Baruch Samuel Blumberg, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1976
|Birthplace:||New York, Kings County, New York, United States|
|Death:||Died in Mountain View, Santa Clara County, California, United States|
Son of Meyer Blumberg and Ida Blumberg
|Occupation:||Nobel Prize in Physiology / Medicine 1976|
|Managed by:||Private User|
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About Baruch Samuel Blumberg, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1976
Baruch Samuel Blumberg (July 28, 1925 – April 5, 2011) was an American doctor and co-recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (with Daniel Carleton Gajdusek), and the President of the American Philosophical Society from 2005 until his death.
Blumberg received the Nobel Prize for "discoveries concerning new mechanisms for the origin and dissemination of infectious diseases." Blumberg identified the Hepatitis B virus, and later developed its diagnostic test and vaccine.
- New York Times obituary
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- Baruch Samuel Blumberg Wki Bio
By the late 1990s Dr. Blumberg was immersed in astrobiology, as NASA called the new science. Appointed by the NASA administrator, Dan Goldin, to lead the Astrobiology Institute, Dr. Blumberg and his team were asked to address three profound questions: How does life begin and evolve? Does life exist elsewhere in the universe? And what is life’s future on Earth and beyond?
As in his disease studies, Dr. Blumberg sought collaborations with specialists in a variety of fields, including physics, chemistry, geology, paleontology and oceanography as well as biology and medicine that would “help us to recognize biospheres that might be different from our own.”
While urging the development of instrumentation for astrobiological space probes, Dr. Blumberg recommended equal efforts in the study of earthly “extremophiles,” the organisms that somehow thrive in extreme temperatures, pressures and chemical conditions.
In fissures in the deep ocean floor, Dr. Blumberg said, are extremophiles that might resemble the earliest life forms on Earth or other planets. He described Earth as “a place of extremes” during the first few hundred million years of its 4.5-billion-year existence, given to radical climate fluctuations, from searing heat to immobilizing cold, amid constant meteorite bombardments and catastrophic volcanic eruptions.
He speculated that life might have started on Earth at geothermal sites, either underground or in the sea. The NASA venture — since diminished by administrative changes and financing cutbacks — was welcomed by those who advocate a search for extraterrestrial intelligence, known as SETI, and call the science “exobiology.” Dr. Blumberg joined the board of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif.
But in an interview with The New York Times in 2002, he said he would be “very surprised if we found something in space, that it would look like E.T.”
“If we found something more like a virus or a bacteria,” he said, “that would be astounding enough.”
Baruch Samuel Blumberg (Barry to his friends) was born in New York City on July 28, 1925, the second of three children of Meyer Blumberg, a lawyer, and Ida Blumberg. After attending the Yeshiva of Flatbush in Brooklyn, he went to Far Rockaway High School in Queens (whose graduates also include the Nobel physicists Richard Feynman and Burton Richter).
His undergraduate studies at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., were interrupted by World War II, when he served as a Navy deck officer on landing ships. Returning to Union College, he completed a bachelor’s degree in physics, enrolled in graduate studies of mathematics at Columbia and transferred to Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, earning his M.D. there in 1951.
Dr. Blumberg served a clinical fellowship at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, went to Oxford University’s Balliol College for a doctorate in biochemistry, and returned to the United States in 1957 to join the National Institutes of Health, where he headed the Geographic Medicine and Genetics Section until 1964.
Most of his research afterward was conducted at the Fox Chase Cancer Center. Dr. Blumberg was also on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania and its School of Medicine as a professor of medicine, medical genetics and medical anthropology.
Dr. Blumberg married Jean Liebesman, an artist, in 1954. She survives him, as do two daughters, Anne Blumberg of Boston and Jane Blumberg of Oxford, England; two sons, George, of Oxford, and Noah, of Chevy Chase, Md.; and nine grandchildren.
Dr. Blumberg saw his Nobel as more than an act of recognition. He said it helped draw renewed attention to his work with enormously beneficial consequences. After receiving the prize, he said, he was invited to China. “I spoke before several thousand people,” he told The Times in 2002. “I provided them with a copy of the patent, and now I’m told that it helped to change the direction of what they were doing and led to the saving of a lot of lives.”
Saving lives, he said, was the whole point of his career. “Well, it is something I always wanted to do,” he said. “This is what drew me to medicine. There is, in Jewish thought, this idea that if you save a single life, you save the whole world, and that affected me.”
Image credit: NASA/Dominic Hart
Baruch Samuel Blumberg (July 28, 1925 – April 5, 2011) — known as Barry Blumberg — was an American physician, geneticist, and co-recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (with Daniel Carleton Gajdusek) for his work on the hepatitis B virus while an investigator at the NIH. He was President of the American Philosophical Society from 2005 until his death.
Blumberg received the Nobel Prize for "discoveries concerning new mechanisms for the origin and dissemination of infectious diseases." Blumberg identified the hepatitis B virus and later developed its diagnostic test and vaccine.
Early life and education
Blumberg was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Ida (Simonoff) and Meyer Blumberg, a lawyer. He first attended the Orthodox Yeshivah of Flatbush for elementary school, where he learned to read and write in Hebrew and to study the Bible and Jewish texts in their original language. (That school also had among its students a contemporary of Blumberg, Eric Kandel, who is another recipient of the Nobel Prize in medicine.) Blumberg then attended Brooklyn's James Madison High School, a school that Blumberg described as having high academic standards, including many teachers with Ph.Ds. After moving to Far Rockaway, Queens, he transferred to Far Rockaway High School in the early 1940s, a school that also produced fellow laureates Burton Richter and Richard Feynman. Blumberg served as a U.S. Navy deck officer during World War II. He then attended Union College in Schenectady, New York and graduated from there with honors in 1946.
Originally entering the graduate program in mathematics at Columbia University, Blumberg switched to medicine and enrolled at Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons, from which he received his M.D. in 1951. He remained at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center for the next four years, first as an intern and then as a resident. He then began graduate work in biochemistry at Balliol College, Oxford and earned his Ph.D there in 1957 as well as eventually being the first American to be master there.
1999 press conference at which Blumberg was introduced as the first director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute Throughout the 1950s, Blumberg traveled the world taking human blood samples and studying the inherited variations in human beings, focusing on why some people contracted diseases in similar environments that others did not. In 1964, while studying yellow jaundice, he discovered a surface antigen for hepatitis B in the blood of an Australian aborigine. His work demonstrated that the virus could cause liver cancer. Blumberg and his team were able to develop a screening test for the virus to prevent its spread in blood donations and developed a vaccine. Blumberg later freely distributed his vaccine patent in order to promote its fielding by drug companies. Deployment of the vaccine reduced the infection rate of hepatitis B in children in China from 15% to 1% in 10 years.
Blumberg became a member of the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) of the Lankenau Hospital Research Institute in Philadelphia in 1964, which later joined the Fox Chase Cancer Center in 1974, and he held the rank of University Professor of Medicine and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania starting in 1977. Concurrently, he was Master of Balliol College from 1989 to 1994. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1994. From 1999 to 2002, he was also director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute at the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.
In 2001, Blumberg was named to the Library of Congress Scholars Council, a body of distinguished scholars that advises the Librarian of Congress. Blumberg served on the Council until his death.
In November 2004, Blumberg was named Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of United Therapeutics Corporation, a position he held until his death. As Chairman he convened three Conferences on Nanomedical and Telemedical Technology, as well as guiding the biotechnology company into the development of a broad-spectrum anti-viral medicine.
Beginning in 2005, Blumberg also served as the President of the American Philosophical Society. He had been first elected to membership in the society in 1986.
In October 2010 Blumberg participated in the USA Science and Engineering Festival's Lunch with a Laureate program whereby middle and high school students of the Greater Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland area get to engage in an informal conversation with a Nobel Prize–winning scientist over a brown-bag lunch. Blumberg came to General George A. McCall Elementary on Sept. 29, 2010 as part of the program.
In an interview with the New York Times in 2002 he stated that "[Saving lives] is what drew me to medicine. There is, in Jewish thought, this idea that if you save a single life, you save the whole world".
In discussing the factors that influenced his life, Blumberg always gave credit to the mental discipline of the Jewish Talmud, and as often as possible he attended weekly Talmud discussion classes until his death.
Blumberg died on April 5, 2011, shortly after giving the keynote speech at the International Lunar Research Park Exploratory Workshop held at NASA Ames Research Center. At the time of his death Blumberg was a Distinguished Scientist at the NASA Lunar Science Institute, located at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.
Jonathan Chernoff, the scientific director at the Fox Chase Cancer Center where Blumberg spent most of his working life said, "I think it’s fair to say that Barry prevented more cancer deaths than any person who’s ever lived." In reference to Blumberg's discovery of the Hepatitis B vaccine, former NASA administrator Daniel Goldin said, "Our planet is an improved place as a result of Barry's few short days in residence."
His funeral was held on April 10, 2011 at Society Hill Synagogue, where he was a longtime member. The eulogy was delivered by his son-in-law Mark Thompson, the Director-General of the BBC.
In 2011, the Library of Congress and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced the establishment of the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, a research position housed within the Library's John W. Kluge Center that explores the effects of astrobiology research on society. The Chair was named for Blumberg in recognition of his service to the Library of Congress Scholars Council and his commitment to "research and dialogue between disciplines."