention of medical and sporting communities across the world. Click here to know more about Dr Ludwig Guttmann and his achievements.
Guttmann also founded the International Medical Society of Paraplegia (the International Spinal Cord Society) and the British Sports Association for the Disabled (Activity Alliance) in 1961. His passion for patient care yielded many miracles at the spinal unit. A WWI veteran who was bedridden for over 26 years was brought to the unit to test one of the new wheelchairs and in the next six months was able to walk with just the help of a walking cane. Guttmann was honored with a number of prestigious awards for his advocacy and efforts for paraplegics. The Paralympic Games continue to follow and execute Guttmann's vision after all these years by continuing to be a driving force for promoting the rights, independence, and equal treatment of people with disabilities.