Bengt A. Robertson was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1935 and studied medicine at the Karolinska Institute in 1960, followed in 1968 by a Ph.D. degree on the intrapulmonary arterial pattern during normal infancy and in the transposition of great arteries. He became Docent in Pathology at the Karolinska Institute in 1968, and served for many years as a consultant pediatric pathologist at St. Gorban’s Hospital and acting Professor of Pediatric Pathology at Karolinska. From 1974 until his retirement in 2002, he was Director of the Experimental Perinatal Pathology in the Department of Women and Child Health at the Karolinska Institute. In 2000, he was appointed Adjunct Professor of Perinatal Pathology. He also served as a Visiting Professor at the Universities of Toronto (Canada) and Perugia (Italy).
Professor Robertson carried out seminal studies into the etiology, prevention and treatment of the neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), a major cause of death in premature infants. Using animal models, he carried out pioneering research on the physiology and pathophysiology of the respiratory tract as it relates to RDS in premature infants. His team was among the first to show that RDS could be prevented by introducing surfactants into the upper airways prior to the onset of breathing. Subsequently, they established the curative value of surfactant therapy in human premature infants.
Professor Robertson published more than 700 papers and review articles in addition to numerous abstracts and letters, and 5 books in his specialty, including Pulmonary Surfactant: From Molecular Biology to Clinical Practice and Surfactant Therapy for Lung Disease, which were written by Bengt Robertson and H. William Taeusch (editor). He was a member of several societies
of medicine, neonatal medicine and pediatric research and the recipient of many awards. His honors included: Honorary Membership of the Italian Society of Perinatal Medicine, Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, the King Faisal International Prize for Medicine, the Hilda and Alfred Eriksson’s Prize awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Maternité Prize of the European Association of Perinatal Medicine and the Lars Werko Prize awarded by the Heart-Lung Foundation. He was also a short novel writer, a poet and a gifted musician.
On the occasion of his retirement in 2002, the Pediatric University Hospital in Wurzberg held a special symposium in his honor titled New Developments in Neonatal Medicine, to which many senior pediatric specialists contributed. In addition, the Academy of Pediatric Psychiatry incepted a prize carrying his name, which is awarded annually to promising young scientists. Professor Robertson died in December, 2008.
Dr. Robertson, has been awarded the Prize, for conducting much of the pioneering work on the physiology and pathophysiology of the respiratory tract in relation to respiratory distress syndrome in prematurely born fetuses. He showed that the introduction of surfactants into the airways of premature primates could prevent respiratory distress and subsequently established the curative value of administering surfactants to premature human infants.