- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Michael Anthony Epstein

Born  1921

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English pathologist and virologist, born 1921, London.

Biography of Michael Anthony Epstein

Michael Anthony Epstein studied medicine at Cambridge University and the Middlesex Hospital Medical School. In 1961, Epstein, then an assistant pathologist at London‘s Middlesex hospital, heard Burkitt’s presentation of his epidemiological studies at the Hospital and was fascinated. Burkitt had first described "his" lymphoma in 1958. This report, as well as lectures on the topic, were met with little interest. But all that changed when Burkitt in 1961 published a new compilation on malign lymphoma in African children in the journal Cancer.

Epstein asked Burkitt for some tumour samples and immediately started analysing the material he got. But his virus proved to be elusive and impossible to culture. Then, Epstein and his assistant Yvonne Barr, frustrated by several years of fruitless struggle, decided on a completely different approach to the problem: They did what no one else had done before and, for the first time, separated and grew human lymphocytes in continuous culture. In 1964, while examining some of these cells under an electron microscope, Epstein finally saw particles morphologically similar to herpes virus, now known as Epstein-Barr Virus..

In 1968, Epstein moved became professor of pathology at the University of Bristol. In 1982 he was honoured with The Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cancer Research. Epson was then Emeritus Professor of Pathology of the University of Bristol at Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Oxford; Governing Body Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford


  • Ray Spangenburg and Diane K. Moser:
    Disease Fighters Since 1950. 1996. 176 pages.

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