Bernard N. Fields

Born: March 24, 1938 | Brooklyn, NY, US
Died: Tuesday, January 31, 1995 | West Newtown, MA, US

Bernard Fields begins the interview with a discussion of his early years, his undergraduate career, and his fascination with virology and microbiology. Fields became Chairman of the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Department at Harvard in 1982, ending his extensive research in infectious diseases just as AIDS hit the world scene. Fields concludes the interview with a discussion of the future of biological research, developing working relationships with students, and his personal battle with pancreatic cancer.

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0185
No. of pages: 40

Interview Sessions

Sondra Schlesinger
8 December 1992

Abstract of Interview

Bernard Fields begins the interview with a discussion of his early years, growing up in Brooklyn, New York. Fields was encouraged by his parents to excel in scholastic endeavors. After graduating high school at the age of sixteen, Fields enrolled at Brandeis University. After a mediocre start, he finished college at the top of his class, receiving an A.B. in biology in 1958. Fields loved biology and wanted to become an MD He attended New York University School of Medicine, earning his MD in 1962. While at NYU, Fields first became interested in neuroscience and how diseases affect the central nervous system. He then received an internship with Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, where he became involved in infectious diseases. After completing his doctoral training, Fields took a fellowship in infectious diseases with Mort Swartz at Massachusetts General Hospital. Infectious diseases fascinated Fields and he began to move toward a career in microbiology and virology. In 1967, after two years of military service in Atlanta, Georgia, with the Centers for Disease Control, Fields moved back to New York with his new wife and three stepchildren, accepting a research fellowship with Wolfgang K. Joklik at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. While at Einstein, Fields began research on Reovirus, which would become one of his life-long research projects. His research focused on the genetics of Reovirus and how the virus interacted with animal cells. In 1969, Fields became Associate Professor of Medicine and Cell Biology at Einstein, and held that position until 1975, when he joined the faculty at Harvard Medical School as Head of Infectious Diseases. With his research fellows, Fields studied different strains of Reovirus and how they mutated to cause different diseases. Fields became Chairman of the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Department at Harvard in 1982, ending his extensive research in infectious diseases just as AIDS hit the world scene. Fields concludes the interview with a discussion of the future of biological research, developing working relationships with students, and his personal battle with pancreatic cancer.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
2016 Brandeis University AB Biology
1962 New York University School of Medicine MD

Professional Experience

National Communicable Disease Center

1965 to 1966
Medical Virologist, Virology Section
1966 to 1967
Assistant Chief, Arbovirus Infectious Unit

Albert Einstein College of Medicine

1967 to 1968
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Cell Biology
1968 to 1969
Associate, Departments of Medicine and Cell Biology
1969 to 1971
Assistant Professor, Departments of Medicine and Cell Biology
1971 to 1975
Associate Professor, Departments of Medicine and Cell Biology

Harvard Medical School

1975 to 1994
Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
1981 to 1994
Professor of Medicine
1982 to 1994
Chairman, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
1984 to 1994
Adele H. Lehman Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

Journal of Infectious Diseases

1976 to 1994
Associate Editor

Washington University in St. Louis

1977
Visiting Professor

Honors

Year(s) Award
1962

Founders' Day Award, New York University School of Medicine

1974 to 1979

Irma T. Hirschl Scholar Award

1974

12th Annual Redway Medal (with Cedric Raine)

1974 to 1975

Career Scientist, Health Research Council of New York

1982

Solomon A. Berson Alumni Achievement Award, New York University School of Medicine

1982

Wellcome Lecturer, American Society of Microbiology

1983

Lippard Lecturer, Columbia University

1984

Thayer Lecturer, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

1987

Dyer Lecturer, National Institutes of Health

1987 to 1995

Merit Award, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

1989

Niels Dungal Memorial Lecturer, University of Iceland, Reykjavik

1991

Dudley Wright Lecturer, Arolla, Switzerland

1992

Alumni Achievement Award, Brandeis University

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York. Parents. Developing an interest in biology. Acceptance into Brandeis University. Influential teachers at Brandeis. Decision to go further education in medicine.

Graduate Education
5

Attending New York University. Developing an interest in nervous system diseases. University's focus on research. Aiming toward a career in clinical medicine. Internship and residency at Beth Israel Hospital. Fellowship with Mort Swartz at Massachusetts General Hospital. Growing interest in infectious diseases.

Early Career
10

Military Services at Centers for Disease Control. Field work. Marriage to Ruth Peedin. Research fellowship at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Wolfgang K. Joklik. First studies on Reovirus. Viral genetics research. Learning molecular biology. Infectious disease unit.

Research
16

Working with students. Virus mutants. Becoming faculty member at Einstein. Joining Harvard faculty in 1975. Working on Friend leukemia and measles. RNA and protein research. Genetic mapping. Type 3 Reovirus. Biology of Reovirus.

Later Career
23

Becoming Head of Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. Leaving infectious disease research. Onslaught of AIDS. Research methods. Training young scientists. Future of research. Task Force of Microbiology.

Conclusion
28

Researching virus behavior. Cultivating students. Reflections on being Chairman of Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. M cells. Living with pancreatic cancer.

Notes
33
Index
35

About the Interviewer

Sondra Schlesinger

Sondra Schlesinger is professor of molecular microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine. She received her PhD in biological chemistry from the University of Michigan and spent three years as a postdoctoral fellow with Professor Boris Magasanik at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she worked on enzyme induction and regulation in bacteria. She joined the faculty at Washington University in 1964, where initially she continued her research in the field of microbial genetics and physiology. In the early 1970s, she began her research work on the structure and replication of animal RNA viruses, which continues to this day. Dr. Schlesinger has over one hundred publications spanning these areas of microbiology. She was president of the American Society for Virology in 1992–1993, at which time she began her present interest and work in the history of virology.