Jonathan S. Stamler

Born: June 23, 1959 | Wallingford, GB
Photograph of Jonathan S. Stamler

Jonathan S. Stamler

Jonathan S. Stamler was born near Oxford, England; his family moved to Israel when he was eleven.  An unenthusiastic high school student, Stamler focused on tennis, earning a spot on the national team and playing in the Davis Cup. He was accepted at Brandeis University, where he wanted only to continue his tennis career. After a hazing injury took him off the court for a year, he decided to turn his attention to his studies. By sophomore year he was pre-med. He finished Phi Beta Kappa and was accepted to Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. He found his preceptor, Ray Matta, who inspired Stamler to study cardiology. While doing his residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital, he read about free radicals and started researching them. Eventually he came upon nitric oxide, still his area of interest. After several fellowships and a stint at Harvard University, he was recruited by Duke University, where he received tenure within two years. 

Access This Interview

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


Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0498
No. of pages: 119
Minutes: 299

Interview Sessions

Helene L. Cohen
16-18 October 2000
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Abstract of Interview

Jonathan S. Stamler, the oldest of four children, was born and spent his first eleven years in Wallingford, near Oxford, England. His father's family had escaped to England before the start of World War II, and his mother's family fled first to Belgium and then to the United States. While Stamler's father was on a Fulbright to Brandeis and Harvard universities he met Stamler's mother, and they married and moved back to England. Stamler's father founded a Zionist-oriented college, called Carmel College, and the family lived in England until Jonathan was about eleven. Then they moved to Israel, where the senior Stamler worked for a wealthy Iranian. At about the time he was leaving for college, his family moved to Miami and then to New York City. Stamler was, by his own admission, an unenthusiastic student, but he played tennis, was selected for the national junior team in Israel and played in the Davis Cup. Despite academic challenges in his junior and senior years of high school, Stamler was accepted at Brandeis University, where he wanted only to continue his tennis career. After a freshman hazing incident left him with a bad hand injury, he lost a year of tennis. He decided that the only way to pass the time was to study, and by his sophomore year he was pre-med. He finished Phi Beta Kappa. He wanted to be in New York City, so he applied and was accepted to Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. He found his preceptor, Ray Matta, a superb clinician and cardiologist, one who inspired Stamler to go into cardiology himself. While doing his residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital, he read about free radicals and started doing research on them in his own time. Eventually he came upon nitric oxide, which is still his area of interest. He was denied a cardiology fellowship, but Roland Ingram, chief of pulmonary at Brigham gave him one and said he could use it in cardiology. He also got a cardiology fellowship from West Roxbury VA Hospital, so he spent four years doing two fellowships. During that time he married, and he and his wife had two children. In addition to being an assistant professor at Harvard and to doing research, Stamler co-founded a private company. He was recruited by Duke University, where he has appointments in both pulmonary and cardiology; he received tenure in two years. He has always sought answers to things that puzzle him, and he found that research was the place for him, not the clinic. He continues to work with nitric oxide, to write grants, to publish, and to attempt to balance his career with his family life. 


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1981 Brandeis University BA
1985 Mount Sinai School of Medicine MD

Professional Experience

Harvard Medical School

Instructor in Medicine
Assistant Professor in Medicine

Duke University

1993 to 1995
Associate Professor in Medicine and Assistant Professor of Cell Biology
Adjunct Faculty Member of Toxicology
1996 to 2002
Professor of Medicine
1999 to 2002
Professor of Biochemistry

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

1997 to 2002
Associate Investigator


Year(s) Award
1993 to 1997

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences


Howard Hughes Medical Institute Associate Investigator

Table of Contents

Early Years

Family background. Stamler's early memories of school. His family's move to Israel; adjusting to life in Herzliyah Pituah, Israel. Memories of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. His interest in tennis. Academic difficulties in his last year of high school.

College Years

Stamler's uncertainty about his future after high school. Enrolls at Brandeis University. His transition from tennis to medical school. Impact of religion. Experiences at Brandeis.

Medical School Years

Enrolls at Mount Sinai School of Medicine Medical School. An influential teacher. Residency and internship at Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard University Medical School. An article on free radicals spurs his interest in research into nitric oxide. Receives his clinical and research training in cardiology and in pulmonology at separate institutions. Meets his wife, Cathy L. Stamler. Problems in the cardiovascular department lead him to found his own company. Sets up his own laboratory.

Years at Duke University

Accepts a position as associate professor at Duke University. Achieves tenure in two years. Stamler's reasons for pursuing laboratory research. Teaching responsibilities. Discrimination in Durham and academia generally. Ethnic makeup of the student body at Duke University. Gender discrimination in science. Writing grants. Funding. Publishing. Travel and committee responsibilities. Balancing family and career.

Current Work

Genesis of Stamler's current research on nitric oxide. Applications and uses of nitric oxide. Discussion of patents. Competition and collaboration. Importance of having both good ideas and accurate data. Ethical issues in science. Stamler assesses his progress up to the present.


About the Interviewer

Helene L. Cohen