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Michael Heidelberger was the thirtieth and thirty-second president of the American Association of Immunologists, serving from 1946 to 1947 and from 1948 to 1949. He was the only AAI president to serve two non-consecutive terms. The founder of immunochemistry, Heidelberger spent most of his career at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S), where he was a professor of biochemistry for almost 20 years before being named the school’s first professor of immunochemistry in 1948.
Heidelberger received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Columbia University in 1911. After completing a one-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Federal Polytechnic Institute in Zurich, Heidelberger joined the staff of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research as a fellow in 1912. It was here that Oswald T. Avery (AAI ’20, president 1929–1930) encouraged Heidelberger to study the structure of pneumococci, laying the groundwork for much of Heidelberger’s subsequent research. In 1927, Heidelberger left the Rockefeller Institute, where he had risen to the rank of associate member, and headed the chemical laboratory at Mount Sinai Hospital for one year. He joined the faculty at P&S as an associate professor of medicine in 1928. His title was changed to associate professor of biochemistry the following year, and he became a full professor in 1945. Heidelberger was professor of immunochemistry from 1948 until his retirement from P&S in 1956, when he was named professor emeritus. Although he was 67 years old, Heidelberger was not ready to retire, so he accepted Selman Waksman’s invitation to join the Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers University as a visiting professor of immunochemistry in 1955 to continue his research. In 1964, Heidelberger left Rutgers and became an adjunct professor of pathology and immunology at the New York University School of Medicine. He held this position until his death, at the age of 103, in 1991.
1953, “for decisive contributions in developing a new subscience—the precise measuring tool of immunochemistry.”
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1978, “for his elegant studies in immunochemistry, which laid the groundwork for the development of capsular purified polysaccharide vaccines for the prevention of pneumonia and meningitis.”
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President: 1946–1947, 1948–1949
Vice President: 1947–1948, 1949–1950
Councillor: 1942–1946, 1950–1951
The Journal of Immunology
Board of Editors: 1936–1942
Associate Editor: 1943–1952
Committee Appointed to Prepare a Resolution Protesting the Policy of Certain Governmental Agencies to Withhold or Withdraw Grants at Short Notice and Without Opportunity of Hearing from Competent Investigators Working on Open and Unclassified Research Projects Because of Past or Present Political Beliefs: 1954–1955
"Science, Freedom and Peace," Delivered May 19, 1947
Federation Proceedings 6, no. 2 (1947): 484–85.
"Ivory Pawn in the Ivory Tower," Delivered April 19, 1949
Federation Proceedings 8, no. 2 (1949): 579–80.