Barney Rosenberg

Location: Second Floor, , Wall, Sequence


Barney Rosenberg was born in New York City in 1926 and in 1944 he left college to join the Army and was stationed in the Philippine Islands for the next 19 months working as a pharmacist. After WW II he attended Brooklyn College and graduated in 1948 with a B.S. in Physics. He spent the next year in Zurich, Switzerland, at the Federal Institute of Technology. He earned his Ph.D. in Physics from New York University in 1955 and was a postdoctoral fellow at NYU, in the Institute of Mathematical Sciences from 1955-56. Between 1956-58 he worked at Westinghouse Electric Corp. as a Senior Research Physicist. He joined MSU in 1961 and co-founded the Biophysics Department with Leroy Augenstein. He was a Professor in the Biophysics Department (1961-1979) and in the Chemistry Department (1980-1997). In 1982, he founded Barros Research Institute in Holt, MI where he directed a diverse range of non-Pt related research projects until 2009.

Saving countless lives – In 1963, while studying the effects electric fields on cell division, Rosenberg noted that Escherichia coli cells did not divide (as expected) but instead grew into long filaments. Recognizing that an agent that could prevent the cells from dividing might be useful in treating cancerous tumors, he began to look for the cause and soon concluded that it wasn’t due the electric field he was using, but because of a platinum compound that had formed in solution when the Pt electrodes he was using oxidized in the solution’s ammonia/ammonium chloride buffer. This conclusion led to the development and, in 1978, FDA approval of cisplatin (cis-[Pt(NH3]2Cl4), which would go on to become the most widely prescribed as well as a first and effective treatment for many cancer diagnoses.

Professor Rosenberg had a long and distinguished career and was the recipient of many awards, including: Cain Memorial Award, American Association of Cancer Research (1983), Charles F. Kettering Prize given by the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation (1984), Galileo Galilei (Gold) Medal from the University of Padua, Italy (1987) and the Harvey Prize, University of Israel (1985).