Kurt Benirschke

Kurt Benirschke

Kurt Benirschke (born May 26, 1924) is a German-born American pathologist, geneticist and expert on the placenta and reproduction in humans and myriad mammalian species.

Benirschke was raised in a small town in Northern Germany and received his M.D. degree from the University of Hamburg. He immigrated to the United States in 1949.

After an internship in New Jersey, he trained in pathology at university hospitals affiliated with Harvard Medical School in Boston. In 1955, he became pathologist of the Boston Lying-in Hospital, now part of the Brigham and Women's Hospital, and there developed his interest in the placenta and reproductive problems.

From 1960 to 1970 he was the chairman of the department of pathology at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, NH and pursued his interests in placental pathology and comparative reproductive pathology. He there developed a passion for comparative cytogenetics, the quest for understanding the reason for the sterility of mules was explored and twinning in armadillos and marmosets was pursued.

In 1970, Benirschke moved west to participate in the development of a new medical school of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). He established a genetics laboratory and ran the autopsy service at UCSD. He also chaired the department of pathology for two years.

In 1976, Benirschke persuaded the Board of Trustees of the San Diego Zoo to establish a formal research department. He set up a laboratory at the Zoo to study the chromosomes of mammals, particularly aspects relating to reproduction and evolution. In collaboration with T.C. Hsu he published an "Atlas of Mammalian Chromosomes" presenting the karyotypes of 400 different species of mammals. Benirschke led this research group at the Zoo until 1987 when he became a member of the Zoo's Board.

He retired from the faculty at UCSD in 1994 but continued to be as active. From 1997-2000 he was president of the Zoo's Board of Trustees and looked after the "Proyecto Tagua" in Paraguay, a breeding facility of the newly discovered species of peccary. His text (with Peter Kaufmann) on "Human Placental Pathology" is the standard text on the subject.

Benirschke is a member of many societies, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and authored 30 books and 510 scientific publications. He met his wife, a nurse, during his internship and has three children, one of whom, Rolf Benirschke, was a celebrated kicker in the National Football League.

External links

* [http://medicine.ucsd.edu/cpa/authorfs.html About Kurt Benirschke] from the site devoted to "Comparative Placentation", a volume on animal placentas
* [http://www.biologia.uniba.it/eca/NEWSLETTER/NS-14/06-Benirschke.html Short Profile of Kurt Benirschke] by Paul Popescu for the European Cytogeneticists Association
* [http://www.sandiego-online.com/issues/june96/dandydad.htm Fathers Know Best] , selection of Kurt Benirschke as Father of the Year by San Diego Online

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