Baruch Blumberg, Medicine

Dr. Baruch Blumberg, University Professor and Nobel laureate, died on April 5, 2011, shortly after giving the keynote speech in Moffett Field, California at a NASA Ames Research Center meeting focused upon the search for extraterrestrial life. He was 85 years old.

Dr. Blumberg was best known for identifying the hepatitis B virus, a discovery that led to the first vaccine against hepatitis B, which was the first vaccine capable of preventing a human cancer. He won the 1976 Nobel Prize along with D. Carleton Gajdusek, for “discoveries concerning new mechanisms for the origin and dissemination of infectious diseases.” He was the author of Hepatitis B: The Hunt for a Killer Virus, which detailed the discovery that led to his Nobel.

Born in 1925 in New York City, Dr. Blumberg was educated at Union College while in the US Navy. After leaving active duty in 1946, he entered the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia. He earned a PhD at Balliol College at Oxford University. Dr. Blumberg worked at the NIH, 1957-1964. He came to the Institute for Cancer Research at Fox Chase, where he was affiliated at the time of the Nobel Prize.

Dr. Blumberg’s career at Penn began as an associate professor of medicine in 1964. Two years later, he received a secondary appointment as an associate professor in genetics. He was made full professor in 1970, and would go on to get another secondary appointment as a professor of anthropology. He was given the distinction of University Professor of Medicine and Anthropology in 1977.

In 1989, he returned to Oxford to be the Master of Balliol College. He has also taught at Stanford. Dr. Blumberg was founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. He was elected president of the American Philosophical Society in 2005. In 1990 he received an honorary degree from Penn.

He is survived by his wife, Jean; children, Anne, George, Jane and Noah; and nine grandchildren.

Contributions may be made to the Baruch S. Blumberg Research Grant Fund, c/o American Philosophical Society, 104 S. 5th St., Philadelphia, PA 19106.