Photo of Salvador E. Luria

Salvador E. Luria

  • National Medal of Science
  • Biological Sciences

For a lifetime devoted to applying genetics to viruses and bacteria, and for guiding the development of generations of students who have helped create the modern power of molecular biology.

Microbiologist Salvador Luria’s work with small subjects made a huge impact on the world of science.

Luria’s decades of research, along with fellow biologists Max Delbrück and Alfred Hershey, proved that bacterial resistance to viruses is genetically inherited. Microbiologists still use his theories today when dealing with antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Luria was born in Italy. The scientist, who was Jewish, received a fellowship to study in the United States in 1938, but his dreams were put on hold when Benito Mussolini banned Jews from academic research fellowships.

He moved to Paris, France in search of opportunity. When Nazi armies began to invade the country in 1940, Luria fled to Merseilles on bicycle – a nearly 500-mile trip. There, he was given an immigration visa to the United States.

After moving to the U.S., Luria worked as a research associate at several prestigious institutions, including Columbia University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

By Rachel Warren