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Henry george kunkel 19161983.

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Henry George Kunkel, 1916-1983
Dr. Henry George Kunkel died on December
14, 1983. He was the Abby Rockefeller MauzC Professor at the Rockefeller University in New York, where
he had been for 40 years. He is survived by his wife
and three children.
Dr. Kunkel was a founder of clinical immunology in this country. He was a pioneer in the use of
knowledge gained at the bedside to advance our understanding of clinical and basic immunology. One of his
early contributions to biomedical science was the
recognition of the disease now known as chronic
active hepatitis. His work on myeloma proteins dcfined the H and L chain structure as well as the
subclasses of immunoglobulins; this work represented
a fundamental contribution to the elucidation of the
three-dimensional structure and amino acid sequence
of human IgG. Further work led to the recognition of
individual antigenic specificity, which helped significantly in developing the concept of immunoglobulin
Dr. Kunkel and his colleagues established that
rheumatoid factor was a 19s immunoglobulin with
antibody activity against IgG. He showed that the LE
cell factor was an antibody to nucleoprotein. His work
demonstrated the presence of immune complexes irl
the sera of rheumatoid arthritis patients and showed
that these immune complexes were composed of aggregates of IgM rheumatoid factor and autologous
IgG. He pioneered in techniques for the detection and
characterization of circulating immune complexes.
Further work led to the observation of the association
of C2 deficiency with systemic lupus erythematosus
and the presence of abnormal estrogen metabolism in
male systemic lupus erythematosus patients. The most
recent work from his enormously productive laboratory described HLA-associated B lymphocyte markers, subsequently shown to be Ia-like antigens. This
opened up the field of the relationship of the HLA-D
locus and human disease.
Dr. Kunkel’s amazing contributions to clinical
and basic immunology have been recognized by numerous prestigious awards and offices. He was President of the American Society for Clinical Investigation
in 1963 and President of the American Association of
Immunologists in 1975. He was a Member of the
National Academy of Sciences. In 1975 he received
the Lasker Award, in 1977 the Louisa Gross Horwitz
Prize, in 1979 the Kovalenko Medal of the National
Academy of Sciences, and in 1980 the Waterford
Biomedical Science Award and the Lita Annenberg
Hazen Award.
Dr. Kunkel’s life was characterized by total
dedication to science. His was a tireless striving
toward perfection. He was much sought after for his
opinions, because his thoughts in biomedical research
always ran like a clear stream of reason in the wasteland of untested dogma. He was always creative and
encouraged creativity in others. Dr. Kunkel trained a
host of students, many of whom have learned to carry
on his style of work. The influence of his thought and
action will continue to be acutely felt in medicine and
immunology for many years to come.
Let us each take time to reflect on the marvelous contributions this man has made to modern medicine and to feel sad that his life was cut short when he
still had so much to give. Those who knew him have
lost a wise counselor and trusted friend. But all who
knew him, in person or through his writings, have
inherited a precious legacy enriched by a life dedicated
to understanding the nature of disease.
Eng M. Tan, MD
La Jolla, CA
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