© The Nobel Foundation
Martin Rodbell

American Jewish Recipients of the Nobel Prize

Martin Rodbell: Nobel Prize in
Physiology or Medicine, 1994

by Seymour “Sy” Brody

Martin Rodbell was an American Jewish recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, in 1994, which he shared with Alfred G. Gilman for their discovery of G-proteins and the role of these proteins in signal Transduction in cells.

Martin Rodbell was born on December 1, 1925, in Baltimore, Maryland. He attended and graduated Baltimore City College, a pubic high school for gifted students. In 1943, he entered John Hopkins University which was interrupted by World War II. In 1944, he entered the military as a U.S. Navy radio operator. Rodbell felt that fighting Hitler’s German regime was the highest priority for a Jew.

He was in the Navy as a radio operator, attached to the U.S. Marines in the Pacific Theater of Operations, fighting the Japanese. While in the Philippines, he contracted malaria. When he recovered, he served on several ships in this area.

After Rodbell was discharged from the Navy, he reentered John Hopkins University, in 1946. He received a B.S. Degree in biology, in 1949. He then went to the University of Washington and received his Ph.D. in biochemistry, in 1954.

He met this wife, Barbara Lederman, in 1949. They were married and had four children. She had survived the war in the Dutch underground. The Nazis had taken her sister and parents to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where they were killed and burnt in the ovens.

During 1954-1956, Rodbell did postdoctoral work at the University of Illinois. In 1956, he accepted a position as a research biochemist at the National Heart Institute, of the National Institutes of Health, in Bathesda, Maryland. In 1985, he became the Scientific Director of the NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He remained here until his retirement in 1944.

He received many awards:

• George Hitchings Award in Medicine, 1988
• Hans Dehmelt Prize in Physics, 1989
• E. Donnall Thomas Prize in Medicine, 1990
• Edwin Krebs Award in Medicine, 1992
• Edmond Fischer Prize, 1992

Martin Rodbell died on December 7, 1998, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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