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D. Carleton Gajdusek

D. Carleton GajdusekAKA Daniel Carleton Gajdusek

Born: 9-Sep-1923
Birthplace: Yonkers, NY
Died: 12-Dec-2008
Location of death: Tromsų, Norway
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Gay [1]
Occupation: Scientist, Doctor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Kuru (slow virus infections)

Military service: US Army (1951-53)

American pediatrician and virologist D. Carleton Gajdusek studied child growth, development, and disease patterns in primitive cultures. He became the world's foremost expert on kuru, a fatal disease of the nervous system, which occurred only among Melanesian people in the 1950s and '60s. Gajdusek correctly ascertained that the disease -- similar to Creutzfeldt-Jacob or "mad cow disease" -- was caused by an extraordinarily slow-acting virus, and spread by the Fore tribe's practice of eating the brains of its dead. Once the locals were convinced to give up this practice, the disease was eliminated. For his work, Gajdusek received the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 1976, sharing the award with Baruch S. Blumberg, who conducted unrelated research into hepatitis.

In his numerous trips to third world countries, Gajdusek brought several dozen young boys back to America, where they lived with him. He referred to them as his adopted sons. In 1996, one of these boys, by then an adult, accused Gajdusek of having molested him as a child. Gajdusek proclaimed his innocence, but then pled guilty to sexual abuse of a child; served one year in prison, and was allowed to spend the subsequent five years of probation in Europe.


[1] Doug Mellgren, Nobel medicine laureate D. Carleton Gajdusek dies, Associated Press, 16 December 2008: "His research triumphs were marred by a child molestation case when, in 1997, he pleaded guilty to molesting a teenage boy... Prosecutors at the time said Gajdusek had brought home 56 boys from research trips. He said he brought the children home to educate them."

Father: Karl Gajdusek (butcher)
Mother: Ottilia Dobroczki Gajdusek
Brother: Robert Gajdusek (author, b. 1925)

    High School: (1940)
    Scholar:
Marine embryology, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (1941)
    University: BS Physics, University of Rochester (1943)
    Medical School: MD, Harvard Medical School (1946)
    University: PhD Chemistry, California Institute of Technology
    Scholar: Walter Reed Army Medical Service Graduate School (1951-53)
    Scholar: Pasteur Institute in Tehran (1952-53)
    Scholar: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Parkville, Australia (1954-55)
    Administrator: Chief of Laboratory of Central Nervous Systems, National Institutes of Health (1958-97)

    Nobel Prize for Medicine 1976 (with Baruch S. Blumberg)
    National Academy of Sciences
    Child Abuse 1997 (guilty plea)
    Hungarian Ancestry
    Slovak Ancestry Paternal

Author of books:
Kuru: Early Letters and Field-Notes (1981, with Judith Farquhar)


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