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Albert H. Coons was the forty-fourth president of the American Association of Immunologists, serving from 1960 to 1961. He was a member of the faculty in the Department of Bacteriology and Immunology at Harvard Medical School for over 30 years, from 1947 to 1978. In the early 1940s, as a research fellow at Harvard, Coons developed a technique for labeling antibodies with fluorescent dyes, which continues to be an invaluable tool for biomedical researchers.
Coons studied medicine at Harvard Medical School, where an immunology course taught by Hans Zinsser (AAI ’17, president 1919–20) sparked his interest in the field and led him to work in the laboratory of John F. Enders (AAI ’36, president 1952–53) during the summer of 1935. After receiving his M.D. from Harvard in 1937, Coons was a house officer at Massachusetts General Hospital (1937–1939) and an assistant resident in medicine at Thorndike Memorial Laboratory at Boston City Hospital (1939–1940). He joined the Department of Bacteriology and Immunology at Harvard as a research fellow in 1940, but his fellowship was interrupted by the Second World War, during which he served in the Pacific as a pathologist in the U.S. Army Medical Corps (1942–1946). In 1946, Coons returned to the Department of Bacteriology and Immunology at Harvard to complete his fellowship and remained there for the rest of his career. He became an instructor in 1947 and was promoted to visiting professor in 1953, when he was selected as a career investigator of the American Heart Association. In 1970, Coons was appointed professor of bacteriology and immunology, and, the following year, he became a professor in the Department of Pathology as well. Coons died of a heart attack on September 30, 1978, at the age of 66.
1959, “for his contributions in immunology and specifically for his development of the fluorescent method of labeling proteins, a significant tool for the study of infection in human beings.”
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Vice President: 1959–1960
The Journal of Immunology
Associate Editor: 1957–1960
Editorial Board: 1961–1965
Nominating Committee: 1967–1968, 1970–1971 (chair)
AAI Representative to American Association for the Advancement of Science: 1968–1970
"The Beginnings of Immunofluorescence," Delivered April 1961
The Journal of Immunology 87, no. 5 (1961): 499–503.