Berta Vogel Scharrer
Berta Vogel

December 1, 1906
Munich, Germany
DiedJuly 23, 1995(1995-07-23) (aged 88)
CitizenshipGermany; United States
Alma materUniversity of Munich
Known forPioneering work in neuroendocrinology
AwardsNational Medal of Science
Scientific career

Berta Vogel Scharrer (December 1, 1906 – July 23, 1995) was an American scientist who helped to found the scientific discipline now known as neuroendocrinology.[1]


She received her Ph.D. from the University of Munich in 1930.[2] She worked at the university with Professor Karl von Frisch, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1973 for his work with bees. After completing her education, Berta and her husband, Ernst Scharrer embarked on a remarkable scientific career together. Their journey began at the Research Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, where Berta focused on the study of spirochaete infections in the brains of birds and amphibians.

Berta Scharrer was forced to emigrate at the onset of the Holocaust in 1937. She arrived with Ernst in the United States with a total of eight dollars. Ernst had secured a Rockefeller Fellowship at the University of Chicago and Berta continued her research, initially working with Drosophila and later with cockroaches and related species for the remainder of her research career. The couple's academic journey took them to various institutions, with Ernst accepting academic appointments that determined their locations. Throughout their career, they conducted groundbreaking research on neurosecretion, investigating the connection between the nervous and endocrine systems. Berta specialized in the study of invertebrates, while Ernst focused on vertebrates.[2]

In 1955, they founded the Department of Anatomy at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. It was at this point that Berta received her first salaried academic appointment, and she played an integral role in the department, not only as a scientist but also as a dedicated teacher.[3]

As her career progressed, Berta made significant contributions to the study of neuropeptides and neuroimmunology, entering these emerging fields in her later years and serving as the associate editor of the journal Advances in Immunology.[4] Her passion for research persisted until her passing in 1995 at the age of 88.

Berta received numerous awards and honors throughout her career, including the National Medal of Science from President Ronald Reagan in 1983. Her work left a lasting impact on the fields of neurobiology and endocrinology, and she remains a respected and influential figure among anatomists.[5]

Personal life

Berta Vogel Scharrer was born December 8, 1906, in Munich, Germany, into a prosperous, well-educated family. Her father, Karl Phillip Vogel was a judge serving as vice president of the Federal Court of Bavaria. As a young student she became interested in biology, and knew she wanted to be a biologist from a young age.[2]

Berta Vogel married Ernst Scharrer in 1934. They met as graduate students working under von Frisch. The couple fled Germany in 1937 when Ernst accepted a Rockefeller Fellowship at the University of Chicago. They later became U.S. citizens in 1945.[6]

Ernst died in 1965 in a swimming accident. The couple had no children.[7]


Scharrer conducted research and taught at Einstein College until her retirement in 1995, five months before her death at age 88.[7]


Scharrer was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1967.[8] She earned honorary degrees from various universities, including one from Harvard in 1982,[7] "as well as a nomination for a Nobel Prize for her pioneering research in brain chemicals". In 1983, she was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Reagan, for "demonstrating the central role of neurosecretion and neuropeptides in the integration of animal function and development."[9]


Scharrer's studies of invertebrates, particularly cockroaches, was so extensive that her name was given to a species of cockroach, known as the Escala scharrerae, found in Australasia.[1][3] Scharrer was awarded the Schleiden Medal in 1983 and was a member of the National Academy of Sciences.[10]

Selected Publications

Establishment of the Basis of Invertebrate Neurosecretion

  1. 1938 The structure of the ring-gland (corpus allatum) in normal and lethal larvae of Drosophila melanogaster. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 24:236–242.
  2. 1939 The differentiation between neuroglia and connective tissue sheath in the cockroach (Periplaneta americana). J. Comp. Neurol., 70:77–88.
  3. 1941 Neurosecretion. II. Neurosecretory cells in the central nervous system of cockroaches. J. Comp. Neurol., 74:93–108.
  4. 1944 Neurosecretion VI. A comparison between the intercerebralis-cardiacum-allatum system of the insects and the hypothalamo-hypophyseal system of the vertebrates. Biol. Bull., 87:242–251.
  5. 1946 The role of the corpora allata in the development of Leucophaea maderae (Orthoptera). Endocrinology, 38:35–45.

Ultrastructural Studies on Invertebrate Neurosecretory Systems

  1. 1963 The ultrastructure of the corpus cardiacum of the insect Leucophaea maderae. Z. Zellforsch., 60:761–796.
  2. 1966 Ultrastructural study of the regressing prothoracic glands of blattarian insects. Z. Zellforsch., 69:1–21.
  3. 1967 Electron microscopic and biochemical characterization of collagen in blattarian insects. J. Cell Biol., 33:385–393.
  4. 1970 Ultrastructural study of the sites of origin and release of a cellular product in the corpus allatum of insects. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 66:244–245.

Neuropeptides and Neuroimmunology

  1. 1982 Opioid binding sites in the midgut of the insect Leucophaea maderae (Blattaria). Life Sci., 31:1397–1400.
  2. 1987 Gastrin/CCK-like immunoreactivity in the corpus cardiacum-corpus allatum complex of the cockroach Leucophaea maderae. Cell Tissue Res., 248:595–598.
  3. 1990 Immunocytochemical localization and immunochemical characterization of an insulin-related peptide in the insect Leucophaea maderae. Cell Tissue Res., 259:265–273.
  4. 1992 (D-Ala2) deltorphin I binding and pharmacological evidence for a special subtype of delta opioid receptor on human and invertebrate immune cells. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 89:9316–9320.
  5. 1994 Microglia in invertebrate ganglia. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 91:9180–9184.


  1. ^ a b Purpura, Dominick P. (1998). "Berta V. Scharrer, 1906–1995" (PDF). Biographical Memoirs. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.
  2. ^ a b c Wissig, Steven L. (September 1997). "A tribute to Berta Scharrer". The Anatomical Record. 249 (1): 1–5. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1097-0185(199709)249:1<1::AID-AR1>3.0.CO;2-U. ISSN 0003-276X.
  3. ^ a b Douglas Martin (February 9, 1995). "Roach Queen Retires; Expert, 88, Says Goodbye to Subjects". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  4. ^ Wasserman, Elga R. (2000). The door in the dream : conversations with eminent women in science. Joseph Henry Press. pp. 34–35. ISBN 0-309-06568-2.
  5. ^ "Biographical Memoirs". 1998-06-01. doi:10.17226/6201. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ Sharrer, G. Terry (2005). "Scharrer, Berta Vogel (1906–1995), cell biologist and pioneering neuroendocrinologist". American National Biography. doi:10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.1302668. ISBN 978-0-19-860669-7. Retrieved 2020-03-24.
  7. ^ a b c Saxon, Wolfgang (July 25, 1995). "Berta Scharrer, 88, Research Scientist And Roach Expert". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  8. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter S" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 22, 2014.
  9. ^ Wasserman, Elga R. (2000). The door in the dream : conversations with eminent women in science. Joseph Henry Press. p. 36. ISBN 0-309-06568-2.
  10. ^ "Schleiden Medal 1983 – Berta Scharrer". Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. Retrieved 9 May 2015.