Michael A. Epstein

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Sir Michael Anthony Epstein
Born (1921-05-18) 18 May 1921 (age 97)
Nationality United Kingdom
Occupation Virology
Known for Epstein–Barr virus
Awards Royal Medal (1992)

Sir Michael Anthony Epstein, CBE, FRS, FMedSci (born 18 May 1921) is a British pathologist and academic. He is one of the discoverers of the Epstein–Barr virus, along with Yvonne Barr and Bert Achong.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8]

Epstein was educated at St. Paul's School in London, Trinity College, Cambridge and Middlesex Hospital Medical School. Epstein was Professor of Pathology, 1968–85 (now Professor Emeritus), and Head of Department, 1968–82 at the University of Bristol. In 1979 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and was its Vice-President from 1986 to 1991. He was awarded its Royal Medal in 1992. He was awarded the CBE in 1985 and knighted in 1991. Epstein was a Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford from 1986 until 2001, and has been an Honorary Fellow since 2001. He became a founding Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 1998. In 2006, Epstein was awarded a D.Sc. from Bristol. He is a Distinguished Supporter of Humanists UK.[citation needed] He is Jewish.[9]

Epstein was the first person to propose that Burkitt's lymphoma was a cancer caused by a virus. Upon hearing a lecture given by Denis Parsons Burkitt in 1961 about this newly described cancer, Epstein changed his research focus from cancer causing viruses in chickens to searching for a viral origin of Burkitt's lymphoma.[10] After more than two years of working with tumour cells from Burkitt's patients and subsequently working to isolate a virus from them, the Epstein–Barr virus was finally discovered in February 1964.[11]


  1. ^ Bornkamm, G. W.; Delius, H.; Zimber, U.; Hudewentz, J.; Epstein, M. A. (1980). "Comparison of Epstein–Barr virus strains of different origin by analysis of the viral DNAs". Journal of Virology. 35 (3): 603–618. PMC 288854. PMID 6252328.
  2. ^ North, J. R.; Morgan, A. J.; Thompson, J. L.; Epstein, M. A. (1982). "Purified Epstein-Barr virus Mr 340,000 glycoprotein induces potent virus-neutralizing antibodies when incorporated in liposomes". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 79 (23): 7504–7508. doi:10.1073/pnas.79.23.7504. PMC 347368. PMID 6296836.
  3. ^ Gaston, J. S.; Rickinson, A. B.; Yao, Q. Y.; Epstein, M. A. (1986). "The abnormal cytotoxic T cell response to Epstein–Barr virus in rheumatoid arthritis is correlated with disease activity and occurs in other arthropathies". Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. 45 (11): 932–936. doi:10.1136/ard.45.11.932. PMC 1002022. PMID 2878645.
  4. ^ Epstein, M. A.; Morgan, A. J. (1983). "Clinical consequences of Epstein–Barr virus infection and possible control by an anti-viral vaccine". Clinical and Experimental Immunology. 53 (2): 257–271. PMC 1535689. PMID 6309441.
  5. ^ Rickinson, A. B.; Finerty, S.; Epstein, M. A. (1982). "Interaction of Epstein–Barr virus with leukaemic B cells in vitro. I. Abortive infection and rare cell line establishment from chronic lymphocytic leukaemic cells". Clinical and Experimental Immunology. 50 (2): 347–354. PMC 1536694. PMID 6295671.
  6. ^ Rickinson, A. B.; Crawford, D.; Epstein, M. A. (1977). "Inhibition of the in vitro outgrowth of Epstein–Barr virus-transformed lymphocytes by thymus-dependent lymphocytes from infectious mononucleosis patients". Clinical and Experimental Immunology. 28 (1): 72–79. PMC 1540876. PMID 193663.
  7. ^ Yao, Q. Y.; Rickinson, A. B.; Gaston, J. S.; Epstein, M. A. (1986). "Disturbance of the Epstein-Barr virus-host balance in rheumatoid arthritis patients: A quantitative study". Clinical and Experimental Immunology. 64 (2): 302–310. PMC 1542331. PMID 3017620.
  8. ^ Epstein, M. A.; Randle, B. J.; Finerty, S.; Kirkwood, J. K. (1986). "Not all potently neutralizing, vaccine-induced antibodies to Epstein-Barr virus ensure protection of susceptible experimental animals". Clinical and Experimental Immunology. 63 (3): 485–490. PMC 1577551. PMID 3011324.
  9. ^ The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History edited by W. Rubinstein, Michael A. Jolles, 2001 p.258
  10. ^ McGrath, Paula (6 April 2014). "Cancer virus discovery helped by delayed flight". BBC News, Health. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  11. ^ Epstein, A. (2012). "Burkitt Lymphoma and the discovery of Epstein–Barr virus". British Journal of Haematology (156): 777–779. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2141.2011.09008.x.

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