Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Baruch Blumberg, RIP

The world lost a great person with the death yesterday of Dr. Barry Blumberg, scientist & inquiring mind.

We met in 1991, as I entered Balliol College at Oxford. We freshers were first addressed by the Dean & Archivist, and offered majestic but harsh advice on disciplinary matters (aimed at the undergrads? -- the "-plinary" of disciplinary rhymed with "winery"). Next the Master of the College came to the podium and surprised me with an American accent, and a warm & friendly greeting. I soon learned that our Master was Nobel prizewinner Baruch Samuel Blumberg, born in Brooklyn (USA), educated at Balliol, a pioneer researcher on Hepatitis B whose vaccine saved millions of lives.

I got to know the Master via many small seminars he held during my years of residence at Oxford. The day-long themes were often outside my expertise, so I'd bring reference texts to study during deliberations (topics ranged from economics & public policy to philosophy, creativity, science & international relations). The Master often sat by me, dipping into my books and articles. I was most impressed with his boldly open mind. He had no pretense or arrogant airs. He was a model of accomplishment. He'll be sorely missed by many.