(1925–) American physician
Blumberg was born in New York City and studied physics and mathematics at Union College, Schenectady, and at Columbia, where, after a year, he changed to medical studies. He received his MD from Columbia in 1951 and his PhD in biochemistry from Oxford University in 1957. After working at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda from 1957 until 1964 Blumberg was appointed professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, a position he held until his retirement in 1994.
In 1963, while examining literally thousands of blood samples in a study of the variation in serum proteins in different populations, Blumberg made the important discovery of what soon became known as the ‘Australian antigen’. He found in the blood of an Australian aborigine an antigen that reacted with an antibody in the serum of an American thalassemia patient. It turned out that the antigen was found frequently in the serum of those suffering from viral hepatitis, hepatitis B, and was in fact a hepatitis B antigen.
It was hoped that from this discovery techniques for the control of the virus would develop. It certainly made it easier to screen blood for transfusion for the presence of the hepatitis virus; it also permitted the development of a vaccine, from the serum of those with the Australian antigen. Blumberg has also suggested that the virus is involved in primary liver cancer.
For his work on the Australian antigen Blumberg shared the 1976 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine with Carleton Gajdusek.
Subjects: Science and Mathematics.