Processing of the Luigi Gorini Papers has begun as part of the Maximizing Microbiology Project

By , February 18, 2016

Luigi Gorini was a microbiologist known for his research in the physiology of proteolysis, bacterial and gene expression regulation, bacterial ribosomes, and the influence of ribosomal mutations, as well as for his anti-fascist political activism during World War II. The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to report that the Luigi Gorini papers (1947-1977), a product of Gorini’s research, professional and publishing activities, and career as a professor at Harvard Medical School, are currently being processed as part of the Maximizing Microbiology: Molecular Genetics, Cancer, and Virology, 1936-2000 project.

Luigi Gorini was born on 13 November 1903 in Milan, Italy, and attended the University of Pavia, Italy, for his undergraduate and graduate education. He completed his thesis in organic chemistry, but focused in his graduate studies on biology. His studies were cut short in 1931 by the rise of the fascist state. Gorini fled to Milan, Italy, where he was a researcher at the Istituto Giuliana Ronzoni from 1942-1945. He became the head of the Department of Biochemistry at the Istituto Scientifico di Chimica e Biochimica Giuliana Ronzoni in 1946, a role he held until emigrating to Paris, France, in 1949. In the years directly following the fall of the Italian fascist government, Gorini and his wife Annamaria Torriani-Gorini, a fellow scientist he met at the Istituto Giuliana Ronzoni, managed a refugee camp for Jewish children orphaned during the Holocaust, preparing them and making arrangements for their emigration to Israel.

In Paris, he worked in the Laboratory of Biological Chemistry at the National Center for Scientific Research at the Sorbonne, Paris, from 1949-1951. In 1951, Gorini was named the Head of Research in this laboratory, and the Master of Research in 1954. He was a Visiting Researcher in the Department of Pharmacology of the College of Medicine at New York University, New York, from 1955-1957, where he came to work with Bernard D. Davis (1916-1994). Gorini was hired as a Lecturer in the Department of Bacteriology and Immunology at the Harvard Medical School in 1957, after Davis was hired as its chair. Gorini continued to teach and research at Harvard Medical School for the remainder of his career. He became the American Cancer Society Associate Professor in this Department in 1962, and acted as the American Cancer Society Professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from this time until his retirement in 1974. He remained at Professor Emeritus until his death on 13 August 1976.

Gorini’s laboratory research early in his career related to aspects of bacterial proteolysis and the biochemistry of extracellular enzymes. His work on the physiology of proteolysis led to the discovery of an unusual growth factor, catechol, in 1954. Working with Werner Maas (1921-), Gorini recognized the way bacterial enzymes affect bacterial regulation, which in turn altered modes of thought about the regulation of gene expression and led to the development of the concept of the gene repressor. Once at Harvard Medical School, Gorini’s research focus was primarily on the arginine pathway and the influence of ribosomal mutations. With Eva Kataja, Gorini also studied bacterial ribosomes and the effect of streptomycin. He published more than 100 scientific articles, writing up until his death, and received multiple awards for his scientific research, including the Kronauer Prize from the Faculté des Sciences at the Sorbonne in 1949 and the Harvard University Ledlie Prize in 1965. Gorini also remained politically active throughout his life, writing and speaking out against fascism, violence, and racial and gender prejudice.

The papers, created throughout Gorini’s research, professional, teaching, and publishing activities, include raw research data, correspondence, writings and publications, and other materials relating to his professional activities. They are expected to be opened to research early in 2016.

The Maximizing Microbiology: Molecular Genetics, Cancer, and Virology, 1936-2000 project is funded by a Hidden Collections grant from the Harvard University Libraries. The project will also open the collections of other scientists and professors whose work relates to the origins of molecular genetics, including the Arthur B. Pardee papers, 1949-2001, the Francesc Duran i Reynals papers, 1936-1959, and the the Bernard D. Davis papers, 1909-1995 (inclusive), 1939-1994 (bulk). For more information on the Maximizing Microbiology project, please contact Emily Novak Gustainis, Head, Collections Services or Elizabeth Coup, Processing Assistant.

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