Remembering Barry Blumberg, 1925-2011

Donate Now to Support Research at Fox Chase Cancer Center

Be a part of the research effort at Fox Chase by contributing today.

Baruch S. Blumberg, MD, PhD

Baruch S. Blumberg, MD, PhD, winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Medicine and longtime Fox Chase faculty member, died of an apparent heart attack Tuesday, April 5, 2011.


To All in the Fox Chase Community,  

Baruch S. Blumberg, MD, PhD

Baruch S. Blumberg, MD, PhD

It is with sadness that I write to share the news that Baruch S. Blumberg, MD, PhD, died at a conference in California on April 5, 2011. He was 85 at the time of his unexpected passing.

Over a long and accomplished career, Dr. Blumberg was best known for identifying, with colleagues, the hepatitis B virus, a major cause of primary liver cancer. That discovery led to the development of the first vaccine against hepatitis B, which was also the first vaccine capable of preventing a human cancer. For this discovery, Dr. Blumberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1976.

Dr. Blumberg arrived at Fox Chase in 1964 as associate director for clinical research at the Institute for Cancer Research, a position he held until 1986. He was vice president for population oncology from 1986-1989 and served as a senior advisor to the president from 1989 until his death.

Barry was a much-valued friend and colleague for many at Fox Chase, and he will be greatly missed.

Please join me in keeping his family in your thoughts at this difficult time for them.  

Michael Seiden, MD, PhD
President and CEO, Fox Chase Cancer Center
April, 2011

 

 

Nobelist Baruch S. Blumberg, MD, PhD, Dies at 85

Blumberg Won the 1976 Nobel Prize in Medicine for His Discovery of the Hepatitis B Virus

Philadelphia (April 7, 2011) — Dr. Blumberg, known to many as Barry, came to Fox Chase Cancer Center in 1964 and served as associate director for clinical research at the Institute for Cancer Research, a position he held until 1986. He was vice president for Population Oncology from 1986-1989 and served his most recent position as senior advisor to the president since 1989.

“Barry was a much-valued friend and colleague for many at Fox Chase, and he will be greatly missed,” says Michael V. Seiden, MD, PhD, president and CEO of Fox Chase.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1925, Blumberg earned his BS in physics at Union College in Schenectady in 1946 and for a year did graduate work in mathematics at Columbia University. He received his MD from Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1951. He then went on to become associate director for clinical research and senior member at Fox Chase.

Barry Blumberg and his wife Jean celebrating the announcement of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Medicine

Blumberg was a celebrated staff member at Fox Chase. He was awarded the 1976 Nobel Prize in medicine for his 1967 discovery of the hepatitis B virus and he has received many subsequent honors, including election to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

In recent years, he served as the first director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (1999-2002), more recently as Distinguished Scientist at the both the NASA Astrobiology Institute and the NASA Lunar Science Institute.

“I think it’s fair to say that Barry prevented more cancer deaths than any person who’s ever lived,” Jonathan Chernoff, PhD, chief scientific officer at Fox Chase, told reporters. 

Dr. Blumberg married his loving wife, Jean, in 1954. They had four children, Anne, Jane, George, Noah, and nine grandchildren.

Read more »

 

Quotes from the Faculty

 

“Barry was a much-valued friend and colleague for many at Fox Chase, and he will be greatly missed.”

Michael V. Seiden, MD, PhD,
President and CEO of Fox Chase

“I think it’s fair to say that Barry prevented more cancer deaths than any person who’s ever lived.”

Jonathan Chernoff, PhD,
Chief Scientific Officer at Fox Chase

"His vaccine and his research have saved hundreds of thousands of lives."

Ann Skalka, PhD,
Basic Science Director Emerita
Philadelphia Inquirer, April 7, 2011

Fox Chase researcher W. Thomas London reflects on nearly a half-century of friendship and collaboration with a man for whom the world was a laboratory. Read his memoir in Forward, Winter 2012.

Read or sign the memorial book »

 

Remarks from a Colleague
Delivered at the American Philosophical Society,
Sunday, April 11, 2011

 

Barry wanted to know the unknown. He liked to befriend strangers. He amused us all.

This occasion brings to mind the epitaph for the Jacobean poet and playwright Ben Jonson. The engraver was to write  “Orare Ben Jonson,” Latin for “Pray for Ben Jonson,” but he erred and etched “O rare Ben Jonson.”

Which sounds just right for Barry.

O rare.

Alfred G Knudson Jr, MD, PhD
2005 American Association for Cancer Research Lifetime Achievement Award
2004 Kyoto Prize
1999 Distinguished Career Award of the American Society of Hematology/Oncology
1998 Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research
Senior Advisor to the President

Elsewhere in the Press

 

Hundreds of newspapers and other media outlets around the globe and in many languages celebrated Blumberg's life and science and the impact of his work. Among them were The Philadelphia Inquirer , The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Telegraph in the UK.

Video courtesy the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

In addition to his work at Fox Chase Cancer Center, in his later years Dr. Blumberg pursued an interest in exobiology with NASA and SETI.

Find additional tributes at their sites:

See a 2011 lecture by Dr. Blumberg
tracing the history of his Hepatitis B discovery ,
or see more videos at Web of Stories

Dr. Blumberg's Publications

Read more »