ObituaryRuperto Carola Mourns Harald zur Hausen

30 May 2023

Heidelberg Nobel Laureate in Medicine dies aged 87

Heidelberg University mourns Prof. Dr Harald zur Hausen, Nobel Laureate in Medicine, who has died aged 87. The longstanding Chairman of the Board of Directors of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Honorary Professor at Heidelberg University was closely connected to Ruperto Carola for decades as a member of the Medical Faculty Heidelberg. With his research he laid the foundations for developing a vaccination against cancer-causing human papilloma viruses. University Rector Prof. Dr Bernhard Eitel: “With Harald zur Hausen, Heidelberg as a centre of science and research loses a visionary researcher whose ground-breaking findings in the field of tumour virology met with worldwide recognition. We will, moreover, remember him as the driver of a highly productive cooperation between the DKFZ, the university and Heidelberg University Hospital.”

Harald zur Hausen (1936 – 2023)

Harald zur Hausen studied medicine in Bonn, Hamburg and Düsseldorf. After earning his doctorate at the University of Düsseldorf he worked at its Institute of Medical Microbiology, moved into virology at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia (USA) and took his habilitation in 1969 at the University of Würzburg. In 1972 he became Professor of Clinical Virology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, before in 1977 accepting the Chair of Virology and Hygiene at the University of Freiburg. As Chairman of the Board and Scientific Director Prof. zur Hausen directed the German Cancer Research Center from 1983 until his retirement in 2003.

In 1988 the scientist was appointed honorary professor with corporation-law status at the Medical Faculty Heidelberg of Heidelberg University. Under the direction of Prof. zur Hausen, the German Cancer Research Center expanded its cooperation with university hospitals. Clinical Cooperation Units guarantee the interdependence of fundamental research and clinical medicine so that research findings can be put into practice as rapidly as possible. For his research into infectious causes of malignant tumours, in particular the connection between infections with human papilloma viruses and cervical cancer, Prof. zur Hausen received multiple honours – and in 2008 the Nobel Prize in Medicine. In 2009 Prof. zur Hausen was awarded the Grand Cross of Merit with Star of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Harald zur Hausen passed away last Sunday (28 May 2023).