About Prof. Zoltán Óvári (Purjesz)
An immunologist who conducted groundbreaking experiments that helped establish the mechanism that sets off allergic reactions
Zoltan Purjesz Ovary was born in Kolozsvar, Hungary, in what is now Romania. He received his medical degree from the University of Paris in 1935.
He became a research fellow in microbiology at Johns Hopkins in 1954. N.Y.U. appointed him an assistant professor in 1959, and then a professor of pathology in 1964. He remained on the faculty and continued his research until his death in 2005 aged 98.
In the early 1950's, while working at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and at the University of Rome, Dr. Ovary (pronounced oh-VAH-ree) and other scientists began a series of experiments that resulted in a strong allergic reaction in the skin of guinea pigs.
After introducing a blue dye into the animals' bloodstream, the researchers also injected antibodies into their skin, and subsequently set off a reaction with an antigen, a foreign substance that provokes an immune response. Blue spots appeared on the guinea pigs' skin, a sign that the antibody-antigen reaction had released a histamine and had dilated the blood vessels.
The experiments later enabled Dr. Ovary and others to measure the number of antibodies needed to create an allergic reaction, and became "a very fundamental finding in immunology, allowing science to understand the nature of antibodies that cause such reactions," said Dr. Zolla-Pazner. The pioneering technique to observe allergic reactions became known as P.C.A., or passive cutaneous anaphylaxis.
Dr. Ovary was intrigued by this type of immune reaction's benefits and hazards for people. He studied the hazards, which include allergic reactions like hay fever, and the benefits, which include helping the body ward off certain parasites.
After joining the department of pathology at N.Y.U., Dr. Ovary refined his studies of antibodies and their biological functions, and he continued to study the interaction between antibodies and antigens.
Dr. Ovary's memoir, "Souvenirs: Around the World in 90 Years," was published in 1999, and described the development and uses of P.C.A. as well as his interests in world music, dance and the arts.
In 1985, Dr. Ovary, a resident of Manhattan, was given a distinguished service award from the International Association of Allergology and Clinical Immunology.
No immediate family members survive him.