Alick Isaacs

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Alick Isaacs
Born(1921-07-17)17 July 1921
Glasgow, Scotland
Died26 January 1967(1967-01-26) (aged 45)
Alma materUniversity of Glasgow
AwardsFellow of the Royal Society[1]
Scientific career
InstitutionsNational Institute for Medical Research

Alick Isaacs FRS[1] (17 July 1921 – 26 January 1967) was a Scottish virologist.

Background and early life[edit]

Isaacs' Jewish paternal grandparents came from Lithuania to escape oppression, and took the surname Isaacs. Alick's father Louis was born in 1890. His parents moved to Wigan and then to the Gorbals area of Glasgow[2] where Isaacs was born.[3]

Professional life[edit]

Isaacs earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Glasgow in 1954.[4]

In 1957 he co-discovered interferon with Swiss virologist Jean Lindenmann.[5] He served as the head of the Laboratory for Research on Interferon at the National Institute for Medical Research in 1964–1967.[6] Joyce Taylor-Papadimitriou worked as an early career researcher in his laboratory.[7]

Awards, death and legacy[edit]

Isaacs was awarded honours and the Bellahouston Gold Medal for his research on the influenza virus.[1] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1966.[1] He died in 1967, aged 45, of a brain haemorrhage.[8] He was survived by his wife, Susanna Isaacs Elmhirst, a paediatric registrar, who later became a child psychiatrist.[8] A collection of his laboratory notes is held at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d Andrewes, C. H. (1967). "Alick Isaacs 1921-1967". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 13: 204–226. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1967.0010.
  2. ^ Andrewes, Christopher Howard (1 November 1967). "Alick Isaacs, 1921-1967". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. pp. 204–221. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1967.0010.
  3. ^ Bruce, Duncan A. (1998). The Mark of the Scots: Their Astonishing Contributions to History, Science, Democracy, Literature, and the Arts. Citadel Press. ISBN 9780806520605. In 1957 Alick Isaacs, born in Glasgow to Jewish parents, discovered and named interferon, an entirely new defense mechanism against viruses.
  4. ^ Moticka, Edward J. (2015). A Historical Perspective on Evidence-Based Immunology. Newnes. p. 223. ISBN 9780123983756.
  5. ^ Kolata, Gina (22 January 2015). "Jean Lindenmann, Who Made Interferon His Life's Work, Is Dead at 90". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  6. ^ D Burke (14 February 2009). "The Discovery of Interferon, the First Cytokine, by Alick Isaacs and Jean Lindenmann in 1957".
  7. ^ Alick Isaacs, Hutchinson Encyclopedia
  8. ^ a b Brent, Leslie Baruch (29 April 2010). "Susanna Isaacs Elmhirst obituary". The Guardian.
  9. ^ "Alick Isaacs Laboratory Notebooks 1938–1965". National Library of Medicine.