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Julius Axelrod

Julius AxelrodBorn: 30-May-1912
Birthplace: New York City
Died: 29-Dec-2004
Location of death: Rockville, MD
Cause of death: Heart Failure

Gender: Male
Religion: Atheist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Chemist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Research of neurotransmitters

Julius Axelrod called "Julie" by friends and colleagues earned a BS in Biology and Chemistry and hoped to become a doctor, but because most medical schools of his era had a quota for Jews, he was rejected everywhere he applied. He worked for more than a decade in the New York City Health Department's industrial hygiene lab (and lost his left eye in a lab accident in 1938) before joining the National Institutes of Health in 1950. He earned his Masters Degree in night school, and when he felt that his lack of a PhD would impede his advancement, he took a leave of absence from the National Institutes of Health to pursue his doctorate at George Washington University.

In his best-known work, he identified an enzyme vital to the degradation of chemical neurotransmitters, and showed how nerves interact with other nerves. His findings illuminated the way chemicals released from the brain's nerve endings react with the pineal gland and affect a wide range of human behavior, from sleep patterns to meekness and aggressiveness, and led to the development of drugs used in psychiatry and for the treatment of mental illnesses. He also conducted important research into the physiological actions of caffeine, and made major contributions to the scientific understanding of analgesics. In 1948, working with biologist Bernard Brodie (1907-1989), he established that acetaminophen lacks the toxic effects of other painkillers widely used at the time, leading Johnson & Johnson to develop the drug for home use as Tylenol. He also studied sympathomimetic amines and their metabolism, and the role of microsomal enzymes in drug metabolism.

He was not at home when the Nobel Committee called to tell him he had won the 1970 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, and he had the radio off in his car, so he did not receive the news until he was greeted with jubilation when he arrived at his dentist's office for an appointment. When President Richard M. Nixon called that afternoon to congratulate Axelrod, he respectfully harangued the President to restore funding that had been slashed for scientific research. He died in 2004, and is the namesake of two annual honors, the Julius Axelrod Prize, presented by the Society for Neuroscience, and the Julius Axelrod Award in Pharmacology, presented by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

Father: Isadore Axelrod (basket weaver)
Mother: Molly Leichtling Axelrod
Wife: Sally Taub Axelrod (m. 1938, d. 1992, two sons)
Son: Paul Mark Axelrod (anthropolgist)
Son: Alfred Nathan Axelrod (forester)

    High School: Seward Park High School, New York, NY (1929)
    University: New York University (attended, 1929-30)
    University: BS Biology & Chemistry, City College of New York (1933)
    University: MA Chemistry, New York University (1941)
    University: PhD, George Washington University (1955)

    National Institute of Mental Health Chief of Pharmacology (1955-84)
    National Institutes of Health Chemical Pharmacology (1950-54)
    Goldwater Memorial Hospital Research (1946-49)
    New York City Official Industrial Hygiene Lab, Department of Health (1935-46)
    Gairdner Foundation International Award 1967
    Nobel Prize for Medicine 1970 (with Bernard Katz and Ulf von Euler)
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Association for the Advancement of Science
    American Chemical Society
    American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
    American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 1953
    American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
    German Pharmacological Society Foreign Member
    International Brain Research Organization
    Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society
    Society for Neuroscience
    Circulation Research Editorial Board
    International Journal of Psychobiology Editorial Board
    Journal of Medicinal Chemistry Editorial Board
    Journal of Neurobiology Editorial Board
    Journal of Neurochemistry Editorial Board
    Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Editorial Board
    Life Sciences Editorial Board
    Pharmacological Research Communications Editorial Board
    Heart Attack 1993
    Heart Attack 29-Dec-2004 (fatal)
    Jewish Ancestry
    Polish Ancestry

Author of books:
The Pineal (1968, with Richard J. Wurtman and Douglas E. Kelly)


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