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John von Neumann with the Electrical Numerical Integrator and Calculator (ENIAC), 1945.

© Institute for Advanced Study


Baruch S. Blumberg is renowned for identifying the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and developing a diagnostic test and vaccine for HBV, the DNA virus that attacks the liver. His work has had a far-reaching impact on public health around the globe. With Carleton D. Gajdusak, he shared the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for “discoveries concerning new mechanisms for the origin and dissemination of infectious diseases.” Dr. Blumberg is University Professor of Medicine and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania as well as senior advisor to the president at Fox Chase Cancer Center where he had held the title Distinguished Scientist. He also has served as master of Balliol College, Oxford, and as founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) at the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, on the southern edge of San Francisco Bay. Dr. Blumberg’s leadership skills were initially honed in the military. Commissioned as a deck officer in the United States Navy during World War II, he was the commanding officer of a landing ship when he left active duty in 1946. Having earned an undergraduate degree in physics at Union College, he began graduate studies in mathematics at Columbia University and, switching to medicine, earned an M.D. at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1951. He served an internship and residency at New York’s Bellevue Hospital and took a clinical fellowship at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. Going on to Oxford University, where he was a member of Balliol, he received a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1957. Dr. Blumberg then joined the National Institutes of Health as chief of the Section on Geographic Medicine and Genetics. He came to Fox Chase in 1964 as the associate director of clinical research. Named vice president for population oncology in 1984, he was appointed Distinguished Scientist in 1989, when he returned to Balliol for a five-year term as master. He had earlier served as its George Eastman Visiting Professor, and he has been a visiting professor at numerous other institutions around the world. After teaching in Stanford’s Program in Human Biology, he accepted appointment to the NAI where from 1999 to 2002 he established a basic science organization to study the origins of life and to test the hypothesis that life exists elsewhere than on Earth. Dr. Blumberg is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the Royal College of Physicians, as well as a member and the current president of the American Philosophical Society. He was elected to the National Inventors Hall of Fame and is the recipient of twenty-four honorary degrees, along with Japan’s Showa Emperor Memorial Award and the Fries Prize for Improving Health among other honors. He is the author of some 450 scientific papers. Co-author (with Toby K. Eisenstein and Irving Millman) of Hepatitis B: The Virus, the Disease and the Vaccine (2003), Dr. Blumberg’s other books include Australia Antigen and Hepatitis (1972), Hepatitis B and the Prevention of Cancer in the Liver (2000), and Hepatitis B: The Hunt for a Killer, which was published by Princeton University Press in 2002.

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