October 29, 1920|
|Died||August 2, 2011
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, USA
|Institutions||New York University
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
National Institutes of Health
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Harvard Medical School
Danaâ€“Farber Cancer Institute
|Alma mater||Columbia University
Medical College of Virginia
|Known for||major histocompatibility complex|
|Notable awards||National Medal of Science
1980 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
|Spouse||Annette (Dreyfus) Benacerraf
(1922â€“2011; m.1943â€“2011; her death)
(one daughter, Beryl Rica Benacerraf, b. 1949)
My interest was directed, from my medical student days, to Immunology, and particularly to the mechanism of hypersensitivity. I had suffered from bronchial asthma as a child and had developed a deep curiosity in allergic phenomena.
In 1970, Dean Robert Ebert offered me the Chair of Pathology at Harvard Medical School. I moved to Harvard because I missed the university environment and, more particularly, the stimulating interaction with the eager, enthusiastic, and unprejudiced young minds of the students and fellows.
The immune system has evolved the capacity to react specifically with a very large number of foreign molecules with which it had no previous contact while avoiding reactivity for autologous molecules, naturally antigenic in other species or in other individuals of the same species.
As biologists, we contemplate with admiration and awe the wondrous array of sophisticated cell interactions and recognitions evolved in the T cell immune system, which must be a model for other similarly complex biological systems of highly differentiated organisms.
My primary and secondary education was in French, which had a lasting influence on my life.
The identification of the genes which determine biological phenomena and the study of the control they exert on these phenomena has proven to be the most successful approach to a detailed understanding of the mechanism of biological processes.
While in medical school, I was drafted into the U.S. Army with the other medical students as part of the wartime training program, and naturalized American citizen in 1943. I greatly enjoyed my medical studies, which at the Medical College of Virginia were very clinically oriented.
Some of the most significant advances in molecular biology have relied upon the methodology of genetics. The same statement may be made concerning our understanding of immunological phenomena.