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Joshua Lederberg

Joshua LederbergBorn: 23-May-1925
Birthplace: Montclair, NJ
Died: 2-Feb-2008
Location of death: Manhattan, NY
Cause of death: Pneumonia

Gender: Male
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Biologist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Genetic properties of bacteria

Military service: US Navy Reserve (1943-45)

American molecular biologist Joshua Lederberg was reading medical textbooks before adolescence, graduated high school at 15, and performed his Nobel prize-winning research when he was 21 -- discovering sexual recombination in bacteria (called "bacterial conjugation"). He was 33 when his work was recognized with the 1958 Nobel Prize in Medicine, shared with George Beadle and Edward Tatum, but Lederberg was awarded half the cash prize, while Beadle and Tatum received 25% each.

In his long post-Nobel career, Lederberg researched viral antibodies in collaboration with fellow Nobel laureate Frank Macfarlane Burnet, studied artificial intelligence, worked with Carl Sagan to prevent microbial contamination in NASA space exploration, and served as president of Rockefeller University. In 1994, he was named to head the U.S. Defense Department's Task Force on Persian Gulf War Health Effects, which concluded that "epidemiological evidence is insufficient at this time to support the concept of any" Gulf War Syndrome.

His father was a rabbi, and his parents both immigrated from Israel. His first wife, Esther Zimmer, was an accomplished geneticist who developed replica plating, and discovered lambda-phage transduction and lysogenicity. His second wife, psychiatrist Marguerite Stein Lederberg, is a professor at Cornell University and practices at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Father: Zwi Hirsch Lederberg (rabbi, b. 1903, d. 1969)
Mother: Esther Goldenbaum Schulman Lederberg (b. 1903, m. 6-Aug-1924, d. 1976)
Brother: Seymour Lederberg (biology professor at Bown University)
Brother: Dov Lederberg (rabbi, b. circa 1941)
Wife: Esther Zimmer Lederberg (geneticist, b. 1922, m. 1946, div. 1966, d. 2006)
Wife: Marguerite Stein Lederberg (psychiatrist)
Son: David Kirsch (stepson, b. 4-Nov-1964)
Daughter: Anne Lederberg (b. 6-May-1974)

    High School: Stuyvesant High School, New York City, NY (1941)
    University: BA Zoology, Columbia University (1944)
    Medical School: Columbia University (1944-46)
    University: Microbiology, Yale University (1948)
    Teacher: Genetics, University of Wisconsin at Madison (1947-54)
    Professor: Bacteriology, University of California at Berkeley (1950-51)
    Professor: Genetics, University of Wisconsin at Madison (1954-59)
    Professor: Bacteriology, University of Melbourne (1957-58)
    Professor: Genetics, Stanford University (1959-78)
    Administrator: President, Rockefeller University (1978-90)

    Nobel Prize for Medicine 1958 (with George Beadle and Edward Tatum)
    National Medal of Science 1989
    Presidential Medal of Freedom 2006
    American Association for the Advancement of Science 1982
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1982
    American Philosophical Society
    National Academy of Sciences 1957
    Nuclear Threat Initiative Board of Advisors
    Pontifical Academy of Sciences
    Royal Society 1979
    World Health Organization Advisory Council
    Israeli Ancestry
    Jewish Ancestry

Author of books:
Papers in Microbial Genetics: Bacteria and Bacterial Viruses (1951)
Antimicrobial Resistance: Antimicrobial Resistance Issues and Options (1998, with Polly F. Harrison)
Biological Weapons: Limiting the Threat (1999)


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