Image of a cell

George Emil Palade

  • National Medal of Science
  • Biological Sciences

For pioneering discoveries of a host of fundamental, highly organized structures in living cells through studies combining electron microscopy and biochemistry. These contributions stimulated the growth of the field of cell biology, which he continues to inspire through his own research and leadership active collaboration, and the training of new investigators.

Dr. George Emil Palade helped found the field of cell biology. Dr. Palade’s discovered the inner workings of living cells, sorting out their structure and function.

“Cell biology,” he said accepting a Nobel Prize for mapping the complexities cell structures, “finally makes possible a century-old dream: that of analysis of diseases at the cellular level, the first step toward their final control.”

Dr. Palade noted understanding the body at the cellular level was key to understanding diseases, since many are caused by cellular dysfunction.

Although analyzing cells under a light microscope to spot a cell nucleus was nothing new, Dr. Palade helped refine the electron microscope powerful enough to see smaller cell structure. The greater insight into cells launched the field of cell biology. Dr. Palade discovered the ribosome, where a cell creates proteins, and explained how proteins leave the cell, like a pancreatic cell secreting insulin.

He also established fractionation, a technique to study individual aspects of a cell by breaking apart the cell’s components and separating them using a centrifuge.

By Christine Ayala