Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.
Gerald M. Edelman
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1972
Born: 1 July 1929, New York, NY, USA
Died: 17 May 2014, La Jolla, CA, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Rockefeller University, New York, NY, USA
Prize motivation: "for their discoveries concerning the chemical structure of antibodies."
Prize share: 1/2
Our immune system protects us from attacks by microorganism and poisons, in part through formation of antibodies in the blood that neutralize foreign substances. Gerald Edelmann and Rodney Porter separately researched the chemical composition of antibodies. Using various chemical methods, they split up antibodies into smaller parts and mapped their biological effects. In 1959, this allowed them to determine the structure of antibodies. Antibodies are made up of two smaller and two larger polypeptide chains that form a Y-shaped structure.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.