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Is David Julius Jewish? Nobel winner's family history is fascinating

Yasmine Leung October 4, 2021
Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images

David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian have won the 2021 Nobel Prize for Medicine and people are interested in Julius’ family. Is he Jewish and what do we know about his background?

Winners of the Nobel Medicine Prize 2021

Professor of physiology at the University of California David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian, a neuroscientist at Scripps Research, have won the 2021 Nobel Prize for medicine or physiology for their work on sensing touch and temperature.

Julius experimented with capsaicin, the heat component in chilli peppers, to see how receptors responded. Meanwhile, Patapoutian discovered a receptor that activated in response to touch or force.

Their discovery could pave the way for new methods of treating pain, including chronic pain.

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Photo by Steve Babuljak/UCSF via Getty Images

Is David Julius Jewish?

Yes, the 65-year-old physiologist is Jewish. Born in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York, on 4 November 1955, he is of Russian-Jewish descent.

At the time Brighton Beach was home to a large population of Russian-Jewish emigres. Julius described the area as a “landing pad for eastern European immigrants like my grandparents, who fled tsarist Russia and antisemitism in pursuit of a better life”.

In a 2020 autobiography published to celebrate his Kavli Prize in neuroscience, Julius revealed his parents are first-generation Americans. His father became an electrical engineer and his mother was an elementary school teacher.

Although he became a high-achieving academic, Julius admitted he was a “reluctant student” who often submitted his assignments late during elementary school.

He said a switch flicked on in fifth grade when he decided to put more effort into education and credited his physics teacher, Herb Isaacson, a former minor-league baseball player, for inspiring his start in science.

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Who is David Julius’ wife?

Julius is married to Holly Ingraham, who is also a physiologist at the University of California. Her work focuses on female physiology and hormone signalling in metabolism.

Her introduction to the field of science came aged ten, when she found her great-grandfather’s microscope.

Since 2005, the couple have lived with their son Philip in Walnut Creek, California, where Holly spent her childhood.

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Yasmine is a third-year Anthropology and Media student at Goldsmiths University with a new obsession with League of Legends, despite being really bad. She's always on social media keeping on top of the latest news and trends and is HITC’s expert in Korean pop culture. She also loves music, TV and fashion - her favourite things to write about.