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Clarence Joseph Gibbs Jr 1924Ц2001.

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OBITUARY
Clarence Joseph Gibbs, Jr, 1924 –2001
Clarence Joseph Gibbs, Jr, an honorary member of the
American Neurological Association since 1994, died on
February 16, 2001 in Washington, DC, of cardiac disease. He was 76 years of age. Joe was a dedicated and
generous neuroscientist and a steadfast friend. His life
was testament to devotion to his science, his country,
his family, and his church.
Joe was born in Washington, DC, a city of transients. He lived in the family home for decades, where
he cared for his ailing parents; nurtured his siblings,
nieces, and nephews; and knew his neighbors. His funeral mass was in the same parish church where he had
served as an altar boy. When Joe graduated from Saint
John’s Preparatory School in 1943, he enlisted in the
United States Navy as a pharmacist’s mate, spending
the only 3 years of his life away from Washington. After the war, Joe remained in the Active Navy Reserve
for 30 years, receiving a commission in 1950, and rising to the rank of captain in 1970. He received a long
list of military honors and commendations, including
the Meritorious Service Medal from our nation’s President, and the highest award given by the Association
of Medical Service Corps Officers of the Navy Reserve
(AMSCOR) award, thereafter known as the “C. Joseph
Gibbs AMSCOR Award.”
Returning from the war to Washington, Joe attended Catholic University, and received his AB degree
in 1950. He then began work as a research virologist at
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and it was
there in the late 1950s that we became friends and colleagues. While working full-time, he pursued part-time
course work at Catholic University, receiving his Masters in 1952 and his PhD in 1962. His thesis was on
the development of a vaccine for Riff Valley fever,
based on his work in the Walter Reed Hazards Laboratory. Subsequently, Catholic University awarded Joe
a Doctorate of Science Honora Causa in 1979 (one of
a number of honorary degrees), and in 1991 he was
honored by being elected to their Board of Trustees.
Because Catholic University is a Papal University, the
trustees meet in Rome, an event that Joe treasured.
556
© 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
In 1959, Joe moved to the National Institutes of
Health in the Arthropod-Borne Virus Section, where he
continued studies of mosquito-borne infections. From
1960 to 1962, he served as acting chief of that laboratory.
In 1962, under the guidance and vision of Joseph
Smadel, the Scientific Director of the National Institutes of Health, a new laboratory was established
within the National Institute of Neurological Disorders
and Stroke to test the possible transmission of chronic
human degenerative diseases to nonhuman primates.
Carleton Gajdusek became the laboratory director, and
Joe developed the animal facilities and oversaw the animal work. Carleton’s laboratories were the verdant
mountains of New Guinea; Joe’s initial laboratory was
a makeshift cinderblock primate facility in the Patuxent Wildlife Preserve. What followed was one of the
great dramas of science in the twentieth century. In
1966, Joe and Carleton transmitted kuru to chimpanzees (Gajdusek, Gibbs, and Alpers, Nature 209:794,
1966), and in 1968 they transmitted Creutzfeldt-Jakob
disease (Gibbs et al, Science 161:388, 1968). They
were a well-matched team—Carleton provided the
charismatic visibility, Joe the solid credibility.
In 1976, Gajdusek received the Nobel Prize for the
first transmission of “slow infections.” Many of us believed that Joe should have shared the prize. I spoke
with Joe the day of the announcement, and with typical
candor and generosity he said, “Sure, I’m disappointed
not to be included, but I told Carleton that it did not
detract from my happiness for him.” Then, the alwaysdapper Joe took Carleton to his own personal tailor to
get Carleton his “first suit” for the trip to Stockholm.
During his 58 years in government service and science, Joe published more than 700 articles and chapters;
over 40 articles appeared in the top impact journals—
Science, Nature, New England Journal of Medicine, and
Lancet. In addition to the classic studies on spongiform
encephalopathies, he contributed work on arboviruses,
hantaviruses, HIV, HTLV-1, arenaviruses, measles,
foamy viruses, adenoviruses, polioviruses, and cytomegaloviruses, as well as important negative studies on Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, and schizophrenia. Joe was a
Renaissance man of classical virology.
Joe loved students, and welcomed all levels of interested young people to his lab, from high school students and foreign visitors to postdoctoral fellows. Joe
treated everyone with equal kindness. Patients with
questions found to their surprise a calm listener and
advisor. He often answered his own phone and chatted
with secretaries and students. He was always available
when I felt the need for wisdom or humor. His fidelity
to good science, strong friendships, and altruistic institutions should provide a model for us all.
Richard T. Johnson, MD
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