Eulogy to Dr. Harry Rubin

 Harry Rubin was more than a first cousin to me. I would call him my half brother because of our parental genetic linkage: brothers and sisters who were first cousins married each other I e. His mother and my father were brother and sister. My mother and his father were sister and brother. All were first cousins to each other.

 His mother died sometime in the 40th year of her life. My brother and I were constant visitors to his his parents apartment on Harrison and Davidson Avenue in the Bronx. 

While not particularly religious,  the Rubin family would get together for a family feast. In the family, he was known as "big Harold" and I was "little Harold".

Harry (somewhere along the line he change to Harry instead of Harold) was approximately 5 years older than me. In my early teen years, I would look up to him as a model. I would attend the football games his University, Cornell, played against Columbia University. I was at the very game that he broke his leg while playing Columbia University.

Prior to the season that he broke his leg, our families rented a bungalow in Long Beach, Long Island and Harry spent some time there. We would take daily runs on the Boardwalk followed by my brother and me. Then a dip into the ocean to cool off. Then return to our bungalow for a rest.  It was then that I learned of his love of classical music. He would turn on the classical music station before lying down 

He graduated Cornell with a DVD degree. This was a great surprise to me. Him, a young man from the Bronx, who never had a pet, a Veterinarian. It was hard to believe. The story of his selection of Veterinarian school goes something like this. His freshman roommate told him that NYS students could go to Vet School at Cornell for free. He and his roommate applied. He was successful, but his roommate did not get accepted.

I lost contact with him for a period after this, and then learned he was coming back from Mexico where he went with a number of veterinarians to fight Hoof an Mouth disease in the cattle. Basically, the treatment called for the slaughter of the cattle. The Mexican farmers reacted to this by killing a number of veternarians, forcing the rest to leave Mexico.

This event stimulated his interest in Public Health and off he went to Public Health School in Alabama, leading him into a career in virology. He has received one of the highest research honors, The Lasker Award for growing the Rous sarcoma in vivo. This also lead to his being on the short list for a Nobel prize.

I would see him occasionally when he came to NYC from his home in California. At some point he had become an Orthodox Jew and we only could serve him a hard boiled egg on a paper plate because of orthodox dietary restrictions. A great blow for my mother who liked to cook sumptuous meals.

He never stopped pursuing interest in cell growth as it relates to cancer, the role of trace cell elements and various other virology and genetic interests. 

I visited his lab at Berkeley and found it full of mysterious petri dishes. He gave me copies of one of his published  research papers that I found hard to read. He patiently spent one hour trying to explain the process of cells becoming cancerous.

He became a controversial figure in the scientific community with his stand on the HIV virus but that never stopped him from his own research. 

I say good by to my half brother and model who taught me the value of basic research.

Rest in peace


by Harold Rubin
posted February 9, 2020

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