John Bienenstock CM FRSC
John Bienenstock, who has been a highly valued member of the executive board of the Old Herborn University Foundation since 2017, passed away unexpectedly on July 25.
John Bienenstock was born on October 6, 1936, in Budapest, Hungary, of Jewish parents. He escaped with his parents to England in 1939, where he did grow up. He was educated at St. Paul’s School in London and studied medicine at King’s College and Westminster Hospital Medical School in London. He graduated with his MBBS degree in 1960.
John moved to the United States in 1964 where he was offered a position in the famous Massachusetts General Hospital. There he held a Fellowship in Rheumatology in the Lovett Memorial Group under Dr. Kurt Bloch. John trained further in mucosal immunology as a postdoctoral researcher with Dr. Tom Tomasi in Buffalo, NY. Here mucosal mast cells were first characterized by him, as was “BALT” (i.e. bronchus associated lymphoid tissue) which led to the concept of a common mucosal immune system. Both revelations have resulted in significant changes to therapeutic approaches in allergy and mucosal immunology respectively.
John was recruited to the new McMaster University Medical School in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1968. He held the title of Distinguished University Professor (Medicine and Pathology) at McMaster University.
John was the Founding Director of the McMaster Brain-Body Institute at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton where he studied the interactions between the nervous and immune systems. His landmark studies since 1987 on the two-way interactions and influences between the nervous and immune systems (psychoneuroimmunology) have impacted our understanding of conditions as varied as allergy and rheumatoid arthritis.
John was former Chair of Pathology and Dean and Vice-President of the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University.
John received many awards and honours: he was recipient of the Order of the Red Cross in 1990, he was named a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1992, and he received an Honorary MD from the Göteborg University, Sweden in 1998. In 1999 he was named Distinguished University Professor at the Mc Master University; he was named to the Order of Canada in 2002 and was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2011.
In 1996 was John invited to give a lecture on “Neuro-Endocrino Immunology” at the 10th Old Herborn University Seminar on “New Antimicrobial Strategies”. Traditionally he was appointed “Honorary Professor” at the Old Herborn University and he was invited to become a member of the Science Advisory Committee. From that year on he attended all seminars accompanied by his wife Dody who, at occasions, also actively participated in the discussions.
In 2005 was John one of the moderators of the 19th Old Herborn University Seminar on “Defence Mechanisms of the Innate System; Influence of Microbes” and in 2007 was John one of the moderators of the 21st Seminar on “The Biological Significance of Gaseous Biomarkers from the Microbiota in the Alimentary Tract”. In the same year, the Old Herborn University Foundation was officially registered and John became a member of the Executive Board, a function that he kept until his passing. He remained very active over the years and was one of the moderators of the 2022 Seminar on “The Biological Empire of the Bacteriophage”.
We will miss him greatly and will remember him as a dear friend, a true gentleman and as a driven scientist whose ideas and discoveries will continue to have great influence on basic research as well as on the medical field.
We express our condolences to his wife Dody and his family.
Peter J. Heidt