Lives of the fellows

Alexander Solomon Wiener

b.16 March 1907 d.6 November 1976
AB Cornell(1926) MD New York(1930) FRCP*(1974)

Alexander Wiener died from leukaemia in New York, USA, aged seventy years. Wiener graduated from Boys High School, studied at Cornell University and received his medical degree from the State University of New York in 1930. He was an intern at the Jewish Hospital of Brooklyn and subsequently went into private practice in Brooklyn and the Jewish Hospital made him head of its blood transfusion division. He joined the department of forensic medicine at the New York University Medical School in 1938 and was appointed full professor of forensic medicine in 1968. In 1938 he became serologist for the chief medical examiner of the City of New York. Throughout his life Wiener remained in private practice in Brooklyn and was very highly regarded by his patients.

His forensic medicine laboratory was universally recognized as the most reliable in the world and although he is best known for his blood group discoveries, his work in the field of forensic serology should be more universally recognized. He was instrumental in the passage of bills in New York State upholding the validity of blood tests in disputed paternity in 1935 and, again, in 1952, compelling such tests in assault and homicide cases. He was, on many occasions, an expert witness on these subjects.

Early in his career, he began working with Landsteiner and it was at this time that he began his contributions to the study of the Rh factor. Wiener was one of those who worked out the serology and complexities of the system and he devised his own Rh-Hr nomenclature for these blood types. It is for his work and his discoveries in connection with the Rh blood group system that he will always be remembered, but he discovered other blood group factors, including U and I, and others within the Rh system itself. He made significant contributions to the technology and to the theory of blood groups. In the field of forensic medicine, he devised methods for grouping secretions and dried blood stains and developed a general formula for the chances of excluding paternity. He was an expert mathematician and an avid research worker, and became a leader in the new field of immuno-haematology. He contributed 700 scientific papers and twelve books to the literature.

During his career, he was awarded the Ward Burdick award (1946), Lasker award (1947), Passano Foundation award (1951), the Karl Landsteiner award (1956), and the Kennedy Foundation award (1966).

Al, as he was always known, was an engaging and fluent speaker and argued cogently for his views, which were always supported by strong experimental evidence. He was a good teacher and contributed enormously to the field of immuno-haematology. He was a kind and generous man, an excellent host and a colleague whom it was a privilege to know. He was always strongly supported by his family and left a wife, Gertrude Rhoda (née Rodman), and two daughters.

F Stratton

* Elected under the special bye-law which provides for the election to the fellowship of "Persons holding a medical qualification, but not Members of the College, who have distinguished themselves in the practice of medicine, or in the pursuit of Medical or General Science or Literature.."

[New York Times, 7 Nov 1976; Time, 22 Nov 1976, 108, 62; Current topics in immunohematology and immunogenetics, AS Wiener Festschrift, Budapest 1972, ed. SR Hollán]

(Volume VII, page 600)

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