Baruj Benacerraf was born on October 29, 1920, in Caracas, Venezuela. Benacerraf enrolled in the undergraduate studies at Columbia University, obtaining a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1942. Following Columbia, he enrolled in the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond. A year later, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. For a year in 1945, Benacerraf interned at Queens General Hospital in New York. In 1946, he was commissioned First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps and sent to Germany; he was discharged in 1947.
After the war, he was granted a Fellowship at the Neurological Institute of Columbia University School of Physicians and Surgeons. From 1950 to 1956, Benacerraf moved with his family to Paris to take a position in Bernard Halpern's laboratory at the Broussais Hospital. In 1956, he returned to the United States as Assistant Professor of Pathology at New York University School of Medicine. By 1961, Benacerraf had advanced to Professor of Pathology at New York University. In 1968, he moved to Bethesda, Maryland to assume Directorship of the Laboratory of Immunology of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. Finally in 1970, Benacerraf he accepted the Chair of Pathology at Harvard Medical School.
He began studies of allergies in 1948, and discovered the Ir (immune response) genes that govern transplant rejection (1960s). In 1972 he demonstrated the existence of T and B lymphocytes.
He shared the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the "discovery of the Major histocompatibility complex genes which encode cell surface molecules important for the immune system's distinction between self and non-self."
· President of the American Association of Immunologists
The following press release from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences describes Benacerraf's work:
Sources: Nobelprize.org, Nobel Prize Autobiograpy