November 12th 2018
It is with deep sadness that we have to announce the death of Prof. Dr. Marja Simonsuuri-Sorsa. Marja Sorsa was born in 1939 and passed away on November 3, 2018.
Marja Sorsa was a geneticist who has dedicated her professional life to scientific research and public service in the field of occupational health. She was a worldwide highly respected authority in mutagenicity research and genetic toxicology, with special attention to detection of unknown carcinogenic agents in workplaces.
She has been a pioneer in drawing the attention to the ethical aspects of biomonitoring for workers and devoted herself to biomonitoring as part of preventive action in the only interest of worker protection, thereby opposing selection practices.
Dr. Marja Sorsa earned her MSc in genetics at the University of Helsinki in 1963 before continuing her graduate studies at the University of California at Berkeley. Following a visiting fellowship at the Max-Planck-Institut F. Biologie in Tubingen, Germany, Dr. Sorsa completed her PhD in genetics at the University of Helsinki in 1969. Thereafter she returned to the United States as a Fullbright Research Scholar in environmental toxicology at the University of California Davis.
She was Professor Emeritus of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) and was formerly Research Professor in genetic toxicology at the Academy of Finland.
Dr. Sorsa served as Director of the Department of Occupational Hygiene and Toxicology at FIOH and then as Director of the Ministry of Education for the Finish government before retiring in 2003.
Her high credibility and integrity as a scientist, combined with her moral commitment to the daily protection of workers' health, has always given weight to her active interventions. Her stamina in scientific fora has led to the adequate classification of carcinogenic substances despite opposition from industry. She had a pioneering role in increasing the credibility of genetic biomonitoring data as important elements in the international classification of substances as carcinogenic to humans.
Dr. Sorsa is a member of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, Societas Scientiarum Fennica and of the Academia Europea and has been nominated Honorary Member of the Finnish Society of Toxicology. She was elected to the Collegium Ramazzini in 1985 and served on its Executive Council from 1996 to 2001.
Marja's life-long commitment to public service has influenced the thousands of students and employees who have passed through her classrooms and worked under her leadership at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and beyond.
She received the Ramazzini Award in 2010 for her scientific leadership in promoting the ethical aspects of occupational and environmental health research and practices.
In 2017, she has been awarded during the Science Days the 14th Bjorn Kurten Prize of the NORDENSKIOLD SOCIETY in Finland for her lifetime scientific work and her contribution to paleontological research. During her studies she found a piece of bones from Suomusjarvi, which she later handed over to the Finnish Natural History Museum. It was new paleontological finding of a fossil specimen of an elephant forfather Deinotherium sp., dated some 4-14 million years ago. In Finland this means a subtropical-tropical climate and two ice ages ago.
Prof Marja Sorsa has always been a lover of nature and of Finnish culture and at the same time a convinced world citizen. She also was a promotor and protector of women in science all over the world.
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