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George D. Snell

George D. SnellAKA George Davis Snell

Born: 19-Dec-1903
Birthplace: Haverhill, MA
Died: 6-Jun-1996
Location of death: Bar Harbor, ME
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Scientist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Recognition of HLA antigens

American immunogeneticist George D. Snell won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1980, sharing the distinction with Baruj Benacerraf and Jean Dausset. Snell conducted extended research into the complex genetics of the mouse's immune system, which added to the scientific understanding of infectious diseases, organ transplants, and the role of genes in immune reactions. He is best known for his discovery of the H-2 histocompatibility complex, which -- similar to the HLA complex in humans -- identifies implanted organs as "foreign" or "non-self." His explanations of how and why the body rejects implanted organs formed the foundation that made organ transplants feasible.

He was the youngest of three children, and was educated in public schools. Early in his career, he studied hybridization and determined that cross-breeding between different species of pig -- or, he surmised, between different ancestries among humans -- resulted in more physically attractive and socially successful individuals. Later, Snell was the founder and first editor of the scientific journal Immunogenetics, and was widely considered the "father" of that field of study. After his retirement in 1969, he spent more than twenty-five years writing numerous articles on science, philosophy, and ethics, and authored Search for a Rational Ethic, a book exploring the interplay between science and ethics.

His son, Peter Snell, is the founder of Snell Acoustics, a manufacturer of premium sound systems.

Wife: Rhoda Carson Snell
Son: Thomas Snell (founded Snell Acoustics)
Son: Roy Snell (architect)
Son: Peter Snell (computer scientist)

    High School: Brookline High School, Brookline, MA (1922)
    University: BS Biology, Dartmouth College (1926)
    University: ScD Genetics, Harvard Medical School (1930)
    Teacher: Biology, Brown University (1930-31)
    Scholar: Genetics, University of Texas at Austin (1931-33)
    Teacher: Genetics, Washington University in St. Louis (1933-34)
    Scholar: Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, ME (1935-57)
    Administrator: Senior Scientist, Jackson Laboratory (1957-69)

    Wolf Prize in Medicine 1978
    Nobel Prize for Medicine 1980 (with Baruj Benacerraf and Jean Dausset)
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Philosophical Society
    French Academy of Sciences
    National Academy of Sciences
    Young Men's Christian Association Director and Trustee

Author of books:
Biology of the Laboratory Mouse (1941)
Cell Surface Antigens: Studies in Mammals Other than Man (1973)
Histocompatibility (1976, with Jean Dausset and Stanley G. Natheson)
Search for a Rational Ethic (1988)


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