Harald zur Hausen is born in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. In his childhood he experiments the atrocity of the Second World War. The area around his village is heavily bombed. Since an early age, he shows great interest for nature and he is determined to become a scientist.
Harald zur Hausen studies Medicine at the University of Bonn.
Harald zur Hausen graduates in Medicine and also finishes his MD thesis.
Zur Hausen becomes chairman of the Institute of Clinical Virology in Erlangen-Nürnberg. He studies cervical cancer’s causes. In the late 1960s, Herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2) emerges as prime suspect based on some seroepidemiological observations. Zur Hausen searches for HSV-2 sequences in cervical cancer biopsies studying genital warts; those had been shown to contain typical papilloma-virus particles. His group, as well as the group around Gérard Orth, identifies the plurality of the human papillomavirus family.
Harald zur Hausen studies at Gymnasium Antonianum Vechta.
Harald zur Hausen is appointed as the Scientific Director of the German Cancer Research Centre (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum) in Heidelberg. While he reorganises this research centre, he maintains some time for laboratory research and he analyses with Frank Rösl intracellular and extracellular control mechanisms preventing the activity of viral oncogenes in proliferating epithelial cells.
Harald zur Hausen receives the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier "for discovery of human papilloma viruses causing cervical cancer."
Thanks to a Eberhard Wecker’s offer, Zur Hausen moves back to Germany. He decides to change his topics to EBV research to prove that EBV DNA persists in every tumour cell of Burkitt's lymphoma and does not establish a persistent infection there, as assumed at that time by many. He receives a large number of Burkitt's lymphoma cell lines and tumour biopsies. The biopsies also include material from nasopharyngeal carcinomas, where serological assays also suggest an involvement of EBV infections.
To receive a license to practice medicine Harald zur Hausen begins an internship in Wimbern, Isny and Gelsenkirchen.
Zur Hausen moves to the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. He works with Werner and Gertrude Henle who focus on the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Zur Hausen works on the induction of specific chromosomal aberrations in adenovirus type 12-infected human cells, simultaneously studying a DNA-replication disturbance of individual chromosomes in human lymphoblastoid and lymphoma cell lines. He proves the presence of EBV particles in individual serologically antigen-positive Burkitt's lymphoma cells.
By the end of 1969, Harald zur Hausen is able to solve the problem of the purification of sufficient quantities of EBV DNA from a low number of spontaneously virus-producing cells. He shows that the non-EBV-producing Burkitt's lymphoma cell line Raji contain multiple copies per cell of EBV DNA. He demonstrates also EBV DNA in Burkitt's lymphoma and nasopharyngeal cancer biopsies: this is the first demonstration of persistent tumour virus DNA in human malignancies.
Harald zur Hausen studies at the University of Hamburg.
Harald zur Hausen studies at Medical Academy in Düsseldorf.
Zur Hausen becomes chairman of the Institute of Virology in Freiburg. Many of his Erlangen’s co-workers follow him to go on studying human papillomaviruses. In ‘83 the group isolates HPV-16, in 1984 HPV-18 DNA. The isolation and description of this two most frequent HPV types in cervical cancer is a success. Moreover, two viral genes, E6 and E7, are regularly transcribed in cancer cells by zur Hausen's group. Precursor lesions of cervical cancer also contain these viruses and express the respective genes.
Harald zur Hausen retires but keeps a laboratory in the virus building of the Cancer Centre and continues to act as Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Cancer.
Zur Hausen joins the Institute for Microbiology at the University of Düsseldorf as a laboratory assistant. Leaving his life of a practicing physician to work in Medical Microbiology and Immunology causes some doubts. He considers the possibility to retrace his steps, but after a couple of months he gets fascinated by experimental studies. He works on virus-induced chromosomal modifications and at the same time receives a relatively solid training in diagnostic bacteriology and virology.