D Carleton Gajdusek


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Gajdusek, D. (Daniel) Carleton

(1923–  ) virologist; born in Yonkers, N.Y. After serving pediatric residencies and performing research on infectious diseases in the U.S.A. and abroad, he joined the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (1958). In 1957 he began a series of expeditions to the Fore tribe of eastern New Guinea. While investigating kuru, the endemic fatal degeneration of the central nervous system, he found that the disease was due to a slow-acting protein virus transmitted by ritual funeral cannibalism. His work with kuru and other slow-acting viral neuropathologies won him one-half the 1976 Nobel Prize in physiology. Gadjusek, who is also a comparative child behaviorist, anthropologist, and collector of primitive art, adopted and facilitated the education of 29 Pacific island children. He alternated NIH work in the U.S.A. with field trips to New Guinea, Micronesia, and Melanesia.