Brigitte Askonas

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Brigitte Askonas
Brigitte Alice Askonas (1923-2013).tif
Born (1923-04-01)1 April 1923
Vienna, Austria
Died 9 January 2013(2013-01-09) (aged 89)
Institutions John Radcliffe Hospital
University of Cambridge
Harvard Medical School[1]
Imperial College London
McGill University
National Institute for Medical Research
Alma mater McGill University (BSc, MSc)
Girton College, Cambridge (PhD)
Thesis The separation of enzymes by means of organic solvents at low temperatures: application to aqueous rabbit-muscle extract with a study of creatine-phosphokinase (1952)
Notable awards Fellow of the Royal Society (1973)
Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences
Robert Koch Prize (Gold, 2007)

Brigitte Alice "Ita" Askonas, FMedSci FRS (1 April 1923 – 9 January 2013) was a British immunologist. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1973,[2] and was a visiting professor at Imperial College London from 1995.[1][3][4]


Vienna-born Askonas studied biochemistry at McGill University (BSc, MSc) and carried out her postgraduate work in the School of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge (PhD).[4][5][6] Her role models in the department included two distinguished scientists, Margaret Stephenson and Dorothy Needham, who were two of the first women to be elected to the Royal Society. She said they taught her that "good science gets recognition regardless of the sex of the scientist". Her PhD supervisor was Malcolm Dixon.[6]


Her first position was at the Allan Memorial Institute of Psychiatry (associated with McGill University).[6] In 1952, she joined the staff of the National Institute for Medical Research where she became the head of the division of Immunology in 1976 (to 1988).[7][8]

During that time, she worked extensively with fellow immunologist John H. Humphrey to establish the immunology divisions. Askonas focused on B cells and determined their role in producing antibodies as part of the immune response. In 2007 she was made a foreign associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences.[9]

She wrote several biographies of high-profile scientists, including Niels Kaj Jerne,[10] César Milstein[11] and John Herbert Humphrey.[12]


At the NIMR she began researching the biosynthesis of polypeptides in milk proteins discovering that the peptides were synthesised from amino acids rapidly in one piece.[6] From 1955-59 she studied the sites of antibody formation using radioactivity to develop our understanding of antibody molecules and the cells of the immune system. From 1959-61 she studied plasma cell tumors as models for antibody formation. She went on to investigate macrophages and their role in antigen presentation (1962–1968). From 1963-66 she studied the fate of antigen in relation to antibody formation and later continued her study of B cells (1965–1970).[6]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b "‘ASKONAS, Brigitte Alice’, Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press". (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Lists of Royal Society Fellows 1660–2007". London, UK: The Royal Society. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "Imperial College London - 2000 Fellows of Imperial College". Retrieved 16 March 2016. 
  4. ^ a b O'Garra, Anne (6 February 2013). "Brigitte Askonas (1923–2013)". Nature. 494 (7435): 37–37. PMID 23389536. doi:10.1038/494037a. 
  5. ^ Askonas, Brigitte (1952). The separation of enzymes by means of organic solvents at low temperatures: application to aqueous rabbit-muscle extract with a study of creatine-phosphokinase (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Askonasi, Brigitte A. (1 April 1990). "From Protein Synthesis to Antibody formation and Cellular Immunity: A Personal View". Annual Review of Immunology. 8 (1): 1–22. PMID 2188659. doi:10.1146/annurev.iy.08.040190.000245. 
  7. ^ Askonas, B.A.; Rhodes, J.M. (1965). "Immunogenicity of Antigen-Containing Ribonucleic Acid Preparations from Macrophages". Nature. 205 (4970): 470. doi:10.1038/205470a0. 
  8. ^ McMichael, A.J.; Ting, A.; Zweerink, H.J.; Askonas, B.A. (1977). "HLA restriction of cell-mediated lysis of influenza virus-infected human cells". Nature. 270 (5637): 524–26. PMID 593371. doi:10.1038/270524a0. 
  9. ^ " | Newsroom". Retrieved 16 March 2016. 
  10. ^ Askonas, B. A.; Howard, J. G. (1997). "Niels Kaj Jerne. 23 December 1911--7 October 1994.: Elected F.R.S 1980". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 43: 237. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1997.0013. 
  11. ^ Neuberger, M. S.; Askonas, B. A. (2005). "Cesar Milstein CH. 8 October 1927 - 24 March 2002: Elected F.R.S. 1974". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 51: 267. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2005.0017. 
  12. ^ Askonas, B.A. (1990). "John Herbert Humphrey. 16 December 1915-25 December 1987". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 36: 274–300. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1990.0033.