4. Opinions of Scientists and Officials on Gheorghe Benga


Statements of Romanian Scientists and High Rank Officials (from the Guest Book of the Department)

“Laboratory of Cell Biology of the Faculty of Medicine in Cluj represents a true scientific achievement for which congratulations are deserved by both its author (Gheorghe Benga) and those who have understood and helped him in developing it. From here many important things for the Romanian science and for Science in general will be said. Grateful for the collaboration with the chief of this laboratory and his group.”

16 Jan 1982, Dr. Caius Dragomir, Head of the Laboratory of Cell Biology, “Victor Babeş” Institute Bucharest

“I appreciate the organization and facilities of the laboratory. The research topics are in very hot fields. I wish full success in the activity of this group integrated in education and research.”

Cluj, 2 VI 1983 G. Ciucu, Vice Minister of Education and Teaching

“I have visited with great interest and profound satisfaction the research laboratories organized by Gheorghe Benga. It is a proof of love for science, of passion for research and of strong wish for important achievements in the beloved fields. I cordially congratulate the young specialist Gheorghe Benga for his opus and wish him many and new successes in the serious activity that he is performing I am very glad that I have been here.”

Cluj, 29.11.1984 Acad. E. Macovschi

Director of the Institute of Biochemistry, Romanian Academy

„After many years of multiple links I performed a (unfortunately) short visit of this laboratory, which – as I already knew – honors our scientific research”. După mulţi ani de legături multiple am ajuns să fac o (din păcate) scurtă vizită la acest laborator care – aşa cum ştiam şi înainte – face cinste cercetării noastre ştiinţifice” Dr. Stefan Sandor

First Vice-president of the Romanian Society of Cell Biology

“The impredictable is inevitable in our existence! I checked this on the occasion of participation in the “Cluj Academic Days” between 9-14 November 1987, by visiting and especially by “knowing” the personality of our coleague Dr. Gheorghe Benga. Everything was surprizing in the laboratories of the Department of Cell Biology, from the topics of research, accomplishments and equipment, but especially by the creative tonus of the leader. I admired the many publications, symposia and monographs. Everything confers the certitude of a valuable “construction” in biological sciences along the years. Let it be as I said and I wish, with affection and with due esteem”

10 Nov. 1987 Acad. Prof. Stefan Milcu

President of the Academy of Medical Sciences of Romania

“Having the opportunity to accompany the distinguished Acad. E. Macovschi in the visit to the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology I was extremely well impressed by the scientific achievements of the young and very valuable research group lead with a lot of passion and skilfullness by the renowned professor and scientist who is Dr. Gheorghe Benga. Sincere congratulations.”

Cluj, 29.11.1984 Prof. Univ.Dr. C. Neamţu

Chairman of the Biochemistry Department, The Univ. of Agricultural Studies, Cluj-Napoca

“Impressed by the accomplishments of our coleague Dr. Benga, by his enthusiasm, by the organizatioon of his laboratories, I congratulate him with sincere admiration and I wish him the deserved successes of which I am sure”.

29 III 1991 Acad. Nicolae Cajal

President of the Section of Medicine, Romanian Academy

Vice- President of Romanian Academy

Statements of foreign scientists (from the Guest Book of the Department, letters and conferences)

“Dear Dr. Benga: I was pleased to receive your letter of December 10, 1977 in regard to our possible cooperative project under NSF sponsorship. ……I believe you are the only researcher on the European continent that could make some meaningful progress in this field….Your work with Chapman in Great Britain and your knowledge of the latest research on the European continent will allow you to make some real contributions to science in Romania”

Jan. 9, 1978 F.A. Kummerow, Director

Burnsides Research Laboratory, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

To: Aurel Sanislav, Head of the Office for Foreign Relations, Ministry of Education, Bucharest, Romania

“Dear Dr. Sanislav:… I have over a period of twenty years visited every important laboratory in Japan, Mexico, Canada, the USA, Israel, and Eastern and Western Europe. It is my opinion that the staff members I met at Cluj are as competent as any I have met anywhere. They are dedicated scientists determined to bring Romania into the forefront of science. It is difficult to teach and at the same time do outstanding research such as Dr. Benga has been doing. However, he is so capable that he is an effective teacher as well. He can manage both teaching and cooperate in international research if he is allowed to do so.”…

Nov. 14, 1979 F.A. Kummerow, Director

Burnsides Research Laboratory,

Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“Although my visit was very brief and unexpected, I have been able to admire the modern equipment in this laboratory. I also recognize the dynamic spirit inspired by Prof. Benga to his collaborators. I have no doubt that this work will be appreciated the international scientific journals of the highest levels. With my thanks for interesting discussions we had about my own work.”

May 28 1981 Frank Roels

Vrije Universiteit Brussels

“I am grateful for the hospitality I enjoyed here in Cluj. The efforts to establish a new Cell Biology Department impressed me deeply. The research efforts and teaching are as high as any Department I visited in USA. I wish good succes to everybody in this nice Department. Thank you.”

June 15, 1984 Dr. Miklos Kellermayer

University Medical School

Pecs, Hungary

“To Prof. Gheorghe Benga with much gratitude for his hospitality in Cluj-Napoca, with compliments for the organization of the beautiful FEBS Course I have enjoyed very much – with many wishes and hoping to come back soon in Cluj.”

24 VI 1986 Prof. Giorgio Lenaz

Department of Biochemistry, Univ. of Bologna, Italia

“I appreciate being here and seeing the work of cell biologists which is quite impressive. Hope to develop collaborative project on Chromosome Registry. Thank you for having me as a guest of the Ministry-NIH-FIC Program.”

September 28, 1988 Prof. W.H. Borgaonkar

Medical Research Center of Delaware, Newmark, Delaware

“A mon collégue et ami G. Benga, en souvenir des excellents moments passés en sa compagnie, dans son laboratoires et chez lui. J’ai été tout particulièrement impressionné par la qualité et l’abondance des recherches qu’il a pu réaliser ici, malgré toutes les difficultés qu’il a à faire de la recherche scientifique en Roumanie.”

Cluj, April 11, 1991 Prof. Ernest Feythmans

Fac. Univ. de Namur, Belgium

“Dr. Benga, I wish to congratulate you on your achievements, not only as a researcher, but also as a creative teacher. I hope that when I visit Cluj again, I will see your concepts in Molecular Biology well integrated into The Biochemistry and Diagnostics framework. I will be following your work with great interest – you are a model for the University!”

15.03.1994 Best wishes , Vinda L. Patel

Mc Gill University, Montreal, Canada

“It has been a great pleasure to be in Cluj-Napoca for the third time. I wish to thank professor Benga for his hospitality and for organizing, as always, a wonderful and very instructive course.”

July 22, 1999 Co-signed by:

Prof. Giorgio Lenaz Prof. Oscar A. Candia

Univ. of Bologna, Italia Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York

Prof. Zdenek Drahota Prof. Alan S. Verkman

Charles Univ., Prague Univ. of California, San Francisco

Prof. Lech Wojtczak Prof. Helga Stan-Lotter

Nencki Institute Warsaw, Poland Univ. of Salzburg, Austria

“To Professor Gh. Benga and Colleagues!

With many best wishes on the 30th Anniversary of the Founding of the Dept. of Cellular and Molecular Biology and the Laboratory of Genetic Analyses. May the next 30 years bring you much success and good fortune in your chosen fields and may our collaboration continue from strength to strength.

With all good wishes from your colleagues in Manchester”

4. 06.2009 Dr. Martin Schwarz

Regional Molecular Genetics Service, Manchester, UK

“It was a pleasure to visit the Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology after 25 years. The laboratory is now in a nice new building and has an outstanding faculty and staff headed by Dr. Benga. Congratulations on your 30th Anniversary and I hope the Department has a prosperous future that matches its stellar past”.

4. 06.2009 Prof. Ross P. Holmes

Bowman Gray School of Medicine

Winston Salem, NC, USA

Statements of Nobel Laureates

Günter Blobel (1999 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine)

Date: Sun, 18 Apr 2004 17:47:46 -0400
To: Gheorghe Benga <gbenga@clujnapoca.ro>
From: Blobel <blobel@mail.rockefeller.edu>
Subject: Re: Cluj-Napoca


Dear Gheorghe:
A 60th birthday celebration invites to pause following a long, arduous climb up a mountain. It invites reflections to look back at what has passed and what may lie ahead in life.
The most creative period of your professional life coincided with an epoch of dictatorship and suppression in your beloved home country. Seen in this context, your pioneering work on the biochemical identification of the water channel, long before anybody else, is a towering achievement, a great mountain by itself.
From your biochemical identification to the purification and characterization of this very important activity of all cells would have been a straightforward path, if you would have either been free to move around or if you would have had access in Cluj-Napoca itself to modern methods of membrane protein purification that were used in several laboratories in the free world.

Then, it would have been you, who would have purified and characterized the water channel. And it would have been you, who would have gone to Stockholm in 2003 to receive the Nobel Prize. You would have followed, by less than 30 years, another great Rumanian, George E. Palade, the founder of modern Cell Biology. But circumstances and fate conspired against you. And you have been very noble to shoulder this injury. It is therefore even more of an imperative that the scientific community recognize your great contributions.
Another of your great achievements that I witnessed last year during my visit to Cluj-Napoca, are your creation of up-to-date research and teaching laboratories in Cluj-Napoca. Hence, the young generation of Rumanian scientists will now have a much more levelled playing field.

We all hope that, following Palade and Benga, there will again arise a young scientist in Romania, who will revolutionize the field of Cell Biology. He/she will then have the option to complete the work there.
Gheorghe, I wish you many more years of a creative and productive life.
With my greatest respect and admiration,
Guenter Blobel
Laboratory of Cell Biology
Rockefeller University
New York, NY

George Emil Palade (1974 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine)

LECTURE of George E. Palade „ROMANIAN CONTRIBUTIONS TO INTERNATIONAL BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH” at the International Conference: Romania and Romanians in the Contemporary Science, Sinaia, 24-17 May, 1994)

„ …Regardless of the accomplishments of the diaspora, the researchers who came or stayed in Romania and have worked hard with some help from the government of Romania, as the two Simionescus – or without any help, as Gheorghe Benga and others, deserve a special appreciation. They have maintained alive the spirit of the biomedical research in Romania.”

LETTER of George E. Palade to Professor Dr. Nicolae Oprean, July 7, 1993

“Dear Professor Oprean,

… I congratulate you for the initiative of going together with Professor Benga to President Iliescu to urge him in developing an institute of research at the Medical School of the University of Cluj-Napoca. Dr. Benga is certainly the person qualified to organize and lead such an institute.”


MESSAGE of George E. Palade, read by Guenter Blobel at The First Symposium of Molecular Medicine at “Iuliu Hateganu” University of Medicine and Pharmacy (May 26, 2003).


Date: Mon, 19 May 2003 12:58:53 -0700

To: <GBenga@clujnapoca.ro>

From: Marilyn Farquhar <mgfarquhar@ucsd.edu>


Dear Doctor Benga,


Please find enclosed my message to The First Symposium of Molecular

Medicine at “Iuliu Hateganu” University of Medicine and Pharmacy.


Best regards,

George E. Palade


Distinguished Colleagues and Dear Students,


The festivities organized by the University of Medicine and Pharmacy “Iuliu Hateganu” from ClujNapoca are for myself an event of great personal satisfaction.


To begin with, The University has decided to celebrate half of century since the creation of a new field of biology in with structure, biochemistry, function, and biogenesis are considered together. This integrated approach known as Cellular and Molecular Biology prove to be remarkably productive.It lead in a short time to an understanding of the pathway followed by exocytic ( secretory) proteins and later on to the elucidation of the pathway followed by membrane proteins and by proteins of the endocytic pathway.


It was in conjunction with the work that elucidated the molecular mechanisms that made possible the sorting of proteins along the secretory pathway and transport to their sites of final functional residence that Gunter Blobel and his Laboratory made their impressive contributions that fully justified the high distinction of a Nobel

Prize in Physiology and Medicine bestowed on Gunter Blobel in 1999.

That event could be described as the coronation of our dreams.


We should recognize that the Center for Molecular Medicine at this University came into being primarily by the persistent efforts of Professor Gheorghe Benga.

In in anticipation of the First World War, The British Admiralty constructed a series of heavily armed cruisers which were baptized with unusual names such as Indomitable and Indefatigable. In their own way they were successful in maintaining the supremacy of the British Navy at the beginning of the war, just as the Indomitable and

Indefatigable efforts of Professor Gheorghe Benga have been successful in organizing this Institute of Molecular Medicine which I hope will have a memorable future.


George E. Palade


Fax on December 5, 2003


I did not expect the Nobel Committee for Chemistry to select water channels as area to give prominence this year and I did not realize how close is your work to that of Peter Agre. The idea of a petition has the merit of attracting the attention of scientific community to the regrettable mistake of your omission from the group of laureates this year. It is highly unlikely that the committee will reverse its decision but none the less it is important to register your grievance. In any case I signed the petition received from you. I wish you enough courage and strength to carry through this battle and I remain your sincerely,


George E. Palade.


Peter Agre (2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry)

“Date: Thu, 04 Dec 2003 15:28:47 -0500
From: Peter Agre <pagre@jhmi.edu> Take address
Subject: Re: note from Peter
To: Gheorghe Benga <gbenga@clujnapoca.ro>
Cc: gepalade@sbcglobal.net
Reply-to: Peter Agre <pagre@bs.jhmi.edu>
Dear Gheorghe,

I am about to leave for Stockholm and will not return until 12/19. I
certainly regret any misunderstandings about your work. I will look at the
references again when I write my chapter for Le Prix Nobel. Your work, along
with Solomon, Macey, Finkelstein, and others, was visionary and ran counter
to the prevailing view that diffusion through the bilayer explained
everything. You are correct that the field owes you recognition, but you
should also know that many people do not cite our 1992 Science paper either.

Moreover, the Nobel Committee never consulted me in advance, and I must
confess I am astonished that they found our work worthy of recognition.
Although petitions led to the recall of the Governor of California, the
Swedish Nobel Committees are completely secretive, and I was unaware of being
nominated. The information will not be made public for 50 years. So while our
grandchildren can look into this, you and I will never know what went on.

Best wishes,
Peter Agre”

“From: Gheorghe Benga <gbenga@clujnapoca.ro> Take address
To: Peter Agre <pagre@bs.jhmi.edu>
Cc: gbenga@personal.ro, gbenga@umfcluj.ro
Subject: Re: Re: note from Peter
Date: Fri, 5 Dec 2003 15:50:34 +0200
Dear Peter,
Thank you for your fast reply. Of course, I am waiting to see your Nobel
Lecture and the reference to my work, after so many years of not citing it.
Until then a few points.
1)I do not believe that the fact that some people have not cited you is an
excuse for you not citing at all our work on the identification of water
channel proteins.
2) Once again, Solomon, Macey, Finkelstein and others either have not
identified any protein in relation to water channels, or identified band 3
(anion channel) as a common pore for everything.
3) The mercurial labeling in the way we performed it was very conclusive.
a)We blocked all SH groups not involved in water transport by NEM so that
“the many polypeptides in band 4.5″ are not labeled by mercurial; b)then
performed the labeling under conditions of specific inhibition of water
transport, that was measured by NMR; c)since we have previously performed
extensive studies on the effects of inhibitors of other transport processes
in red blood cell (glucose,etc) and none of those markedly inhibited the
water permeability, I clearly stated in our Biochemistry paper, that “it
remains possible that a minor membrane protein that binds PCMBS is involved
in water transport”. I also indicated the way to clarify the role of
polypeptides we labeled: “through studies on the reconstitution of purified
proteins in liposomes”. (see the last paragraph in our Biochemistry paper). It is clear that we discovered the glycosylated component of aquaporin 1 in
I agree with you that you have isolated the protein (by chance in 1988) and
in 1992 demonstrated its function.
This is the chronology of the discovery of water channel proteins I described
in the Cell Biol. Int. review. The analogy with the discovery of America by
Columbus, or the analogy with the discovery of a child by ultrasonography
applies to my contribution to the discovery of aquaporin 1, without
diminishing your own merit.
The future will show us whether the scientific and academic community will
agree to recognize me as A (NOT THE) discoverer of aquaporin 1. My campaign
will go on for a long time, until I will get proper credit.
Gheorghe Benga”