Jewry's Role in
THE MAKING OF MEDICAL MARVELS
Many of last century's advances in medicine trace to physicians and
researchers of Jewish descent with an impressive presence in their
profession. While the U.S. has eclipsed most of the world in laboratory
research and discovery, strides forward have been taken everywhere, often
with Jewish doctors at the frontiers. One example is Iranian-born
Shemooil Rhabar (1929-) who, during more placid years in his country,
directed a research center at the University of Teheran and became the
principal immunologist of the Muslim world.
Another is French biologist Francois Jacob
(1920-) whose work on the influence of viruses and the
role of regulatory genes in heredity earned him a 1965
Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology. Jacob had also
fought with the Free French forces during World War
Two, was severely wounded and won several of his
nation's highest awards for valor and patriotism. Fernand
Widal (1862-1929), his Algerian-born countryman, had
gained fame during the First World War for formulating a
typhoid vaccine that protected soldiers at the front. He
also helped develop the first low-salt diet to treat perilous
forms of kidney and heart disease. And Sir Louis Barnett
(1865-1946) of New Zealand was among the earliest to
design radium and X-ray procedures for treating cancer.
MATTHEW E. BERGER
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
A sizeable number of foreign nationals in the
medical field emigrated to the U.S. whose university
curricula and laboratory facilities were without equal.
Venezuelan Baruj Benacerraf (1920-) earned a Harvard
professorship and a 1980 Nobel Prize for Medicine or
Physiology for discovering immune-response genes related
to the rejection of organ transplants. German-born Gustav
Bucky (1880-1963) escaped the Nazi threat and assumed
the post of professor of radiology at New York's Bellevue
Hospital. While there, he invented the noted Bucky
Diaphragm that greatly sharpened X-ray photography, and designed a
camera for superior medical color photography.
It was an American endocrinologist who
launched a social revolution that resounds around the
world: Gregory Pincus (1903-67) won the title of
"Father of the Pill" after developing the first practical
and effective birth control pill that played a large role
in emancipating women. Another major contributor to
the pill's evolution was Carl Djerassi (1923-) of
Stanford University. Alexander Wiener (1907-76) co-
discovered the Rh blood factor, and Leo Buerger
(1880-1943) was a leading American pathologist with the dubious honor of
a disease in his name. The Dressler Syndrome also outlived its namesake:
William Dressler (1890-1969), once among our nation's most prominent
cardiologists. And the discovery by Michael Brown (1941-) of the genetic
defect that deposits high levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream led to a
1985 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology.
A little known historical footnote deals with feet--those of
Abraham Lincoln. The President heard testimonials to the
work of English-born Isachar Zacharie who was reported
as "perhaps the best chiropodist (podiatrist) in America."
Zacharie had treated such national figures as Henry Clay
and John Calhoun, as well as prominent Union generals,
before surgically taking in hand what was wryly said to be
the nation's largest feet. Earning the President's trust and
personal friendship for his demeanor, eloquence and courage, Zacharie was
also sent on a secret mission bearing a peace plan to Confederate officials
which was too premature to succeed.
- Saul Stadtmauer
Visit many more notable Jews at our website: www.dorledor.org
COMMISSION FOR THE DISSEMINATION OF JEWISH HISTORY
Walter & Lea Field, Founders/Sponsors
Irwin S. Field, Chairperson
Harriet F. Siden, Chairperson
any Jewish leaders are
applauding the U.S.
Supreme Court's split
ruling this week on
affirmative action programs in col-
lege admissions, which declared the
concept legal while striking down
systems that rigidly benefit minority
Supreme Court watchers say the
split decision mirrors the consensus.
within the Jewish community — a
belief that diversity in higher educa-
tion is important, with concerns
about preferences for minority appli-
"A carefully constructed affirma-
tive action program is good for the
Jews," said Ethan Felson, assistant
executive director of the Jewish
Council for Public Affairs. "A diverse
higher education environment is
healthy for Jews and healthy for
The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4
decision, that the University of
Michigan Law School's program,
which gives a small advantage to
minority applicants, is legal. In a
companion case, the court ruled, 6-
3, that U-M's undergraduate admis-
sions program, which gives "points"
to minority applicants, is too similar
to a quota and "is not narrowly tai-
lored to achieve the interest in edu-
cational diversity," Chief Justice
William Rehnquist wrote.
The affirmative action issue has
split the Jewish community for more
than 25 years. Historically, Jewish
groups have been wary of affirmative
action quotas because of the numeric
limits placed on Jewish enrollment
in European and American universi-
ties in the 1920s. That led many
groups to vocally oppose affirmative
action in the 1978 case, Regents of
the University of California v.
Bakke, which outlawed racial quotas.
This time around, Jewish groups
were less vocal in expressing their
views on the subject. No major
Jewish group filed a brief opposing
the University of Michigan pro-
grams. Instead, the American Jewish
Committee and several other Jewish
groups — including the Union of
American Hebrew Congregations,
Hadassah and the National Council
of Jewish Women — filed briefs sup-
porting the university's practices.
"Diversity not only provides all stu-
dents with a richer educational expe-
rience, but also prepares them for
participation in our pluralistic
democracy," said a brief the
American Jewish Committee filed in
support of U-M. "Exposure in uni-
versities to those of diverse back-
grounds and experiences will better
equip those graduates who go on to
become the leaders of our future."
Jeffrey Sinensky, the
AJCommittee's general counsel, said
the ruling divides the affirmative
action issue in an appropriate way.
He called the decision a victory,
especially given the conservative
makeup of the current court. "What
the court did is solomonically try to
split the baby," he said.
The Anti-Defamation League's
brief supported neither side, arguing
that diversity should be a goal in
higher education admissions, but
questioned U-M's practices.
Abraham Foxman, the ADL's nation-
al director, said the court was able to
"strike a delicate balance" between
the two interests in the case.
"We're satisfied that there are
enough caveats in this decision that
will make it a lot more difficult for
people to say 'race is enough' " to
determine admissions, Foxman said.
His main concern was over how
schools and other institutions would
interpret the law, possibly viewing it
as a far-reaching approval of the
concept of affirmative action.
Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of
the Foundation for Ethnic
Understanding, said the Jewish com-
munity needs to be more cognizant
of the importance the African
American and Latino communities
place on this issue, and not undercut
them at a time when the Jewish
community is seeking their support
on Middle East issues.