Dr. George Rosenkranz —a world-renowned scientist who devoted his life to improving global health and established a prize to foster innovative research among emerging Stanford scholars — leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of science and humanitarianism.
Rosenkranz was 102 when he died Sunday after a prolific scientific career, one that would forever change the course of women’s reproductive lives.
A Hungarian Jew who fled the Nazis during World War II and eventually emigrated to Mexico, Rosenkranz was one of three scientists who pioneered the chemical compounds that led to the birth control pill. He was also instrumental in developing medicines to fight venereal diseases.
His family established The Dr. George Rosenkranz Prize in 2010 at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies; the prize is administered by Stanford Health Policy. The $100,000 award goes to researchers working to improve health care in the developing world.
The beloved figure often made it to the campus symposiums that honored the prize winners.
The first Rosenkranz Prize was awarded in 2010 to SHP’s Eran Bendavid, an infectious disease physician and associate professor of medicine. He used his award to study whether U.S. money spent on malaria and HIV programs in sub-Saharan Africa translated into better health outcomes for women and their children.
“George has galvanized a community of global health researchers at Stanford,” said Bendavid. “We now have a community of scholars whose focus on critical issues in other countries has been powerfully enabled by George's legacy. He and his family have been an inspiration for us and, by extension, our students. The spirit of promoting promising young researchers is something we all benefit from. His is a wonderful name and a legacy to be attached to.”
Other Rosenkranz Prize winners honor his legacy with remembrances:
“There are very few people who have changed the world as much as Dr. Rosenkranz; his work in synthesizing and bringing oral contraception to market changed how people form families, and empowered women around the world.” — Mike Baiocchi, a Stanford statistician and the 2017 winner.
“The Rosenkranz Prize helped our young lab take risks where we might not have been able to; risks that have paid off intellectually,” said Baiocchi, whose team is conducting the largest-ever randomized trial to measure the impact of No Means No Worldwide project, which is training 300,000 boys and girls in Kenya and Malawi to prevent rape and teen pregnancy.
“The prize money allowed us to bring two of our statistics PhD students to Kenya to visit the communities they have been working with, to present their work to the stakeholders. This has built a passion for in these students, who have each launched their own Kenya-based study to examine means for reducing gender-based violence.”
“Dr. Rosenkranz's professional and personal legacy are closely intertwined. By his example, I and many other Rosenkranz scholars have been enabled to marry what sometimes feel like dueling passions: social justice and rigorous scholarship. I feel so fortunate to have met Dr. Rosenkranz and hope that many others will continue to be inspired by his message of equity, global fellowship, and excellence.” — Ami Bhatt, the 2016 winner who is building the first multi-country microbiome research project focused on noncommunicable disease risk in Africa.
“As a Mexican awardee of the Rosenkranz prize it is a privilege to be part of the legacy of one of the most prominent Mexican scientists, whose generous support was a vital seed to create my research laboratory on Human Genomics in Mexico.” — Andrés Moreno Estrada, the 2012 winner who is analyzing the DNA of indigenous groups in Latin American, one of the most underrepresented populations in the field of genetics.
“The prize was a huge boost to my career as an early stage researcher. It allowed me to do work in India on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) at a time when the topic was not a high priority for global funding agencies. The project led to a series of a collaborations with a large public hospital in India. There were several publications as a result of this partnership, and the studies we performed were innovative and informative on the prevalence on AMR in community-dwelling individuals.” — Marcella Alsan, one of two 2015 prize winners.