Axelrod, Julius, 1912-2004

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1912-05-30
Death 2004-12-29

Biographical notes:

Axelrod graduated with a B.S. in biology in 1933 from the City College of New York. Two years later he secured a job testing vitamin supplements added to food, especially milk, for the New York City Department of Health's Laboratory of Industrial Hygiene. While working in this position, he took night classes at NYU, and in 1942 earned his M.S. in chemistry. From 1946-1949, he worked with at Goldwater Memorial Hospital on Welfare (now Roosevelt) Island on the physiological affects of certain analgesics. In 1949, Axelrod accepted a position at a research chemist at the National Heart Institute at the newly created National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. In 1955, at the age of 42, Axelrod was awarded a Ph.D. in pharmacology from George Washington University. Just before completing his Ph.D., Axelrod established a section on pharmacology at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Over the next thirty years, until his retirement in 1984, Axelrod worked at the NIMH on an astonishing array of research projects in pharmacological science. In 1970, Axelrod, along with Sir Bernard Katz and Ulf S. von Euler, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology. Axelrod remained an active researcher, distinguished lecturer, and public scientist throughout the 1970s, garnering numerous honorary degrees and awards and continuing his research. In 1984, at the age of 72, he retired formally from NIH service. In 1996, he was named Scientist Emeritus of the National Institutes of Health.

From the description of Julius Axelrod papers, 1915-1998. (National Library of Medicine). WorldCat record id: 50155686

Julius (Julie) Axelrod (1912-2004) was born May 20, 1912, on the lower east side of Manhattan in New York City, the son of Polish immigrants Isadore and Molly Axelrod. Julius' father supported the family as a basketmaker. Axelrod attended Seward Park High School, where he quickly developed an interest in history, literature, and science, and set his sights on medical school. In 1929, Axelrod enrolled in New York City University (NYU). After one year, he transferred to the tuition-free City College of New York (CCNY), which Axelrod later described as a "proletarian Harvard." Axelrod graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology in 1933. He applied to several medical schools, but was not admitted. Reflecting on these rejections, he told a newspaper reporter in 1970 that "It was hard in those days for Jews to get into medical school. I wasn't that good a student, but if my name was Bigelow I probably would have gotten in."

Axelrod also found it difficult to find work in his field, especially in the middle of the Depression. After a brief stint as a laboratory technician at the Harriman Research Laboratory at NYU Medical School, Axelrod found a position in 1935 testing vitamin supplements added to food, particularly milk, for the New York City Department of Health's Laboratory of Industrial Hygiene. Axelrod remained in this position until 1946. During this period, he lost his left eye in a laboratory accident. In 1938, Axelrod married Sally Taub, an elementary school teacher. Over the next decade, the couple had two sons, Paul and Alfred. While working for the Department of Health, Axelrod took night classes at NYU and earned his Master of Science degree in chemistry in 1941 with a thesis on the chemical breakdown of enzymes in cancerous tumor tissues.

In 1946, Axelrod began conducting research on the chemistry of analgesic (pain-relieving) medications with Bernard "Steve" Brodie at Goldwater Memorial Hospital on Welfare (now Roosevelt) Island. He continued to work with Brodie, whom he considered to be his mentor, for the next eight years. Their research together laid the foundation for Axelrod's lifelong enthusiasm for pharmacological science. In 1949, Axelrod accepted a position as a research chemist at the National Heart Institute (NHI), a part of the rapidly expanding National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. From 1949 to 1955, he pursued many new projects at the NHI that built upon his previous work.

Although Axelrod clearly possessed the requisite skill and scientific expertise to carry out his own research, he knew that without a Ph.D. his opportunities for career advancement were limited. In 1954, Axelrod took a leave of absence from the NIH to attend The George Washington University, where his advisor, George Mandel, permitted him to submit some of his recent NIH laboratory work as the basis for his doctoral dissertation. Now in his early 40's, Axelrod graduated from GWU in 1955 with a Ph.D. in pharmacology after completing his thesis, "The Fate of Phenylisopropylamines."

In 1954, Axelrod was invited to establish a Section on Pharmacology in Edward Evarts's Laboratory of Clinic Science at the NIH's National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). In 1957, he began his most famous research project, which focused on the activity of neurotransmitter hormones. Axelrod's work enabled researchers during the 1970s to develop a new class of antidepressant medications, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Some commonly known SSRIs include Prozac, Zoloft, and Celexa. Over the next thirty years until his retirement in 1984, he continued to work on a wide array of research projects in pharmacological science.

In 1970, Axelrod, along with Sir Bernard Katz of University College London and Ulf von Euler of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology for "discoveries concerning the humoral transmitters in the nerve terminals and the mechanism for their storage, release and inactivation." Axelrod remained an active researcher, distinguished lecturer, and public scientist throughout the 1970s, garnering numerous honorary degrees and professional awards. In 1984, at the age of 72, he formally retired from the NIMH. In 1996, he was named Scientist Emeritus of the National Institutes of Health.

  • 1912 May 30: Born, New York City; son of Isadore Axelrod, a basketmaker, and Molly Leichtling Axelrod
  • 1929: Enrolls at New York University
  • 1930: Transfers to City College of New York; studies history, philosophy, literature and biology
  • 1933: Receives Bachelor of Science degree in biology, CCNY
  • 1933 - 1935 : Laboratory assistant in Harriman Laboratory, NYU Medical School
  • 1935 - 1946 : Chemist, Laboratory of Industrial Hygiene, NYC Dept. of Health
  • 1938: Marries Sally Taub; 2 children
  • 1941: Receives Master of Science degree in chemistry, NYU, after taking post-graduate night courses
  • 1946 - 1949 : Research associate with Bernard Brodie at Goldwater Memorial Hospital, Welfare Island, NY
  • 1949 - 1955 : Continues work with Brodie at National Institutes of Health
  • 1949 - 1950 : Associate chemist, Section on Clinical Pharmacology, NIH
  • 1950 - 1953 : Chemist, NIH
  • 1953 - 1955 : Senior chemist, NIH
  • 1955: Completes doctoral thesis in pharmacology, George Washington University, under George Mandel, The Fate of Phenylisopropylamines"
  • 1954 - 1984 : Chief, Section on Pharmacology, Laboratory of Clinical Science, NIH
  • 1958 - 1961 : Discovers reuptake action in neurotransmitter norepinephrine
  • 1960 - 1965 : Studies pineal gland; develops "melatonin hypothesis"
  • 1967: Receives Gairdner Foundation International Award
  • 1970: Shares Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine with Sir Bernard Katz and Ulf von Euler
  • 1970: Member, Psychopharmacology Study Section, NIH
  • 1984: Retires from NIH; continues as Guest Researcher at NIMH, Laboratory of Cell Biology
  • 1987: Julius Axelrod Distinguished Lecturer in Neuroscience established at CCNY by Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation
  • 1992 Sep. 18: One Day Scientific Symposium and 80th Birthday Celebration in Honor of Julie Axelrod
  • 1996: Named Scientist Emeritus of NIH
Selected Awards Akademie der Wissenschaft der DDR, foreign member Claude Bernard Medal/Professorship, University of Montreal Bristol-Myers Award for Distinguished Achievement in Neuroscience Research Stanley R. Dean Research Award, American College of Psychiatrists and the Foundation for Behavioral Sciences Distinguished Achievement Award, George Washington University Distinguished Research Award, Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease Distinguished Service Award, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare Distinguished Service Award, Modern Medicine Magazine Albert Einstein Commemorative Award, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University Gairdner Foundation Award Townsend Harris Medal for Distinguished Achievement, CCNY International Physiological Union Travel Award A. Ross McIntyre Award, University of Nebraska Medical Center David Mahoney Institute for the Decade of the Brain Award National Science Foundation Travel Award Silver Medallion Award, College of Medicine of the Medical University of South Carolina Torald Sollmann Award, American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Superior Service Award, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare Rudolph Virchow Medal, Rudolf Virchow Medical Society [NYC] Editorial Board Service Circulation Research Communications in Behavioral Biology Currents in Modern Biology International Journal of Psychobiology Journal of Medicinal Chemistry Journal of Neurobiology Journal of Neurochemistry Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Life Sciences Pharmacological Research Communications Rassegna di Neurologia Vegetativa Honorary Degrees College of the City of New York George Washington University Hahnemann University (Philadelphia, PA) McGill University Medical College of Pennsylvania Medical College of Wisconsin (Milwaukee) New York University University of Chicago University of Panama University of Pennsylvania Ripon College Tel Aviv University Universite de Paris-Sud Lectureships Julius Axelrod Distinguished Lecture in Neuroscience of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation, College of the City of New York British Association of Psychopharmacy Cass Lecture, Pharmacology and Biochemistry Departments, University of Dundee (Scotland) Lita Hazen Neuroendocrinology Lecture, Mount Sinai Medical Center (NYC) Hodge Lecture, Rochester University John C. Krantz, Jr., Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Lectureship, School of Medicine of the University of Maryland at Baltimore Paul Lamson Memorial Lecture, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Otto Loewi Memorial Lecture, NYU Medical School Oliver H. Lowry Lecture, Washington University School of Medicine Medicine of the University of Maryland at Baltimore Nathanson Memorial Lecture, University of Southern California NIH Lecture, "The Pineal Gland, a Biological Clock" Parkinson Lecture, Columbia University Karl E. Paschkis Memorial Lecture, Philadelphia Endocrine Society Gregory Pincus Memorial Lecture, Worchester Foundation Fred J. Robbins Lecturer, Pomona College (Claremont CA) Royal College Lecturer of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, Royal College of Physicians And Surgeons of Canada Thomas William Salmon Lecturer, New York Academy of Medicine Fred W. Schueler Lectureship, Tulane Medical School Edward E. Smissman Memorial Lecture, University of Kansas, School of Pharmacy Henry H. Turner Lecture in Endocrinology, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation Abraham White Lecturer/Scientific Achievement Award, George Washington University Memberships American Academy of Arts and Sciences, fellow American Association for the Advancement of Science, fellow American Chemical Society American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, fellow American Philosophical Society American Psychophysiol Association, honorary member American Society of Biological Chemists American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Catecholamine Club John M. Chermerda Lecture in Science, Pennsylvania State University College of Science German Pharmacological Society, corresponding member Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences International Brain Research Organization Japanese Pharmacological Society National Academy of Sciences Royal Society, foreign member Sigma Xi Worldwide Hungarian Medical Academy, honorary member

From the guide to the Julius Axelrod Papers, 1910-2004 (bulk 1946-1999), (History of Medicine Division. National Library of Medicine)

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Subjects:

  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine
  • Receptors, Adrenergic
  • Analgesics
  • Monoamine Oxidase
  • Amphetamine
  • Neurotransmitter Uptake Inhibitors
  • Pineal Body
  • Adrenic uptake inhibitors
  • Mescaline
  • Sympathomimetics
  • Morphine
  • Ephedrine
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors
  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter
  • Pharmacology
  • Caffeine
  • Nobel prizes
  • Molecular biology
  • Lysergic Acid Diethylamide

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