Carl A. Gemzell, MD

John Paul Gusdon


Carl A. Gemzell died in 2007 at the age of 97. His was a highly productive and widely ranging life. He had protean interests, ranging from science and medicine to contemporary art.

Scientifically, he was particularly well-known for his research dealing with gonadotropins, including development of  a pregnancy test to detect human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG); characterization of human pituitary and placental gonadotropins; and the first successful ovulation induction in women with hypothalamic-pituitary insufficiency using human pituitary gonadotropins, which his group had purified while he was a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Uppsala University, north of Stockholm.

When I was a postdoctoral fellow in Stockholm at the Karolinska sjukhuset, my mentor, Egon Diczfalusy, spoke frequently about Professor Gemzell and collaborated with him in experiments, manuscripts and books. Professor Gemzell also studied experimental endocrinology at the Karolinska, and subsequently was on the faculty of New York Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn.

It was fitting that the first Carl A. Gemzell Lectureship was delivered by Griff T. Ross, a noted physician-investigator at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development who studied ovarian biology. Dr. Ross’ address dealt with ovarian morphologic correlates and cyclic changes in serum gonadotropins and ovarian sex steroids leading to ovulation and subsequent atresia.

Dr. Gemzell also was a prominent collector of great contemporary artists and architects, e.g., Paul Klee and Alexander Calder.

Not content with science, medicine and art, Dr. Gemzell also had interests in philosophy and politics and enjoyed a good game of golf.

In summary, he was an outstanding, highly recognized scientist/endocrinologist, a connoisseur of contemporary art and architecture, a student of philosophy and politics, and an accomplished golfer. He was a giant who lived a long, productive and fruitful life. His like does not come along frequently.

Submitted by Robert B. Jaffe, MD

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