In Memoriam: Professor Ralf Pettersson

Professor Ralf Pettersson passed away on the 3th of November 2011 in Stockholm after a long fight against cancer.

Ralf Pettersson had a unique career as a scientist and evaluator of scientific institutions and programmes in Finland, Sweden and many other countries. He was a member of the Scientific Advisory Boards of the Neuroscience Center in 2002-2006 and the Institute of Biotechnology in 2001-2010.
Ralf Pettersson was born on the 23rd of May 1945 in Helsinki. He became Licenciate of Medicine at the University of Helsinki in 1971, Doctor in Medical Sciences in 1974 and Docent in virology in 1978.

His observations during his thesis work made the Uukuniemi virus a model for the large bunyavirus superfamily and a useful tool for the analysis of the function of the Golgi complex in animal cells. Ralf obtained his post-doctoral training in 1976-77 in Nobel Laureate David Baltimore´s laboratory in the Center for Cancer Research at MIT in Boston. After his return to Finland he worked at the Department of Virology of the University of Helsinki. He was one of the founders of the SITRA Recombinant DNA project in 1980-1982 and the Recombinant DNA Laboratory of the University of Helsinki in 1983.

In 1986 he was appointed as Director of the newly established Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research Stockholm and Adjunct Professor in Molecular Biology at the Karolinska Institute, where he served until August 2006.

Ralf Pettersson has published 120 peer reviewed original articles, 67 reviews and proceedings mainly in virology. He has received several honors and awards including the Finnish Cultural Foundation prize, Runeberg prize and D.K. Ludwig award.

Ralf served the global scientific community in many prestigious positions. He was a member, vice chairman and chairman of the committee for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1990-2000. He also served as a member, vice president and president of the Virology Division of the International Union of Microbiological Societies (IUMS) during 1990-1996. In Finland Ralf Pettersson´s impact on the research quality as a member of the scientific advisory boards of the Neuroscience Center, Institute of Biotechnology, Finnish Genome Center, Biocenter Oulu and A.I. Virtanen Institute in years 1997-2006 was highly appreciated. He was also a member, vice-chairman and chairman of the Sigrid Jusélius Foundation in 1990-2007, and served in evaluation committees of the Academy of Finland as well as several other funding organizations in Europe.

Ralf Pettersson was a warm and intelligent person with excellent social skills highly appreciated by his colleagues, students and the scientific community. We have lost a brilliant scientist and assessor of research, and an influential advocate of science.


Heikki Rauvala
Ulla Lahtinen