Weissmann, Gerald 1930-
WEISSMANN, Gerald 1930-
PERSONAL: Born August 7, 1930, in Vienna, Austria; immigrated to the United States, 1938, naturalized citizen, 1943; son of Adolf (a medical doctor) and Greta (Lustbader) Weissmann; married Ann Raphael, April 1, 1953; children: Andrew, Lisa Beth. Ethnicity: "Austrian." Education: Columbia University, B.A., 1950; New York University, M.D., 1954; postdoctoral research in biochemistry at New York University and in cell biology at Cambridge University. Hobbies and other interests: Tennis.
ADDRESSES: Office—Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, New York University Medical Center, 550 First Ave., New York, NY 10016-6402. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Licensed to practice medicine in New York. Mt. Sinai Hospital, New York, NY, intern, 1954-55; Bellevue Hospital, New York, NY, resident and chief resident, 1955-58; Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation, New York, NY, research fellow in biochemistry, 1958-59; New York University Medical Center, New York, NY, research assistant, Department of Medicine, 1959-60, instructor, 1959-61, assistant professor, 1961-65, associate professor, 1965-70, professor of medicine, 1970—, director of Division of Cell Biology, 1969-73, director of Division of Rheumatology, 1974-2000, director of Biotechnology Study Center, 2000—. U.S. Public Health Service special research fellow at Strangeways Research Laboratory, Cambridge University, 1960-61; senior investigator of Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation, 1961-65; Diplomate of American Board of Internal Medicine, 1963; visiting investigator, ARC Institute of Animal Physiology, Babraham, England, 1964-69; career investigator of Health Research Council of New York, 1966-70; investigator and instructor at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, 1970-77, trustee, 1993—; visiting investigator at Centre de Physiologie et d'Immunologie Cellulaires, Hospital St. Antoine, Paris, France, 1973-74; lecturer at Johns Hopkins University, 1976; lecturer at Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, 1980; Rockefeller Foundation resident at the Villa Serbelloni, Bellagio, Italy, 1987; visiting investigator at William Harvey Research Institute, London, England, 1987; lecturer at Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1988; centennial lecturer at the Marine Biological Laboratory, 1988, and at Johns Hopkins Medical School, 1989. Consultant to Pfizer, Searle, Riker, Upjohn, 1972—; Clinical Immunology and Immunopathology, member of editorial board, 1972-88; consultant to U.S. Food and Drug Administration and National Heart and Lung Institute; Ethicon Company, scientific advisory board, 1973-76; BioResponse, scientific advisory board, 1982-86; The Liposome Company, director, cofounder (with E. C. Whitehead), and chair of scientific advisory board, 1982 ; member of postdoctoral fellowships review commission, Pfizer International, New York, NY, 1983-89; member of scholarship selection committee, Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences, New Haven, CT, 1984-94; Ellison Medical Foundation, national advisory board, 1997—. Military service: U. S. Army Medical Corps, 1955-57; became captain.
MEMBER: International Association of Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists and Novelists (PEN) American Center, American Society of Cell Biology, American Society of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Biology, American Society of Experimental Pathology, American Society for Clinical Investigation, American Federation of Clinical Research, American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, American Association of Immunologists, American Association of Physicians, American Rheumatism Association, American College of Rheumatology (president, 1982-83; master, 1996), American Association for the Advancement of Science (fellow, 1982), Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, New York Academy of Medicine (fellow, 1993), Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Omega Alpha, Harvey Society of New York (president, 1981-82), Interurban Club.
AWARDS, HONORS: Alessandro Robecchi Prize for Rheumatology, International League against Rheumatism, 1972, for research on mechanisms of inflammation; Guggenheim fellow at Center of Immunology and Physiology, Paris, France, 1973-74; Marine Biology Laboratory Prize in cell biology, 1974 and 1979, for work in cell biology of inflammation; University of Bologna medal, Bologna, Italy, 1978; Lila Gruber Cancer Research Award (coholder with Emil Frei, Jr.), 1979; Solomon A. Berson Medical Alumni Achievement Award in Clinical Sciences, New York University, 1980; National Institutes of Health MERIT Award, 1987; Marine Biological Laboratory Centennial Award for Leadership in Biomedical Sciences, 1988; Hiram Maxim Award for Scientific Communication, 1990; American College of Rheumatology Distinguished Investigator Award, 1992; Charles Plotz Award, Arthritis Foundation (NY), 1993; Paul Klemperer Award, New York Academy of Medicine, 1997; award from Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Rome), 2002.
(Editor) Mediators of Inflammation, Plenum Press (New York, NY), 1974.
(Editor, with Robert Claiborne) Cell Membranes, Biochemistry, Cell Biology and Pathology, Hospital Practice Press (New York, NY), 1975.
(Editor) The Biological Revolution: Applications of Cell Biology to Public Welfare, Plenum Press (New York, NY), 1979.
(Series editor, with Leonard Eleazar Glynn, and John C. Houck) Handbook of Inflammation, four volumes, Elsevier/North-Holland Biomedical Press (Amsterdam, Holland, and New York, NY), 1979-83.
(Editor) The Cell Biology of Inflammation, Elsevier/North-Holland Biomedical Press (Amsterdam, Holland, and New York, NY), 1980.
The Woods Hole Cantata: Essays on Science and Society, foreword by Lewis Thomas, Dodd, Mead (New York, NY), 1985, paperback edition, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1986.
They All Laughed at Christopher Columbus: Tales of Medicine and the Art of Discovery, Times Books (New York, NY), 1987.
The Doctor with Two Heads, and Other Essays, Knopf (New York, NY), 1990, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 1991.
The Doctor Dilemma, Whittle Direct Books (Knoxville, TN), 1992.
(Editor, with Robert Barlow and John Dowling) The Biological Century: Friday Evening Talks at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1994.
Democracy and DNA: American Dreams and Medical Progress, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 1995.
Darwin's Audubon: Science and the Liberal Imagination, Plenum Trade (New York, NY), 1998.
The Year of the Genome: A Diary of the Biological Revolution, Times Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor of more than 300 articles to professional journals; contributor of book reviews and essays to periodicals, including the New York Times Book Review, the London Review of Books, and The New Republic; contributor of essays to books; author of "This Week" column in online magazine the Praxis Post.
SIDELIGHTS: Gerald Weissmann, a professor of medicine at New York University Medical Center, is the author of five volumes of essays on the art and science of medicine. The essays in his first collection, The Woods Hole Cantata: Essays on Science and Society, relate the science of medicine to its social context. One piece concerns a medical researcher who is a prisoner in a concentration camp. Another describes the fate of a severe schizophrenic whose physical illness is treated with new wonder drugs; the patient is then released to the community with little apparent regard for the psychological and social aspects of her illness. The author discusses a wide range of medical and social issues that reflect his own routine as a scientific researcher. Anna Fels, a reviewer for the New York Times Book Review, found Weissmann's insights "original and provocative." She wrote: "It is not only Dr. Weissmann's observations that enliven these essays, but also the palpable delight he derives from the occasions that gave rise to them."
Weissmann's second volume of essays, They All Laughed at Christopher Columbus: Tales of Medicine and the Art of Discovery, was published in 1987. In an article for the New York Times Book Review, Martha Weinman Lear called the book a "graceful, feisty collection" that conveys "the promise of adventure, of voyages of discovery, near-palpable each morning . . . when the laboratory doors are opened." Weissmann uses examples from his own practice to inform the general reader about the world of scientific discovery and to air his views on some of the medico-social issues of our time. An essay on one of his asthma patients allows the physician to discuss the fluctuations in the history of asthma treatment over the years and the debate between those who consider it a physical ailment and others who treat asthma as a psychosomatic disorder. A female AIDS victim prompts Weissmann to consider the fear of science that permeates our age. Lear recommended They All Laughed at Christopher Columbus as "a book filled with graceful and generous themes, written in a spirit of caring that defines medicine in the fullest sense."
In his third collection, The Doctor with Two Heads, and Other Essays, Weissmann comments on the relationship between art and medicine. Gloria Hochman, writing in the New York Times Book Review, stated that the "reader comes away with a tasty repertory of cultural hors d'oeuvres."
In 1996, Weissmann published his fourth book of essays, Democracy and DNA: American Dreams and Medical Progress, in which he presents his arguments against the use of nontraditional therapies, pointing out the ineffectiveness of unconventional medicine on pandemics and the positive effects of American meliorists. New York Times Book Review contributor Lance Morrow described the book as "surprising and elegantly indignant." Morrow wrote, "Although Democracy and DNA is a passionately cranky tract, it sparkles here and there with charm and style. Dr. Weissmann explores the moral connection between medicine and literature, following such civilized examples as those of Sir Thomas Browne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., and Lewis Thomas....He writes at length about the young Holmes's medical studies in Paris in the 1930s, when clinical medicine began to be an observational science." In conclusion, Morrow found that Weissmann "clings to an American ideal of inclusive democracy fortified by a medical habit of . . . 'explaining facts by facts.'"
Lynn Phillips, in a review of Democracy and DNA for The Nation, viewed Weissmann's use of history in the book less favorably. Phillips wrote, "Gerald Weissmann's unfortunate strategy is to hang himself with an untenable string of historical connections. He claims that modern DNA research ascends in a direct line from the nineteenth-century Anglo-American tradition of meliorism, and we should therefore love it." Phillips commented that meliorism was attributed to figures who actually had their self-interest in mind when making medical discoveries and that Weissmann does not properly credit women doctors and researchers, including Elizabeth Blackwell and Rosalind Franklin. Phillips also pointed out that the book is lacking in Weissmann's own viewpoint on the issues. "It might have been interesting," said Phillips, "to learn what he thinks the great medical potential of DNA research is, or on what grounds he equates the ethical ambiguities of genetic engineering with the simple benefits of good sanitation, or why he's so convinced that democracy is alive and well in the increasingly corporatized world of medical research." William Beatty of Booklist praised Democracy and DNA, noting Weissmann's "delightful style and wide-ranging knowledge" and commending the author for admitting that medicine still has a long way to go in spite of its progress in the past.
In a fifth book of essays, Darwin's Audubon: Science and the Liberal Imagination, Weissmann again touches on a number of subjects related to science and the humanities. He delves into the lives and discoveries of some of history's most famous in their fields, including Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Charles Darwin, and Honore Daumier, as well as lesser known scientists such as Ludwik Fleck, who did research while a prisoner in German concentration camps. Anthony Daniels, in a review for New Criterion, had both praise and criticism for this volume of essays, saying, "Weissmann is best when he is at his most straightforwardly historical." He called the essay on Fleck "a work of genuine piety about a man who deserves not to be forgotten, but otherwise might be." Daniels also commented that Weissmann's "interests and learning are wide ranging....He writes with equal facility of Charles Darwin and Honore Daumier, of liposomes and literature, of immunology and impasto. He is also a humane and decent man." However, Daniels thought that Weissmann "has a habit of avoiding the really difficult questions that his essays raise," for example, "why, after so much technical and material progress, mankind finds itself very little happier than before." Apart from any criticism of the book, however, Daniels had a high opinion of Weissmann's work, saying, "In recent years there have been a more than usual number of elegant scientist- and doctor-essayists.... Gerald Weissmann . . . is of their company." A Publishers Weekly contributor, although expressing some reservations about choppy prose and unnatural references to history and poetry, concluded, "these essays demonstrate the working of a considerable intellect."
The Year of the Genome: A Diary of the Biological Revolution is a collection of thirty-four of Weissmann's columns from the online magazine Praxis Post, written between April 3, 2000, and October 2, 2001. Their subjects are the scientific history of and modern-day public reaction to major scientific issues of the year, including the release of the so-called abortion pill, RU 486; the mapping of the human genome; cloning; stem cell research; outbreaks of the Ebola virus and typhus; mad cow disease; anthrax; and new treatments for Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and AIDS. Mary Chitty of Library Journal called the book "erudite, engaging, and accessible." A Publishers Weekly contributor also noted that Weissmann "is articulate and erudite, and he lucidly distills scientific concepts for the layman," although the contributor felt some readers might be put off by some smugness of language. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews noted that Weissmann "reveals an impatience with the way things are, a sense that we haven't come all that far." The contributor concluded, "There's wisdom here to be sure, but it's mingled with plenty of self-indulgence." Gilbert Taylor of Booklist praised the volume as packed with information and providing "cultural context [that] goes a level deeper than the daily newspaper."
Weissmann once told CA: "I have been writing all my life and am always pleased when someone actually reads my work, not in the course of duty, but in the pursuit of pleasure."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Complete Marquis Who's Who, Marquis Who's Who, 2001.
Booklist, February 1, 1996, William Beatty, review of Democracy and DNA: American Dreams and Medical Progress, p. 908; April 15, 2002, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Year of the Genome: A Diary of the Biological Revolution, p. 1370.
Choice, February, 1999, review of Darwin's Audubon: Science and the Liberal Imagination, p. 1080.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2002, review of The Year of the Genome, p. 399.
Library Journal, January, 1996, review of Democracy and DNA, p. 133; May 1, 2002, Mary Chitty, review of The Year of the Genome, p. 129.
Nation, May 20, 1996, Lynn Phillips, review of Democracy and DNA, p. 25.
New Criterion, March, 2002, Anthony Daniels, review of Darwin's Audubon, p. 65.
New Scientist, December 5, 1998, review of Darwin's Audubon, p. 45.
New York Times Book Review, September 29, 1985, Anna Fels, review of The Woods Hole Cantata: Essays on Science and Society; April 5, 1987, Martha Weinman Lear, review of They All Laughed at Christopher Columbus: Tales of Medicine and the Art of Discovery; July 15, 1990, Gloria Hochman, review of The Doctor with Two Heads, and Other Essays; March 3, 1996, Lance Morrow, "Irrational Medicine," review of Democracy and DNA, pp. 11-12.
Publishers Weekly, October 19, 1998, review of Darwin's Audubon, p. 64; April 29, 2002, review of The Year of the Genome, p. 52.
Science Books and Films, January, 1999, review of Darwin's Audubon, p. 28.
SciTech Book News, December, 1998, review of Darwin's Audubon, p. 10.
Ellison Medical Foundation Web site,http//www.ellison-med-fn.org/ (June 17, 2002), "Gerald Weissmann, M.D."
Rheumatology Web Board,http://www.rheumatologyweb.com/board/ (June 17, 2002) "Gerald Weissmann, M.D."