America to the Forefront
England, and (mainly) the United States, were havens for Jewish Nobel Prize laureates in the biomedical sciences who had fled Russian pogroms and Nazi genocide. Most of the 19 pre-1965 laureates (of a total of 46, including two post-2000 laureates) were born outside of the USA. Only six of the 25 post-1965 Jewish Nobel Prize laureates , were born outside of the USA. Of all these distinguished scientists, one Italian-born scientist returned to Italy after the war, and one German-born and one Argentinian-born scientist settled in England.. The rest were emigres to or born in the U.S.A. They were largely responsible for the pre-eminence of the U.S.A. in the science of medicine.
The Nobel Prize Winners
GEORGE WALD, was a co-winner of the 1967 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the primary physiological and chemical visual processes in the eye."
George was born in New York City in 1906 to Isaac Wald and Ernestine Rosenman. George's father came from a small village near Przemysl in Poland, which was then under Austrian hegemony. George's mother had likewise come from a small village in Bavaria.
Upon receiving a Ph.D. from Columbia University, George was awarded a National Research Council Fellowship in Biology, which he began in "the laboratory of Otto Warburg in Berlin-Dahlem. It was there that Wald first identified vitamin A in the retina. Vitamin A had just been isolated in the laboratory of Professor Paul Karrer in Zurich, and Dr. Wald went to Karrer's laboratory to complete the identification. That done, he spent a period in the laboratory of Otto Meyerhof, at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Heidelberg."1 Meyerhof, it will be recalled from Fact Paper 44-IIIA, was one of the many Jewish scientists who had elevated the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute to the top rank of the world's scientific institutions.
Albeit Dr. George Wald was not born in Europe, he was equally an escapee from if not a victim of Naziism. As conditions in Germany became noxious, Wald left to come to Harvard in the fall of 1934 as a tutor in Biomedical Sciences. There he rose rapidly to a full professorship, and was launched into his innovative researches.
MARSHAL W. NIRENBERG was a co-winner of the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for their interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis."
Marshall was born in New York City in 1927 to Harry Nirenberg and Minerva Bykowsky. Young Marshall came down with rheumatic fever, and his parents acted to alleviate his condition by moving to the benign climate of Orlando Florida. "Reminiscing about his childhood, [Marshall] remarked that 'Florida was a natural paradise in those days. And I was the kind of kid who was happy exploring swamps and caves, and collecting spiders.'"
"Nirenberg became an adept observer of plant life, insects, and birds, and captured these observations through carefully written and maintained notes. These sketches and notes presaged a career in which scientific diaries filled with thorough documentation provide a constant source of inspiration for research and analysis." A sketch of spiders that Marshall made when he was 17 years old can be seen on the website of The Marshall W. Nirenberg Papers.2
Nirenberg earned a Ph. D. at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in biological chemistry with a paper on the uptake of a type of sugar by tumor cells. An illustrious career was launched. A series of experiments with synthetic RNA led to his groundbreaking work on the genetic code. He made the results of his work public at the International Congress of Biochemistry in Moscow in 1961. "Nirenberg's work catapulted the scientist... to international fame."2
Not least of Nirenbergs attributes was his social consciousness. "Nirenberg capitalized on his prominence to actively promote various social and political issues... Nirenberg also utilized his stature to protest the political repression and detention of scientists around the world." His activism extended to Brazil's purging of its renowned scientists Isias Raw, Alberto Carvalho da Silva and Helio Lourenco de Oliveira. He protested against the vilification and arrest in the Soviet Union of Michael Stern, a noted endocrinologist, after he had applied for permission to emigrate to Israel. He petitioned for Pope John Paul II to investigate the disappearance of several physicists in Argentina . Nirenberg's support of political, environmental and humanitarian causes was part of what he termed "inescapable responsibility."3
SALVADOR E. LURIA was a co-winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, "for their discoveries concerning the replication mechanism and the genetic structure of viruses."
Luria was born in 1912 in Torino, Italy. In 1935 he received his M.D. summa cum Laude from the University of Torino. As a result of Mussolini's Racial Laws, "He fled Italy for France in 1938 and went to the United States in 1940 after learning the techniques of phage research in Paris."4 The German invasion brought his career as a Research Fellow at the Institute of Radium in Paris to an end. He took a position as Research Assistant in Surgical Bacteriology at Columbia University. From Columbia he went on to pursue a distinguished research career as a Professor of Microbiology at Indiana University, then at the University of Illinois, and subsequently at M.I.T.
Like Nirenberg [see above] and Axelrod [see below], Luria was a social activist. "Dr. Salvador E. Luria is a scientist who believes his political activism may be more important than his Nobel Prize-winning work in medicine. He is a man who has made headlines with both his career and his belief in socialism."5
"The political Luria is an avowed socialist who demands equality, whether in economics or women's rights... Luria said he developed his socialist views while living in Paris for two years before the Nazi invasion. He had fled Italy, where he was born into a Jewish family in 1912, to avoid religious persecution by the Fascists... 'After coming from a country where all the newspapers said the same thing, I was in a place where there were eight or nine different views to listen to.'"5
In 1945 Luria married Zelia Hurwitz, a Professor of Psychology at Tufts University. In 1947 he became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America.4
In the 1960s, Luria led peace marches and organized rallies to protest US involvement in Vietnam. Luria paid dearly for his socialist views during the McCarthy era. Having escaped Fascism in Italy, he came face to face with another form of it in the USA. He endured academic ostracism while teaching at the University of Illinois in 1951, and was denied a passport.
BERNARD KATZ was a co-winner [see Axelrod below] of the1970 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for their discoveries regarding the hormonal transmitters in the nerve terminals, and the mechanism for their storage, release and inactivation."
Bernard was born in 1911 in Leipzig, Germany, the only son of Max Katz and Eugenie Rabinowitz, both of Russian-Jewish origin. His brilliant research was recognized early on. He received the Siegfried Garten Prize for physiological research a year before earning an M. D. in 1934 at the University of Leipzig. No sooner had Katz arrived at an elevated status but he had to flee Germany.
Katz emigrated to England, "where he pursued advanced studies at University College, London, taking a Ph.D. in 1938. Upon receiving a Carnegie fellowship, he continued his studies in Australia (1939-42) in the Eccles laboratory at Sydney Hospital, where his landmark neuromuscular research was initiated. In 1942 he joined the Royal Australian Air Force, and served as a Radar Officer in the South West Pacific until the end of World War II.1
Katz returned to University College in 1946 and from 1952 to 1978 was professor and head of the biophysics department. Katz was knighted in 1969."4
JULIUS AXELROD was a co-winner [see Katz above] of the 1970 Nobel Prize on Physiology and Medicine "for their discoveries regarding the hormonal transmitters in the nerve terminals, and the mechanism for their storage, release and inactivation."
"Julie" Axelrod was born in 1912, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He was the son of Polish immigrants Isadore, a basket-maker, and Molly Liechtling. After a year at NYU; Axelrod transferred to the tuition-free City College of New York. He later described CCNY as a "proletarian Harvard." Turned down by several medical schools, he told a newspaper reporter in 1970 that "It was hard in those days for Jews to get into medical school. I wasn't that good a student, but if my name was Bigelow I probably would have gotten in."
Axelrod took a position in 1935 in the New York City Department of Health's Laboratory of Industrial Hygiene, where he lost his left eye in a laboratory accident. In 1946, Axelrod was one of three researchers conducting research on the chemistry of analgesic (pain-relieving) medications at Goldwater Memorial Hospital on Welfare (now Roosevelt) Island. The research laid the foundation for Axelrod's lifelong enthusiasm for pharmacological science. Axelrod earned a Ph. D. in pharmacology at George Washington University."
In 1957, Axelrod began his most famous research on the activity of neurotransmitter hormones. After he was awarded the Nobel Prize he remained an active researcher, distinguished lecturer, and public scientist.6
In the mold set by Nobel Prize winners Nirenberg and Katz before him, Axelrod was an avid activist. "Axelrod joined other prominent U.S. scientists who decried the former U.S.S.R. government's treatment of the dissident nuclear scientist Andrei Sakharov. In December 1974, Axelrod threatened to withdraw his participation from the International Brain Research Organization [affiliated with UNESCO] after the organization threatened sanctions against Israel. Later, Axelrod joined a group called the Committee of Concerned Scientists; in 1975, the group publicly criticized the Soviet authorities' imprison-ment of neuropathologist Ilya Glezer and, in 1977, they protested the mistreatment of electrochemist Benjamin Levich."7
GERALD MAURICE EDELMAN was a co-winner of the 1972 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the chemical structure of antibodies."
Gerald was born in 1929 in New York City to Edward Edelman and Anna Freedman. He received an M.D. degree at the University of Pennsylvania and served as a Captain in the U. S. Army Medical Corps in 1955. He practiced general medicine at the American Hospital in Paris. In 1957 he joined the Rockefeller Institute as a graduate fellow, and after receiving a Ph. D. degree in 1960, advanced to Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. Since 1966 he has been a Professor of the Rockefeller University. Edelman's special interest is in the chemical structure and mode of action of the antibodies which form part of a vertebrate animal's defense against infection. "His present research interests include work on the primary and three-dimensional structures of proteins, experiments on the structure and function of plant mitogins and studies of the cell surface."8
In addition to the Nobel Prize, his work has been recognized with other awards: The Spencer Morris Award of the University of Pennsylvania, the Eli Lily award in Biological Chemistry given by the American Chemical Society, and the Annual Alumni Award of Ursinus College.
Edelman is a member of the Board of Governors of the Weizman Institute of Science in Israel.
HOWARD MARTIN TEMIN was a co-winner [with Baltimore, below] of the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the interaction between tumour viruses and the genetic material of the cell."
"I was born on December 10, 1934 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the second of three sons of Annette and Henry Temin. My father was an attorney, and my mother has been continually active in civic affairs, especially educational ones."9 Temin attended Swarthmore from 1951 to 1955 and became a graduate student in biology at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, majoring first in experimental embryology and then in animal virology. While at CIT, Temin began investigating how the Rous sarcoma virus causes animal cancers.4 The paper gained him a Ph.D. degree in 1959.
"In 1960, I moved to Madison as an Assistant Professor in the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research... My first laboratory was in the basement, with a sump in my tissue culture lab and with steam pipes for the entire building in my biochemistry lab. Here I performed the experiments that led in 1964 to my formulating the DNA provirus hypothesis... During the late 1960's, about half of my time was spent in studying the control of multiplication of uninfected and Rous sarcoma virus-infected cells in culture. This work led to... the demonstration that a multiplication-stimulating factor in calf serum for chicken fibroblasts was the same as somatomedin.
"In 1962 I married Rayla Greenberg of Brooklyn, New York, a population geneticist. She has been a constant source of support and warmth."9
DAVID BALTIMORE was a co-winner [with Temin, above] of the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the interaction between tumour viruses and the genetic material of the cell."
Baltimore was born in 1938 in New York City. "My interest in biology began when I was a high school student and spent a summer at the Jackson Memorial Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine."11 The early interest in biology sparked by his Maine experience led to an early and productive scientific career. "Baltimore received his Ph.D. from Rockefeller University in 1964. He subsequently held year-long postdoctoral positions at MIT and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, followed by a three-year appointment at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. In 1968, he returned to MIT as an associate professor. He was named full professor in 1972."10
According to the California Institute of Technology, "David Baltimore is perhaps the most influential biologist of his generation. Awarded the Nobel Prize at the age of 37 for his work in virology, he has also had a profound influence on national science policy regarding such issues as recombinant DNA research and the AIDS epidemic. His accomplishments in multiple areas of expertise--as a researcher, educator, administrator, and public advocate for science and engineering were instrumental in his selection as Caltech's seventh president."10
BARUCH S. BLUMBERG was a co-winner of the1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for their discoveries regarding the interaction between tumor viruses and the genetic material of the cell."
"I was born in 1925, in New York City, " Blumberg informs us, "the second of three children of Meyer and Ida Blumberg. My grandparents came to the United States from Europe at the end of the 19th century. They were members of an immigrant group who had enormous confidence in the possibilities of their adopted country. I received my elementary education at the Yeshiva of Flatbush, a Hebrew parochial school, and, at an early age, in addition to a rigorous secular education, learned the Hebrew Testament in the original language. We spent many hours on the rabbinic commentaries on the Bible and were immersed in the existential reasoning of the Talmud at an age when we could hardly have realized its impact."12
Blumberg's adventurous spirit was sparked in 1943 when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He started a seaman's stint as a Deck Officer and became a Commanding Officer of a landing ship. Enamored by the sea, Blumberg then worked as a Ship's Surgeon in the Merchant Marine. Convinced by his father to pursue a medical career, Blumberg left the sea in 1947 to enter The College of Physicians and Surgeons It was a fortunate choice for Blumberg and for science.
Blumberg's academic career was as adventurous as his maritime experiences. "Between my third and fourth years, Harold Brown, our professor of parasitology, arranged for me to spend several months at Moengo, an isolated mining town, accessible only by river, in the swamp and high bush country of northern Surinam. While there we delivered babies, performed clinical services, and undertook several public health surveys, including the first malaria survey done in that region. Different people had been imported into the country to serve as laborers in the sugar plantations, and they, along with the indigenous American Indians, provided a richly heterogeneous population. Hindus from India, Javanese, Africans (including the Djukas, descendants of rebelled slaves who resided in autonomous kingdoms in the interior), Chinese, and a smattering of Jews descended from 17th century migrants to the country from Brazil, lived side by side."12
Blumberg's adventures continued after becoming a Professor. In1964 he came to the Institute for Cancer Research to start a program in clinical research. At present it is conducting field work in Senegal and Mali.
ROSLYN YALOW was the winner of the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for the development of radioimmunoassays of peptide hormones."
Roslyn was born in New York City to Simon Sussman and Clara Zipper. Her mother was four years old when she was brought from Germany. "My father..." Roslyn relates in her autobiography, "was born on the lower east side of New York, the melting pot for Eastern European immigrants. Neither had the advantage of a high school education, but there was never a doubt that their two children would make it through college."13
"One of the most important American research scientists of the 20th century was also one of the most unlikely," wrote Richard A Pizzi. "Roslyn Sussman Yalow grew up at a time when women were assumed to be less intellectually qualified than men and were given little access to scientific training."14
From the seventh grade on, Yalow exhibited a talent in and was intrigued by mathematics, chemistry and physics. "Eve Curie had just published the biography of her mother, Madame Marie Curie, which should be a must for every young aspiring female scientist. I was hanging from the rafters in room 301 of [a lecture room at Columbia] when Enrico Fermi gave a colloquium in January 1939 on the newly discovered nuclear fission...."
Yalow's parents pressed her to leave science and seek security as an elementary school teacher. Undeterred, Yalow served as a secretary to a leading biochemist in the hope of gaining entry to the male world of science "via the back door." She was obliged to take up stenography, but her stay at business school was curtailed when she fortunately received an offer of a teaching assistantship in physics at the University of Illinois.
"At the first meeting of the Faculty of the College of Engineering, I discovered that I was the only woman among its 400 members. The Dean of the faculty congratulated me on my achievement and told m that I was the first woman there since 1917." Yalow astounded the Chairman of the Physics department with straight A's in both the physics course and laboratory work. "That A-" the Chairman remarked, evidently with tongue in cheek, "confirms that women do not do well at laboratory work."
Pearl Harbor drained academia for secret scientific work and opened a door for women. Yalow's research in nuclear physics made her proficient in making and using apparatus for the measurement of radioactive substances. Yalow accepted a position as assistant engineer at a research laboratory for ITT. She was the only woman engineer at the facility. "When the research group in which I was working left New York in 1946, I returned to Hunter College to teach physics, not to women., but to returning veterans in a pre-engineering program." Yalow's career found fulfillment with a full-time position with the VA administration. In its radioisotope division, she met Solomon Berson, with whom she established a research partnership that endured for 22 productive years. During that period a series of innovative discoveries began with a study of how the thyroid gland and kidneys remove iodine from the blood. Insulin research with radioactive iodine provided the proof that a tiny amount of the protein could stimulate an immunologic response.
Yalow and Berson termed their procedure radioimmunoassay (RIA). Yalow utilized her training in all the sciences in which she had been immersed during her brilliant career, basic science, mathematical analysis, biomedical studies, physics, and instrumentation. RIA continues to be used in a multitude of medical fields, as, for example, in Hepatitus research.
The use of RIA has enormous commercial potentialities, but Yalow and Berson put its value to humanity ahead of their own interest and refused to patent it. "Patents are about keeping things away from people for the purpose of making money." Yalow is quoted as saying, "We wanted others to be able to use RIA."14
Yalow deserves credit for breakthroughs in medical science, for over-riding humanitarian concerns, and for breaching the barriers against women in science.
ANDREW V. SCHALLY was the co-winner of the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the peptide hormone production of the brain."
Andrew Schally was born in 1926 in Vilna, Poland. He states that he was of Polish, Austro-Hungarian, French, and Swedish ancestry. "My father was a professional soldier trained in the military academies of Vienna, Austria, and St Syr, France."15
Despite the kaleidoscopic heritage, his father's Jewishness prevailed, and he joined the Allied forces when the WWII broke out. Andrew spent a harsh childhood in refuge among the Jewish-Polish community of Rumania, and survived the holocaust. "In 1945, I moved via Italy and France to England and Scotland. In spite of post-war economic and nutritional austerity, the United Kingdom seemed like a paradise to me."
Schally attended a Scottish high school, and then studied chemistry in London. He joined the National Institute of Medical Research in London until he moved to Montreal, Canada. There he was given an opportunity to gain a Ph.D. at McGill University. "It was there in 1954 that my involvement in the hypothalmic field began."15
Schally then secured a position at Baylor University College in Houston Texas, where he was enabled to continue his research. "I was grateful for the opportunities I was given in the United States, for which I felt complete allegiance, and in 1962 became a naturalized citizen." Schally's talents and insights were soon recognized, and he was made chief of a Veteran's administration laboratory devoted to the hypothalmus, which he set up in New Orleans. In December, 1962 he was appointed Chief of the Endocrine and Polypeptide Laboratories at the VA hospital in New Orleans. He became a Professor of Medicine at Tulane University in 1966.
DANIEL NATHANS won the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for the discovery of restrictive enzymes and their application to problems of molecular genetics."
"My parents came to the United States in the early years of this century as part of a wave of Russian Jewish immigrants seeking freedom and opportunity in the New World. My mother, Sarah Levitan, came to America when she was 18. My father, Samuel, rebelling against an orthodox family, left home in his mid-teens and made his way to the Unites States a few years later. They were married in Philadelphia in 1910. As the last of their nine children, I was born in 1928 in Wilmington, Delaware on the eve of the great depression. Soon after, my father lost his small business and was for some time unemployed. Our house was cold and leaky, and (I learned later) my parents sometimes went hungry. Yet they generally managed to retain their good humor and certainly their hopes for their children"16
Despite the harsh circumstances of those trying times, Daniel's father pressed him to become a doctor. Daniel worked hard at odd jobs after school and at his studies, and won a scholarship to Washington University in St. Louis and an M.D. degree in 1954. He served his internship at New York's Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.
During that period he served for a time as a Clinical Associate at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, where his abiding interest in the biosynthesis of proteins was born. This led Nathans to the Rockefeller Institute in 1959, where the "invigorating atmosphere" impelled him to abandon clinical medicine for research.
Nathans became "head of a one-man 'Division of Genetics'" at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Under Nathan's guidance the division attracted outstanding researchers and it became a substantial workshop in which Nathans' life work came to fruition. In 1972 Nathans became the director of Johns Hopkins' department of microbiology.
In his prizewinning research Nathans achieved the construction of a genetic map of a virus. It "heralded the first application of restriction enzymes to the problem of identifying the molecular basis of cancer."4
BARUJ BENACERRAF was the co-winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for their discoveries concerning genetically determined structures on the cell surface that regulate immunological reactions.
"I was born in Caracas, Venezuela on October 29, 1920 of Spanish-Jewish ancestry. My father, a self-made business man, was a textile merchant and importer. He was born in Spanish Morocco, where my mother was born and raised in French Algeria and brought up in the French Culture."
Baruj's family moved to Paris when he was five years old. Baruj was immersed in French culture through his teens, only to be brought back to Venezuela as a result of the untenable conditions in France brought about by WWII. Thus Benacerraf can be included on the roster of talent lost to Europe through intolerance and genocide.
The family moved to New York in 1940 so that Benecerraf could pursue his education in the United States. Benecerraf went to Columbia, where he completed pre-medical requisites for admission to Medical school. Once again Benecerraf encountered anti-Semitism. Despite a brilliant academic record, he was rejected by numerous medical schools to which he applied. He learned that "admission to a Medical School was a formidable undertaking for someone with my ethnic and foreign background."
A friend of Benecerraf's father happened to be Assistant to the President of the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond. His intercession enabled Benecerraf to pursue his medical studies in 1942. The studies were interrupted by a stint in the U.S. Army. In 1943, Benecerraf married Annette Dreyfus, a French student who was likewise a refugee from Paris. In 1946 he was commissioned First Lieutenant in the U. S. Medical Corps and was shipped to Germany along with several thousand other physicians. "I was happy to be assigned to France, first in Paris, then in Nancy, where my wife had joined me."
After two years in Europe Benecerraf was granted a Fellowship at the Neurological Institute, Columbia University School of Physicians and Surgeons. "After a year of research at Columbia and six at the Hôpital Broussais in Paris, he joined the faculty of New York University School of Medicine in 1956... In 1968-70 he was chief of the immunologic laboratory of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health. From 1970 he held the Fabyan chair of comparative pathology at Harvard.4
CÉSAR MILSTEIN won the 1984 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for theories concerning the specificity in development and control of the immune system and the discovery of the principle for production of monoclonal antibodies."
Cèsar repeats what has become a familiar story: "My father was a Jewish immigrant who settled in Argentina, and was left to his own devices at the age of 15. My mother was a teacher, herself the daughter of a poor immigrant family. For both my mother and my father, no sacrifice was too hard to make sure that their three sons (I was the middle one) would go to a university."17
Milstein started his research career at the University of Buenos Aires in enzymology. In 1958 he went to Cambridge where he earned his Ph. D. He then returned to Argentina, but after two years was forced to resign as a result of reactionary politics. "The political persecution of liberal intellectuals and scientists manifested itself as a vendetta against the director of the institute where I was working. This forced my resignation and return to Cambridge."17 Thus fascist mentality deprived Argentina of its foremost scientific achievers, just as it does wherever intellectual freedom is compromised.
In Cambridge, Milstein changed his field of study from enzymes to the research that earned him a Nobel Prize: investigations into the structure of antibodies and the mechanism by which antibody diversity is generated. Part of this work was done in collaboration with his wife, Celia Milstein's social consciousness manifested itself in his devotion to assisting science and scientists in less developed countries. 18
JOSEPH L. GOLDSTEIN was the co-winner with Brown [see below] of the 1985 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for their discoveries the regulation of cholesterol metabolism."
Goldstein was born in Sumpter, South Carolina in 1940, the only son of Isadore Goldstein and Fannie Alpert. The family owned a clothing store in nearby small town of Kingstree. After receiving an M.D. degree in 1966, Goldstein became an Intern and Resident in Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. It was there that Goldstein met Michael Brown [see below], his enduring friend and scientific collaborator.
From 1968-70, Goldstein worked at the National Institutes of Health in the laboratory of Marshall Nirenberg [see above]. "Here he acquired scientific skills and taste, experienced the thrill of discovery and the excitement of science... In view of his and Brown's common interest in metabolic disease, Goldstein convinced his colleague to join him as a faculty member at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Dallas... While at the National Institutes of Health, Goldstein and Brown became avid duplicate bridge players. Their successful bridge partnership proved to be a valid testing ground for their future scientific partnership."18
MICHAEL S. BROWN was the co-winner with Goldstein [see above] of the 1985 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the regulation of cholesterol metabolism."
Michael was born in 1941 in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Harvey, a textile salesman, and Evelyn Brown. In 1966 Brown received an M.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Brown and Goldstein were both interns and residents in Internal Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston., and, as was noted above, the two formed a lasting friendship and engaged in productive collaboration which came to fruition at the University of Texas. He and Goldstein developed the hypothesis that the regulation of a particular enzyme was the cause of a genetic disease in which cholesterol accumulates in blood and tissues.19 "Brown later collaborated with Goldstein in research to develop new drugs effective in lowering blood cholesterol levels and in researching the genetic code behind the LDL [low-density lipoprotein] receptor."4
RITA LEVI-MONTALCINI was the co-winner with Stanley Cohen [see below] of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for their discoveries of growth factors."
"My twin sister Paola and I were born in Turin on April 22,1909, the youngest of four children. Our parents were Adamo Levi, an electrical engineer and gifted mathematician, and Adele Montalcini, a talented painter and an exquisite human being. Our brother, Gino... was one of the most well known Italian architects."20
Rita's father was devoted to his children but believed that a professional career did not jibe with a woman's role as a wife and mother. Nonetheless, he did not interfere after the girls grew up and chose their own course. At twenty years of age, Rita was given permission to pursue an academic life. "In eight months I filled my gaps in Latin Greek and Mathematics, graduated from high school, and entered medical school in Turin.... In 1936 I graduated from medical school with a summa cum laude degree in Medicine and Surgery, and enrolled in three years specialization in neurology and psychiatry."20
"In 1936 Mussolini issued the 'Manifesto per la Difesa della Razza..." Rita and her family ensconced themselves at home. Rita built a small mini-laboratory in her bedroom. The bombing of Turin by the Allied air forces forced a move to a small cottage in the country where she resumed her experiments. While surrounded by a sympathetic Italian community, she was relatively safe, but the German invasion of Italy forced the family to flee the "now dangerous refuge" to Florence. In Florence she was involved with "many close, dear friends and courageous partisans of the Partito di Azione. After the Allied forces captured Florence, Rita was "hired by the Anglo-American forces asa medical doctor and assigned to a camp of refugees who were brought from the North where the war was still raging."20
After the war, Rita Levi-Montalcini advanced rapidly in academia, in both the USA at St. Louis and in Italy. In 1962 she established a research unit in Rome, and from 1969 to 1978 became the Director of the Institute of Cell Biology of the Italian Council of Research in Rome.
Rita modestly devoted most of her Stockholm acceptance speech, to her colleague, Stanley Cohen. "Stanley and I first began to work together thirty-three years ago in the Department of Zoology at the Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri," Rita noted and went on to add that "Stanley's exceptional talent and most vigorous training in biochemistry, and my own training in neurology," made possible the solution to the puzzle of what became known as "The Nerve Growth Facto."
STANLEY COHEN was the co-winner with Rita Levi-Montalcini [see above] of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for their discoveries of growth factors."
"I was born in Brooklyn in 1922. Both my mother and father were Russian Jewish emigrants who came to America in the early 1900's. My father as a tailor and my mother, a housewife. Though of limited education themselves, they installed in me the values of intellectual achievement and the use of whatever talents I possessed."21
The Cohens were poor, but Stanley qualified for tuition-free Brooklyn College where he received a thorough education in chemistry and Biology. Stanley earned enough money by working as a bacteriologist in a milk processing plant to enable him to continue his education at Oberlin, and then at the University of Michigan where he received his Ph.D. "My Ph.D. thesis concerned the metabolic mechanism by which the end product of nitrogen metabolism in the earthworm is switched from ammonia to urea during starvation. I remember spending my nights collecting over 5,000 worms from the University campus green."21
It was a long jump from worms to babies at Cohen's first job in the Pediatrics and Biochemistry departments of the University of Colorado, where he was involved in metabolic studies of premature babies. Cohen next went to Washington University in St. Louis in 1952 to learn isotope methodology while studying carbon dioxide fixation in frogs eggs and embryos. Then, in 1953, he made the fateful move to the Department of Zoology where he joined Rita Levi-Montalcini [see above] in experimental embryology. The rest, as is often stated, is history.
GERTRUDE BELLE ELION was the co-winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for their discoveries of important principles for drug treatment."
Gertrude was born in 1918 in New York City to immigrant parents from Russia and Lithuania. Her mother was a seamstress and her father had worked his way through dental school. "I was born on a cold January night," Elion states in her autobiography, " when the water pipes in our apartment froze and burst. Fortunately, my mother was in the hospital rather than at home at the time."22
The stock market crash forced Elion's father into bankruptcy, but Elion at 15 was entitled to enroll in tuition-free Hunter College. Elion's life's work was determined by a tragic circumstance. "In 1921, her grandfather emigrated from Russia and moved in with Gertrude and her family. He was a watchmaker and learned scholar. He and the young Gertrude spent hours together through her youth. Theirs was a close and loving relationship."23 Her grandfather's death of cancer in 1933 impelled Elion to choose chemistry as a major.
Elion graduated Phi Beta Kappa at 19, but was nonetheless turned down by all the 15 graduate schools to which she applied. "I hadn't been aware that there were doors closed to me until I started knocking on them. I went to an all-girls school. There were 75 chemistry majors in that class, but most were going to teach it..." When applying for a job Elion was told: "You're qualified. But we have never had a woman in the laboratory before, and we think you'd be a distracting influence."24
Elion met a chemist who was looking for a laboratory assistant. He was unable to offer a salary, but Elion decided that the experience was more valuable than a salary. ""I stayed there for a year and a half," she relates, "and was finally making the magnificent sum of $20.00 a week." Nonetheless she accumulated enough so that, with help from her parents, she was able to enter graduate school. She taught chemistry, physics and general science for two years to sustain herself while doing research work at nights and on week-ends at NYU." Elion was the only female in the graduate class at NYU.
World War II created a shortage of chemists, and Elion finally was given work in a laboratory. In 1944 she became a senior research chemist at Johnson and Johnson in New Brunswick N.J. at $50 per week. Only one other woman was among a staff of 75 that worked at the laboratory. Elion and her collaborator, Hitchings "developed an array of new drugs that were effective against leukemia, autoimmune disorders, urinary-tract infections, gout, malaria, and viral herpes.4
Elion's attempt at attaining a Ph.D. at night school was frustrated again when she was told that she would need to leave her job and go full-time to school. She decided to stay with her job, but later, as a result of her extraordinary accomplishments she was given three honorary doctoral degrees from the universities of George Washington, Brown, and Michigan, and the Nobel Prize!
HAROLD E VARMUS was the co-winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for their discovery of the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes."
Harold's father's father Jacob Varmus, left Poland to become a farmer in Newburgh, NY, and later a hatter in Newark NJ. Harold's mothers parents, Harry and Regina Barasch, "came from farming villages around Linz, Austria, to found a children's clothing store, still in existence, in Freeport, New York."
Harold grew up in Freeport. "The most decisive turn in my intellectual history came in the fall of 1957, when I entered Amherst College intending to prepare for medical school."25
Harold went on to Harvard and Columbia universities. "He then joined the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md., where he studied bacteria. In 1970 he went to the University of California, San Francisco as a postdoctoral fellow, There he and Bishop began the research that earned them the Nobel Prize... Varmus and Bishop found that under certain circumstances, normal growth in healthy cells of the body can cause cancer; these genes are termed oncogenes."4
MARTIN RODBELL was the co-winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for their discovery of G-proteins and the role of these proteins in signal tansduction in cells."
Martin was born in 1925 in Baltimore, the son of Milton Rodbell, a grocery store owner, and Shirley Adams. The draft interrupted Martin's studies at Johns Hopkins University, where he had majored in biology and in French existential literature! He served as a radio operator in the South Pacific, China, the Philippines and Korea.
"I met my future wife, Barbara Lederman, in 1949. She had come to America from Holland where she survived the war in the Dutch underground. Her sister and parents disappeared in the ovens of Auschwitz." After the war, Rodbell returned to Johns Hopkins, and went on to earn a Ph.D. at the University of Washington in Seattle, and to post-graduate work at the University of Illinois.
Rodbell's career rapidly advanced in a number of prestigious institutions. From 1956 to 1961 he worked at the National Heart Institute in the Laboratory of Cellular Physiology and Metabolism. The NIH sponsored him into the University of Brussels, and he worked there for six years as a research chemist. In 1967 he became the acting director of the Institute of Clinical Biochemistry at the University of Geneva, and for the following six years the chief of the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic diseases, Section on Membrane Regulation. In 1985 Rodbell became the scientific director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at Chapel Hill in North Carolina.
"During his lifetime, Rodbell was a seasoned traveler, a writer of poetry, and a humanitarian scientist. In 1990, for example, he was briefly involved with Gordon Sato's Manzanar Project, established to create fish ponds in the Eritrean section of Ethiopia to help stave off famine."27
Rodbell's "research led to a better understanding of many diseases, including cholera, diabetes, alcoholism, and cancer.4
ALFRED G. GILMAN was the co-winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for their discovery of G-proteins and the role of these proteins in signal transduction in cells."
Alfred was born in New Haven Connecticut in 1941, the son of a physician. Alfred proudly relates that his father could "play almost any instrument," and cites him as "first on the faculty of the College of Physician and surgeons of Columbia University and then the founding Chairman of Pharmacology at the new Albert Einstein College of Medicine."
"Before he hit his teens, the boy who was to become a Nobel laureate was sitting in with the medical students at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, watching his father conduct demonstrations of heart, lung, and kidney function... One of the Nobelist's deepest regrets is that his father did not live to see him win the ultimate prize that science had to offer."28
"Gilman attended Yale University (B.S. 1962), and Case Wester Reserve University (M.D. and Ph.D. 1969)... Gilman worked at the National Institutes of Health (1969-71) and taught at the University of Virginia (1971-81) before becoming the director of the Pharmacology Department at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas in 1981.4
"I have derived great satisfaction," wrote Gilman in his autobiography, "from building what I consider to be an excellent department." He goes on to say that "My children have not benefitted from the lavish fatherly attention that I did. Despite me, they are well on their way to happy and productive lives."29
STANLEY B. PRUSINER was the co-winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for their discovery of Prions - a new biological principle of infection."
Stanley was born in 1942 in Des Moines, Iowa. His grandmother, Mollie Spiegel had raised three children in Norfolk, Virginia before moving as a widow to Cincinnati. "Besides many special memories of my maternal grandmother, I have many fond reminiscences of my paternal grandfather, Ben, who emigrated to the United States in 1896 as a young boy from Moscow. He grew up in Sioux City, Iowa "as did my father with many other Russian Jews." Stanley's father, an architect, was drafted into the U.S. Navy. After the war the family returned to Des Moines, and then moved to Cincinnati where Stanley's father found employment.
Prusiner began his college education at the University of Pennsylvania, and in 1972 became a resident in neurology at the University of California School of Medicine. Prusiner was intrigued by a little-known class of mental disorders that caused progressive dementia and death in humans and animals. "In 1974 he set up a laboratory to study scrapie, a related disorder of sheep, and in 1982 claimed to have isolated the scrapie-causing agent. He claimed that this pathogenic agent, which he named 'prion,' was unlike any other pathogen....because it consisted only of protein and lacked the genetic material contained within all life-forms that is necessary for replication."
"When first published, the prion theory met with much criticism, but became widely accepted by the 1990's... Prusiner's research also could have significant applications for such disorders as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease."4
ROBERT F. FURCHGOTT was the co-winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for their discoveries concerning nitric oxide as a signaling molecule in the nervous system."
Robert Furchgott was born in 1916 in Charleston, South Carolina, where his grandfather had started the Furchgott department store. It did not survive the depression, and so his father opened a clothing store in Orangeburg, in which town Robert spent his high school years "enjoying small town life and competing with my first cousin Edwin Moseley for the highest grades in our class. He won."30
Furchgott was helped through the University of North Carolina by the National Youth Administration, an agency set up under President Roosevelt to help students during the depression. His job as a lab assistant to a junior faculty member working on physical chemistry solution of cellulose reinforced Furchgott's ambition for a career in science. He quickly accepted an unexpected offer of a teaching assistantship from the Physiological Chemistry Department of Northwestern University at Chicago.
Furchgott survived the change from the balmy Carolinas to the chilling Canadian winds that swept into Chicago, and he earned his Ph.D. there in 1940. He went on to Cornell University Medical College for the next nine years, to Washington University for an additional seven years, and finally to the SUNY Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY.
"Around 1980 Furchgott, in an ingenious experiment, demonstrated that cells in the endothelium, or inner lining, of blood vessels, produce an unknown signaling molecule. The molecule, which he named endothelium-derived relaxing factor, (EDRF), signals smooth muscle cells in blood vessels to relax, dilating the vessels.4 Furchgott was one of three American scientists who gained a Nobel Prize for discovering that nitric oxide (NO), was the signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system. Their work led to the development of the anti-impotence drug viagra, and to potential new approaches for understanding and treating other diseases.
PAUL GREENGARD was the co-winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for signal transduction in the nervous system."
Paul Greengard was born in 1925 in New York City. "My paternal great, great, grandfather emigrated from Koenigsberg, now Gdansk, to St. Louis in the 1850's, a time of large-scale movement of Germans, including German Jews, to the Mid-Western United States. [He] moved to Binghamton, New York, where my father was born. My father had a success in vaudeville as a singer/dancer/comedian. He eventually became a businessman."
"I was born... under tragic circumstances - my mother, née Pearl Meister, died giving birth to me. My father, remarried when I was thirteen months old. In contrast to my mother, who had been Jewish, my stepmother, who raised me, was Episcopalian. From that time on I was raised in the Christian tradition.... I was prevented access to my biological mother' family with whom I became familiar only very recently. I have been delighted to learn that many members of that family are highly creative individuals working in various fields of science, government, etc."31
Greengard served three years in the Navy as an electronics technician as part of an MIT team developing an early-warning system to intercept Japanese kamikase planes before they reached their objectives. After the war, Greengard graduated from Hamilton College. His conscience did not permit him to seek a fellowship in the subject he was interested in, mathematics and physics, because the only ones offered at the time were by the Atomic Energy Commission. "I didn't want to contribute to the research the fruits of which might contribute to creating more powerful weapons for mass destruction. I settled on the then nascent field of biophysics."31
Greengard chose to go to the University of Pennsylvania, where the study of using electrophysiological techniques to study nerve function was being pursued, but shortly thereafter was part of a group that moved to Johns Hopkins University to initiate a new department of biophysics, where he earned his Ph. D. He then went to Europe for postdoctoral studies at the University of London, and at the University of Amsterdam. "The low level of financial support for scientific research in England, my ignorance of the complex educational system (my two sons were born in England), and the lack of central heating all conspired to my returning to the United States."31
After a number of interim positions, Greengard spent fifteen productive years at Yale. "Although I was very happy throughout my 15 years at Yale, the offer to move to the Rockefeller University was irresistible and so I moved to New York in 1983 where I have been located since. It has been at Rockefeller that most of the work described in my Nobel lecture was performed."31
ERIC R. KANDEL was the co-winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "for signal transduction in the nervous system."
Eric Kandel was born in 1929 in Vienna to Herman Kandel, who had been born into a poor family in Olesko, a small town in the Ukraine. His mother, Charlotte Zimels, was born in Kolomea, Galicia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They met and married in and moved to Vienna, and it was there that Eric was born.
The Vienna Eric knew was "intellectually vibrant, one of the great cultural centers of the world... Even as it thrived culturally, however, Vienna in the 1930's was the capital city of an oppressive, authoritarian political system... Even prior to the Anschluss in 1938, anti-Semitism was a chronic feature of Viennese life. Jews, who made up nearly 20% of the population, were discriminated against in the Civil Service and in many aspects of social life. Nonetheless they were fascinated by the city in which they had lived for over a thousand years.... My parents genuinely loved Vienna... the dialect of Vienna, its cultural sophistication, and artistic values."
"In spite of the hostile climate, Austrian Jews continued to make remarkable contributions to theater, music, literature, science, and medicine... The Salzburg Festival was directed by Max Reinhardt; the Vienna Opera was conducted by Bruno Walter; Stefan Zweig and Franz Werfel were two of the most popular writers in the German language; and Elias Canetti, who later won the Nobel Prize in Literature for books describing his youth in Vienna, began writing these in the 1930's. Two of the three Austrians to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in the 1930's were of Jewish origin. Karl Lansteiner [see above]... and Otto Loewi [see above]. Of the 52 Olympic medals won by Austrian athletes... 18 were won by Jewish Austrians. Fully half of the practicing physicians and medical faculty at the University of Vienna were Jewish.."31
Hitler's Anschluss into Austria confirmed the worst fears of its Jewish population. The Greengard family had already decided to move to America, but the immigration laws of the USA had to be accommodated and the members of the family had to leave in stages. "During the one year that we lived under Nazi rule we experienced directly Vienna's humiliating form of Anti-Semitism. The day after Hitler moved into Vienna, every one of my non-Jewish classmates - the entire class with the exception of one girl - stopped talking and interacting with me. In the park where I played I was taunted and roughed up. .. Almost every synagogue in Germany and Austria was set on fire.... I remember Kristalnacht even today, more than 60 years later, almost as if it were yesterday. It fell two days after my ninth birthday, on which I was showered with toys from my father's shop. When we returned o our apartment a week or so after being evicted, everything of value was gone, including my toys."
Kandel says that after arriving in the United States, "I never actually said 'free at last,' but I felt it then and have ever since."
Kandel entered a Yeshiva in Brooklyn, and went on to Harvard College on a scholarship. At first he majored in 19th and 20th century European history and literature, changing to psychoanalysis. This new interest obliged him to go to medical school, the move that determined a most distinguished career. He entered N.Y.U. Medical School, and by his senior year became intrigued with the biology of the mind, a new approach that not many psychoanalysts of the time had considered. "The cell and molecular mechanisms of learning and memory struck me as a wonderful problem to study." Kendall pursued the study at the National Institute of Health, then in Paris, and after a brief stay at Harvard, accepted an invitation to start a small neurophysiology group focused specifically on the neurology of behavior in the Departments of Physiology and Psychiatry at the N. Y. U. Medical School. After a most productive period, Kendell became the founding director of the Center of Neurology and Behavior at Columbia, where, along with a supportive team, he was able to continue the innovative work that earned him the Nobel Prize.
"In retrospect it seems a very long way for me from Vienna to Stockholm."31
The same may be said for the many other Jewish scientists who were fortunate to escape from Hitler's horrors to freedom. What can we say of the loss that all of civilization has sustained in the gas chambers of intolerance?
The eminence of the United states in the biomedical, chemical, and physics fields research can be largely ascribed to the stream of brilliant scientists who found refuge between its shores.
- 1: Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine, 1963-1970, Elsevier Publicating Co., Amsterdam.
- "The Marshall W. Nirenberg Papers, Biographical information." Profiles in Science, National Library of Medicine.
- "The Marshall W. Nirenberg Papers, "Beyond the Laboratory: Professional, Personal, and Political Life, 1967-2002." Profiles in Science, National Library of Medicine.
- 1994-2000 Encyclopedia Britannica.
- Andrew Bagnato, A Man of Science; a Man of Politics; MIT's Salvadore Luria, Activist and Noble Laureate, Keeps His Two Roles Separate, Boston Globe, Archives, Aug. 25, 1984.
- National Library of Medicine, Profiles in Science, The Julius Axelrod Papers; Biographical Information
- National Library of Medicine, Profiles in Science, The Julius Axelrod Papers; The Nobel Prize and Public Science after 1970.
- Nobel e-Museum, Gerald Edelman, biography, Les Prix Nobel, 1972.
- Nobel e-Museum, Howard M. Temin, "Autobiography," Les Prix Nobel, 1975.
- California Institute of Technology, David Baltimore
- Nobel e-Museum, David Baltimore, "Autobiography," Les Prix Nobel, 1975.
- Nobel e-Museum, Baruch S. Blumberg, "Autobiography," Les Prix Nobel, 1975.
- Nobel e-Museum, Roslyn Yalow, "Autobiography," Les Prix Nobel, 1977.
- Nobel e-Museum, Roslyn Yalow; Autobiography, Les Prix Nobel, 1977
- Nobel e-Museum, Andrew V. Schally, "Autobiography," Les Prix Nobel, 1977.
- Nobel e-Museum, Andrew Daniel Nathans, "Autobiography," Les Prix Nobel, 1978.
- Nobel e-Museum, Cèsar Milstein , "Autobiography," Les Prix Nobel, 1984.
- Nobel e-Museum, Cèsar Milstein , "Autobiography," Les Prix Nobel, 1984.
- Nobel e-Museum, Joseph Goldstein, and Michel S. Brown, "Biography," Les Prix Nobel, 1985.
- Nobel e-Museum, Rita Levi-Montalcini , "Autobiography,"Les Prix Nobel, 1986.
- Nobel e-Museum, Stanley Cohen, "Autobiography," Les Prix Nobel, 1986.
- Nobel e-Museum, Gertrude B. Elion, "Autobiography," Les Prix Nobel, 1988.
- The Chemical Heritage Foundation, Gertrude Belle Elion; a Lifeline.
- Ibid., Chem. Her. Found., quoting Sharon Bertsch McGrayne, Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles and Mon\mentous discoveries, NY, Birch Lane Press, 1997.
- Nobel e-Museum, Harold E. Varmus, "Autobiography," Les Prix Nobel, 1989.
- Nobel e-Museum, Martin Rodbell, "Autobiography," Les Prix Nobel, 1994.
- U.S. National Library of Science, Bethesda MD, Profiles in Science, The Martin Rodbell Papers.
- The University of Texas Southwester Center at Dallas, The Path to the Nobel Prize, Archives.
- Nobel e-Museum, Alfred G. Gilman, "Autobiography," Les Prix Nobel, 1994.
- Nobel e-Museum, Robert F. Furchgott, "Autobiography," Les Prix Nobel, 1998.
- Nobel e-Museum, Paul Greengard, "Autobiography," Les Prix Nobel, 2000