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In Memoriam: László Bito (1934-2021)
November 22, 2021

László Bito, doctor, teacher, writer, and generous benefactor to the Harriman Institute, was 22 years old when he escaped from his native Hungary after the crushed revolution of 1956 and was granted asylum in the United States, where he obtained his Ph.D. from Columbia University in Medical Cell Biology. His research led to the development of Xalatan, the drug that has saved the sight of millions of glaucoma sufferers.

Dr. Bito has published more than 150 scientific articles and received, among many others, the highest recognition in the field of eye research, the Proctor Medal. Upon retiring from Columbia University as Emeritus Professor of Ocular Physiology, he returned to Hungary and his first love of writing. Some of his fourteen non-scientific books—novels, essays and three anthologies of some of his more than 100 newspaper and magazine articles—have appeared in translation in half a dozen countries.

László Bito will be remembered as a generous friend of the Harriman Institute. Beginning in 2003, Dr. Bito made a number of significant contributions to establish a permanent fund to endow the István Deák Visiting Professorship in East Central European Studies, which since 2007 has brought to Columbia some of the best scholars and teachers from Hungary and Eastern Europe more generally. We are very lucky this semester to have historian David Do Paço.

Read the obituaries in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Scientist.

Plans for an event to honor Dr. Bito’s memory will be announced shortly.

Photo: Dr. Bito with his wife Olivia at a book launch in June 2019. Photo by Andrea Pók.