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Cancer Research, Salvador Luria, 1960s

Salvador Luria won the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine with Max Delbrück and Alfred Hershey for the study of bacteriophages. He received many letters of congratulations, including a few from friends who thought he had won the Peace Prize because at that time Luria was as well known for his anti-Vietnam activism as for his biology. Two years later, after Congress passed the National Cancer Act of 1971, Luria immediately applied for funds to build a new cancer research facility at MIT. Here was a way he could combine biology and social justice. When the MIT Center for Cancer Research (now the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT) opened in 1974, Luria had assembled an exceptional team. One of those recruits was Phillip Sharp who recalled: “Salva was a visionary who protected his young faculty from unnecessary interruptions, thus allowing their research programs to flourish in an ideal scientific environment. He was also a role model for how a scientist could shape and lead a community.”

Reproductions of correspondence from the Salvador E. Luria Papers, American Philosophical Society.

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