World Hepatitis Day takes place annually on 28 July to commemorate the birth of American physician and geneticist, Baruch Samuel Blumberg who identified the HepatitisB and was born July 28, 1925 in Brooklyn, New York. He first attended the Orthodox Yeshivah of Flatbush for elementary school, where he learned to read and write in Hebrew, and to study the Bible and Jewish texts in their original language. (That school also had among its students a contemporary of Blumberg, Eric Kandel, who is another recipient of the Nobel Prize in medicine.) Blumberg then attended Brooklyn’s James Madison High School, a school that Blumberg described as having high academic standards, including many teachers with Ph.D.s. After moving to Far Rockaway, Queens, he transferred to Far Rockaway High School in the early 1940s, a school that also produced fellow laureates Burton Richter and Richard Feynman. Blumberg served as a U.S. Navy deck officer during World War II. He then attended Union College in Schenectady, New York and graduated from there with honors in 1946
Originally entering the graduate program in mathematics at Columbia University, Blumberg switched to medicine and enrolled at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, from which he received his MD in 1951. He remained at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center for the next four years, first as an intern and then as a resident. He then moved to the University of Oxford and began graduate work in biochemistry at Balliol College, Oxford and earned his DPhil there in 1957. He later became the first American to be master at Balliol College, Oxford
Throughout the 1950s, Blumberg traveled the world taking human blood samples, to study the genetic variations in human beings, focusing on the question of why some people contract a disease in a given environment, while others do not. In 1964, while studying “yellow jaundice” (hepatitis), he discovered a surface antigen for hepatitis B in the blood of an Australian aborigine. Blumberg identified the hepatitis B virus while an investigator at the NIH And his work later demonstrated that the virus could cause liver cancer. Blumberg and his team were able to develop a screening test for the hepatitis B virus, to prevent its spread in blood donations, and developed a vaccine. Blumberg later freely distributed his vaccine patent in order to promote its distribution by drug companies. Deployment of the vaccine reduced the infection rate of hepatitis B in children in China
In 1964, Blumberg became a member of the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) of the Lankenau Hospital Research Institute in Philadelphia, known today as the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR), which later joined the Fox Chase Cancer Center in 1974, and he held the rank of University Professor of Medicine and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania starting in 1977. Blumberg was also co-recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (with Daniel Carleton Gajdusek) for “discoveries concerning new mechanisms for the origin and dissemination of infectious diseases.”
In 1992, Blumberg participated in the founding of the Hepatitis B Foundation (HBF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding a cure for hepatitis B and improving the lives of those affected by hepatitis B worldwide. He served on the Scientific and Medical Advisory Board, and as its Distinguished Scholar from 1992 until 2011.[In 2001, Blumberg was named to the Library of Congress Scholars Council, a body of distinguished scholars that advises the Librarian of Congress. He was also President of the American Philosophical Society from 2005 until 2011, in November 2004, Blumberg was named Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of United Therapeutics Corporation, In 2010, Blumberg participated in the USA Science and Engineering Festival’s Lunch with a Laureate program, in which middle and high school students of the Greater Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland area got to engage in an informal conversation with a Nobel Prize–winning scientist
Sadly Blumberg died on April 5, 2011 shortly after giving the keynote speech at the International Lunar Research Park Exploratory Workshop held at NASA Ames Research Center.[ the time of his death Blumberg was a Distinguished Scientist at the NASA Lunar Science Institute, located at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.
In 2011, the Library of Congress and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced the establishment of the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, a research position housed within the Library’s John W. Kluge Center, which explores the effects of astrobiology research on society. The chair was named for Blumberg in recognition of his service to the Library of Congress Scholars Council, and his commitment to “research and dialogue between disciplines. The Department of Biochemistry and the Glycobiology Institute, at Oxford Universityalso established the Baruch Blumberg Professorship in Virology