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Salvador E. Luria

Salvador E. Luria

Salvador E. Luria, Institute professor and professor emeritus of biology who shared the 1969 Nobel Prize for medicine or physiology, died at his home in Lexington, MA, on Wednesday after suffering from a heart attack. He was 78 years old.

He won the Nobel Prize for his work on the replication and genetic structure of viruses, done in loose collaboration with Max Delbr"uck of the California Institute of Technology and Alfred D. Hershey of the Carnegie Institute.

Luria was also the first to discover virus host restriction in bacteria, a finding that led to the discovery of restriction enzymes, which forms the basis of modern recombinant DNA technology.

A faculty member in the Department of Biology since 1959, Luria organized a teaching and research program in microbiology and founded the MIT Center for Cancer Research, which he directed from 1972 to 1985.


A vocal member of the peace movement, Luria was critical of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the American intervention in Vietnam. Apparently because of his candor, his name appeared on a federal blacklist of 48 scientists the same year he became a Nobel laureate.

Luria's interest in the humanities rivaled his scientific accomplishments. He taught a course in world literature to Health Sciences and Technology students and won the National Book Award in the sciences for his nonacademic book, Life: The Unfinished Experiment.

Born in Turin, Italy on Aug. 13, 1912, Luria received his medical degree, summa cum laude, from the University of Turin in 1935. He went on to become a specialist in radiology at the University of Rome.

Luria went to Paris in 1938 to become a research fellow at the Institut du Radium. He immigrated to the United States in 1940.

Luria is survived by his wife Zella, who is a professor of psychology at Tufts University, and his son Daniel.

A memorial service will be held at the Institute at a date to be announced.