Robert Bárány (April 22, 1876 – April 8,1936) was an Hungarian-Jewish physician. For his work on the physiology and pathology of the vestibular apparatus of the ear he received the 1914 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Bárány was born in Vienna. He attended medical school at Vienna University, graduating in 1900. As a doctor in Vienna, Bárány was syringing fluid into the inner ear of a patient to relieve the patient's dizzy spells. The patient experienced vertigo and nystagmus (involuntary eye movement) when Bárány injected fluid that was too cold. In response, Bárány warmed the fluid for the patient and the patient experienced nystagmus in the opposite direction. Bárány theorized that the endolymph was sinking when it was cool and rising when it was warm, and thus the direction of flow of the endolymph was providing the proprioceptive signal to the vestibular organ. He followed up on this observation with a series of experiments on what he called the caloric reaction. The research resulting from his observations made surgical treatment of vestibular organ diseases possible. Bárány also investigated other aspects of equilibrium control, including the function of the cerebellum.
He served with the Austrian army during World War I as a civilian surgeon and was captured by the Russian Army. When his Nobel Prize was awarded in 1914, Bárány was in a Russian prisoner of war camp. He was released in 1916 following diplomatic negotiations with Russia conducted by Prince Carl of Sweden and the Red Cross. He was then able to attend the Nobel Prize awards ceremony in 1916, where he was awarded his prize. From 1917 until his death he was professor at Uppsala University.