Pioneers In Virology Award

Presented to:

Dr. Bruce Calnek, DVM, MS

Steffen Professor of Veterinary Medicine, Emeritus

Department of Microbiology and Immunology

College of Veterinary Medicine

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Bruce Calnek was born in 1932 in upstate New York. He completed studies for the DVM degree in 1955, and the MS degree in 1956, both at Cornell University. After a temporary appointment at Cornell for one year, he took a position as Associate Professor in the Department of Veterinary Science at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. During the next four years he studied avian encephalomyelitis (AE) in chickens. His work culminated in an understanding of its pathogenesis and epizootiology, and the development of the first effective oral vaccine for the disease. That vaccine continues to be used worldwide for the control of AE.


In 1961, he returned to Cornell in the newly established Department of Avian Diseases. There, his work centered on viral neoplasms of chickens, initially on lymphoid leukosis (LL), then on Marek’s disease (MD). Using clone-purified virus strains, and genetically-characterized, specific-pathogen-free chickens, he led a team of colleagues and graduate students in studies that carefully dissected various features of MD. Important discoveries included the identification of the feather follicle epithelium as the sole source of enveloped MD herpesvirus involved in bird-to-bird transmission, and ultimately, the widely accepted description of the pathogenesis of the disease. In addition to studies on LL and MD, he worked on a variety of other infectious agents including mycoplasmas, reovirus, adenovirus, infectious laryngotracheitis virus, reticuloendotheliosis virus, and Rous sarcoma virus.


In addition to his research, Dr. Calnek served as Chairman of the Department of Avian and Aquatic Animal Medicine for nearly 20 years. He retired officially in 1995, but continued a modest research program for a few years after retirement. He was an editor for Diseases of Poultry for over 20 years, and was Editor-in-Chief for two of the five editions that were prepared during that period. He has published numerous book chapters and over 150 scientific papers, and has presented invited lectures in a variety of international settings.


Following retirement, he expanded his interest and commitment to woodworking and presently is a member of Handwork, a craft cooperative in Ithaca where he sells a large variety of clocks.

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