The Eulogizer: Nobel Prize winner, WWII intelligence agent, AIDS pharmacologist

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Read previous columns here.

Baruch Blumberg, Nobel Prize winner

Baruch S. Blumberg, a Nobel Prize-winning biologist whose work led to vaccines against hepatitis for millions and who also explored the biology of space, died April 5 while at a NASA conference. He was 85.

Blumberg won the 1976 Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology with Daniel Carleton Gajdusek for discovery of the hepatitis B virus. In awarding him the prize, the Nobel Committee said Blumberg had “made discoveries giving us new views on mechanisms of infectious diseases. The impact of your conceptual reformulations is wide.” Others went further and described the discovery as “one of the greatest medical achievements of the 20th century.”

In the decades since the award, vaccines and other medical applications developed have been used worldwide, possibly saving millions of lives.

More recently, while continuing in that field, Blumberg became involved with NASA, where he was a distinguished scientist at its Astrobiology Institute and its Lunar Science Institute.

A NASA blogger wrote that Blumberg “was in a small meeting focused upon how to move humanity off this world onto others. His passing was swift — and true to form he was enthused and learning up until his last breath.”

NASA Ames Conference Center director Pete Worden said Blumberg was "a leading light in the scientific community and a great humanitarian.” Former NASA administrator Daniel Goldin, who brought Blumberg to the space agency, said "the world has lost a great man.”

Blumberg went from Queens’ Far Rockaway High School to Union College in Schenectady, N.Y.; the U.S. Navy; Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he received his medical degree; Balliol College, Oxford, where he received a doctorate; the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania; and then became master of Balliol College. From 1999 to 2002 he was director of the Astrobiology Institute.

Blumberg wrote a lengthy autobiographical entry for the Nobel organization when he received his prize in 1976, and updated it in 2006 with details on how his discoveries had been used worldwide. In it, he described field and research trips in Africa, India and China, as well as personal information about his childhood and origins, including early Jewish learning:

“I was born in 1925, in New York City, 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 Yeshivah 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.”

Morris Parloff, 92, a ‘Ritchie Boy’

Morris Parloff, a member of the "Ritchie Boys," a German-speaking unit of the U.S. Army that did intelligence work and psychological warfare in World War II, and who later became a psychotherapist, researcher and an administrator at the National Institute of Mental Health, died April 2 at 92. Parloff was among the surviving members of the Ritchie Boys featured in a 2004 documentary.

William H. Prusoff, 90, pharmacologist
William H. Prusoff, a Yale pharmacologist who helped develop “an effective component in the first generation of drug cocktails used to treat AIDS,” died April 3 at age 90. The Eulogizer will try to return to this story with more details in coming days.

 

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