Biography of Harry Eagle
Harry Eagle grew up in Baltimore and graduated M.D. from Johns Hopkins University Medical School in 1927. He remained at Johns Hopkins for the next twenty years as director of its Venereal Disease Research Laboratory and Laboratory of Experimental Therapeutics. During World War II he entered the U.S. Public Health Service, and in 1947 he joined the National Institutes of Health (NIH), holding positions as scientific director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), then as Chief of the Experimental Therapeutics section of the National Microbiological Institute, and later as chief of the Cell Biology Laboratory of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases (NIAID).
In 1961 he joined the Albert Einstein College of Medicine as the founding Chairman of the Department of Cell Biology. He was later founding Director of its Cancer Research Center in which he remained active until last year.
Eagle's early career was devoted to immunological approaches to the diagnosis of syphilis, and in the late 1930's he studied the mechanism of blood coagulation and proposed the enzymatic basis for the clotting mechanism.
Harry Eagle is now particularly remembered for work he began in 1955 to establish the compounds necessary to support the growth of cells in tissue culture. The culture media required for the propagation of animal cells are much more complex than the minimal media sufficient to support the growth of bacteria and yeasts. One result of his research became known as Eagle's medium, which opened the way to the last three decades of extraordinary research on the biochemistry, molecular biology, and genetics of normal and malignant mammalian cells.
He was president of the American Society of Microbiology in 1958. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan awarded him the National Medal of Science, the country's highest scientific honour.