Eisen’s appointment in 1955 to an endowed chair as Professor of Medicine at Washington University provided the resources that launched his laboratory toward international prominence in immunology. Eisen received an honorary doctor of science degree in 2003.
Herman N. Eisen, MD, came to the School of Medicine from New York University, where he had earned a medical degree in 1943. At NYU, his research facilities were limited, and it was necessary for him to moonlight as a physician in private practice to provide for his family.
By joining Washington University’s medical school, with its long tradition of full-time academic engagement, Eisen’s research took off, enabling him and his colleagues to focus intensively on how an individual’s immune system recognizes and reacts against virtually limitless numbers of different foreign substances called antigens. This capacity underlies the immune system’s ability to protect against the hordes of viruses and bacteria that cause infectious diseases.
In his 18 years at the university, he co-authored several editions of an innovative textbook on microbiology and immunology and became professor and head of the Department of Microbiology in 1961.
In 1973, Eisen joined the Center for Cancer Research at MIT, where he continues to make advances in immunology as an active researcher.