Bernard Brodie (biochemist)

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Bernard Beryl Brodie
Born 1907
Liverpool, United Kingdom
Died 1989
Charlottesville, Virginia
Nationality British
Fields Pharmacology
Institutions New York University 1935-1950
National Institutes of Health 1950-1970
Pennsylvania State University
Alma mater McGill University
New York University
Notable awards Distinguished Service Award of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare- 1958
Tollman Medal- 1963
Member of the United States National Academy of Sciences- 1966
Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research- 1967
National Medal of Science- 1968

Bernard Beryl Brodie (1907 – 1989), a leading researcher on drug therapy, is considered by many to be the founder of modern pharmacology and brought the field to prominence in the 1940s and 1950s. He was a major figure in the field of drug metabolism, the study of how drugs interact in the body and how they are absorbed. A member of the United States National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Brodie was a founder and former chief of the Laboratory of Chemical Pharmacology at the National Heart Institute of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Early life and education

Born in Liverpool in 1907, Dr. Brodie did his undergraduate work at McGill University and received a Ph.D. in chemistry at New York University in 1935. After his graduation from N.Y.U., he was an associate professor there until 1950, when he joined the National Institutes of Health. He headed the pharmacology laboratory there until his retirement in 1970 but remained active as a senior consultant with Hoffmann-LaRoche laboratories in Nutley, New Jersey and as a professor of pharmacology at Pennsylvania State University.


His most significant discovery was that animal and human responses to drugs do not differ significantly. This pioneered the concept that blood drug levels must guide therapeutic dosages and he established the basis for the chemotherapy of malaria.

Together with Julius Axelrod, he discovered that acetanilide and phenacetin both metabolize to paracetamol. Unlike its precursors, paracetamol does not cause methemoglobinemia in humans.

Brodie also did research on anesthetic and hypnotic drugs and discovered that procainamide was effective in treating patients with severe irregularities in heart rhythm. He also pioneered a drug therapy for gout.

Dr. Brodie was the first scientist to determine how the neurohormones, serotonin and norepinephrine, affect the functioning of the brain, thereby leading to an understanding of how anti-psychotic drugs could be used effectively in the treatment of mental and emotional disorders. He also proposed a new line of attack on schizophrenia, leading to studies of how nerve impulses in the brain are transmitted along particular pathways of the nerve cells.

His scientific career was the basis of a recent popular biography, Apprentice to Genius by Robert Kanigel, which describes how a group of scientists, headed by Dr. Brodie, made prize-winning breakthroughs in biomedical science over a period of 40 years.


In 1967, Dr. Brodie received the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research for his more than 30 years of extraordinary contributions to biochemical pharmacology. His work had a profound influence on the use of drugs in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, mental and emotional disorders and cancer.

Dr. Brodie was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1966 and held honorary memberships in numerous scientific academies both in the United States and abroad. In addition to the Lasker Award, he was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in 1958, the Tollman award in Pharmacology in 1963, the National Medal of Science in 1968, and the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement in 1970.

He was the author or co-author of more than 350 scientific manuscripts.

The neuroscience department of the University of Cagliari was entitled to Bernard Brodie by his alumn Dr. Gian Luigi Gessa.[1]

Dr. Brodie died in 1989 in Charlottesville, Virginia at the age of 81.[2]


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