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Cajal, Nicolae

(1919–2004), scientist and Jewish community leader. Nicolae Cajal was born in Bucharest, the son of Marcu Cajal (1885–1972), a professor and one of the first specialists in pediatrics in Romania. Cajal graduated as a doctor in medicine and pharmacy from the Faculty of Medicine at Bucharest University (1946) and eventually took his degree as a doctor of medical sciences (1959). Specializing in microbiology and virology under the guidance of Ştefan Nicolau (1896–1967), Cajal became his professor’s spiritual heir and collaborator in 1945.

Cajal was an active member of several scientific groups and research institutes. He became a professor and head of the Virology Department at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy of Bucharest, and served also as an expert for the World Health Organization at the Institute for Virology of the Romanian Academy (from 1967); as a member (from 1990) and vice president of the Romanian Academy (1990–1994); and as president (from 1998) of the Romanian Medical Science Academy. He was also a member of the British Royal Society of Medicine and the New York Academy of Sciences. In 1992, he became president of the Elias Foundation of the Romanian Academy. Cajal conducted numerous studies in the field of virology and made innovative contributions, which were recognized internationally, to research on poliomyelitis, rabies, measles, influenza, hepatitis, and herpes. He wrote more than 400 papers and trained generations of physicians.

From 1977, when he was appointed director of medical services for the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania, Cajal became increasingly involved in Jewish community affairs, and in 1994 was elected president of the Federation of Jewish Communities. In 1995, he also became president of B’nai B’rith’s Dr. Moses Rosen Lodge in Romania.

As a Jewish community leader, Cajal promoted interethnic dialogue. He regarded antisemitism and xenophobia as manifestations of intolerant extremism, and fought against them by promoting Jewish values. Possessed of an unconventional mind and a generous spirit, always open to dialogue, and closely supported by his wife Berthina (Bibi) Cajal (1924–2001), he dedicated the last years of his life to resolving Jewish community issues in Romania, and was also active in international Jewish organizations.

Suggested Reading

Andrei Banc et al., eds., Cajal 80, Caietele culturale, 5 (Bucharest, 1999); Pledoarie pentru realsemitism: Dublu recital Nicolae Cajal—Iosif Sava, Caietele culturale, 1 (Bucharest, 1997).



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea