Thursday, April 07, 2011

Talmud, SETI, and a Hepatitis B vaccine

THE STUDY OF TALMUD was a major influence on the Nobel Prize winner who developed a vaccine for Hepatitis B and who made significant contributions to SETI:
Baruch (Barry) Blumberg (1925-2011) died suddenly on 5 April while participating in a scientific conference at NASA Ames Research Center. Barry was a Nobel Laureate and the developer of a vaccine for Hepatitis B that saved millions of lives. As a founder of the discipline of astrobiology, Director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, and Trustee of the SETI Institute, Barry has made unique contributions to our science and enriched all of our lives with his wisdom and warm personality.


Blumberg has been a staff member at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia since 1964. Concurrently he was Master of Balliol College at Oxford from 1989 to 1994, a rare honor for an American and an experience that he treasured. Barry was a true renaissance man, learned in science, society, and the management of research organizations. His wife Jean is an artist and was always a close companion. In 2005 he became the President of the American Philosophical Society, and he never tired of talking about the contributions this unique organization has made to American learning. He was proud to hold the same position, and occupy the same office, as the Society’s founder, Ben Franklin. In discussing the factors that influenced his life, Barry always gave credit to the mental discipline of the Jewish Talmud, and as often as possible he attended weekly Talmud discussion classes until his death. He believed deeply in the rationality and essential goodness of humans, in spite of some evidence to the contrary. Always an optimist, Barry was confident that eventually logic and rationality will triumph.

May his memory be for a blessing.