Son Of Nobel Winner Remembers His Father

Guy Raz speaks with Adam Steinman, the son of the Ralph Steinman, who won the Nobel Prize for medicine days after he died of cancer.

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GUY RAZ, host: Today's news left us wanting to know more about the man who died just days before being awarded a Nobel Prize in Medicine. We're joined now by Ralph Steinman's son, Adam Steinman. And, Adam, first of all, our condolences for your loss.

ADAM STEINMAN: Thank you very much. We all appreciate that.

RAZ: Where were you when you heard the news that your father had won the Nobel Prize?

STEINMAN: So I was at home, saw a number of emails from my family in the morning when I woke up, and that's how I heard the news.

RAZ: What do you think he would have made of today's announcement?

STEINMAN: I think he would have been thrilled, and I think he would have wanted people to build on the important work that he's done. His scientific work was always about collaboration, and he would want to see his discoveries expanded to better help society, to better help the world. And I think he would want to see the entire field of immunology improve as a result of this.

RAZ: What kind of father was your dad?

STEINMAN: He was a wonderful father. He was an incredibly loving and devoted parent, also a grandparent to his three grandchildren. He always instilled in us a sense that we should embrace learning and discovery and do everything we could at the best level that we could, myself and my sisters and also, you know, even his grandchildren, I think, are all living that out.

RAZ: Was his research in a sense another member of the family? Or would he leave it at the office?

STEINMAN: No, obviously, his devotion to his family and his work very often overlapped. Many of our family vacations would center around immunology meetings.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RAZ: I see.

STEINMAN: He would also - I remember visiting the lab, his lab even when I was very young, and he would show me the experiments that he was working on. And it was very special when a few years ago he was able to take my two daughters, his two granddaughters to the lab to do something similar and see all the stuff that he was working on and again try to instill that sense of excitement and discovery in that next generation.

RAZ: Was he the kind of scientist who could explain what he did in language that was understandable to your daughters and to you as a kid?

STEINMAN: Certainly, when I was older, he would talk about the work he was doing, and he did have a remarkable capacity to explain even complex concepts to people who weren't - who didn't have his same level of expertise. And I know one of his passions is very much to try to excite younger people, high school students and that kind of thing to be excited about science and pursue careers in science.

RAZ: His life was extended using this immunotherapy that he designed. Did he ever talk about the great coincidence or irony or whatever it was that his life was being extended by his own work?

STEINMAN: I think it's a remarkable thing. You know, obviously, we are so thankful for the many amazing years we were able to have with him after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer four and a half years ago. It allowed him to spend a lot of time with his family and more time working on all of this amazing work in science that he's done. I think it's a testament to the potential for the medical research that he's done to benefit society more broadly. And I think that would be something that he would want to celebrate.

RAZ: It must be quite a surreal experience for you.

STEINMAN: It certainly is. We spent the weekend grieving his loss. And now, we are able to celebrate his life and these amazing accomplishments and this great honor. But surreal is a good word.

RAZ: That's Adam Steinman. He's the son of Ralph Steinman. He was among the three scientists awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine today. Ralph Steinman died on Friday before he could be told of that honor. Adam Steinman, thank you.

STEINMAN: Thank you.

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