Purnell Chopin, 91, dies; Researcher lays foundation to fight pandemic

Also his daughter, his wife, Joan, lives with him.

After joining the Hughes Institute, Dr. Chopin liked to tell his colleagues a story about meeting his famous philanthropist. In 1938, Hughes, a skilled aviator as well as an industrialist, was stopping in Baton Rouge to refuel, and Arthur Chopin took 9-year-old Purnell and his brother, Arthur Jr., to visit. They shook hands, but, he said, his primary memory was that Hughes was “too tall.”

Dr. Chopin graduated from high school at age 16 and entered LSU, where he also attended medical school. He received his doctorate in 1953 and completed his residency at the University of Washington. He served in the Air Force in Japan from 1954 to 1955.

He started as a postdoctoral fellow at Rockefeller University and was named a professor in 1959. He later moved into administration, and was vice president and dean of graduate studies when the Howard Hughes Medical Institute hired him.

Howard Hughes founded the institute in 1953, and later transferred his entire holding in the Hughes Aircraft Company for tax purposes, leading to a strange arrangement in which a medical-research non-profit became one of the nation’s largest defense contractors. was owned by one.

Just weeks before Dr. Chopin’s arrival, the Institute sold the company to General Motors for $5.2 billion, making it immediately one of the nation’s wealthiest philanthropists.

In 1987, the president of the institute was forced to resign after a financial scandal, and Dr. Chopin was named in his place. Over the next decade he built it into a major source of funding for biomedical research, with hundreds of scientists spending $4.5 billion for undergraduate and high school science education.

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