December 21, 2018

Henry Metzger, M.D., who served for 10 years as the first scientific director of Intramural Research at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), passed away at the age of 88 on November 20, 2018 in Hanover, N.H.

Metzger came to NIH in 1959 as a research associate. He spent two years as a Helen Hay Whitney Fellow at the University of California San Diego, and then returned to NIH for the remainder of his distinguished career. He retired in 2002 after more than 43 years of NIH service.

He pursued basic research in molecular aspects of the immune system as senior investigator in the Arthritis and Rheumatism Branch, and then as chief of the section on Chemical Immunology, before becoming scientific director of Intramural Research at NIAMS.

Metzger’s pioneering basic research on the full expression of the IgE receptor is now applied in the clinic to help with allergic reactions, including asthma. He recruited and mentored numerous scientists, including John O’Shea, M.D., current NIAMS scientific director, and Daniel Kastner, M.D., Ph.D., scientific director for the Division of Intramural Research at the NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute. The NIAMS Metzger Scholars Program in Translational Research, named in his honor, gives outstanding candidates advanced training in rheumatology and related fields after completing clinical training in adult or pediatric rheumatology, and creates a bridge to progress toward independently-funded positions.

Metzger authored more than 250 scientific articles, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Metzger was also president and councilor of the International Union of Immunological Societies, was president of The American Association of Immunologists (AAI), and was awarded the AAI Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. Metzger also remained an advisor to the NIH Board of Scientific Directors following his retirement.

He was active with the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Medical Committee for Human Rights that provided medical support during demonstrations in the nation’s capital related to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Vietnam War.

Metzger was born in Germany on March 23, 1932, and immigrated to New York City in 1938. He attended the Bronx High School of Science and the University of Rochester and went to medical school at College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University. He came to NIH following two years in internal medicine at the New York Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital. In an interview conducted in 1998, in which Metzger was asked what kept him at NIH, he replied, “some wise words that my mother-in-law once gave me when I was considering a move. She said, ‘you move when you are unhappy not when you are happy.’ I’ve been happy at my work, it has gone well. I have had very good support. The community is terrific. It’s just a wonderful place to work, so I have stayed put.”

Learn more about Dr. Henry Metzger and his legacy:

Last Reviewed: 12/21/2018