Harald zur Hausen was born on March 11, 1936 in Gelsenkirchen-Buer, Germany. He studied Medicine at the Universities of Bonn, Hamburg and Düsseldorf and received his M.D. in 1960. After his internship he worked as postdoc at the Institute of Microbiology in Düsseldorf, subsequently in the Virus Laboratories of the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia where he was later appointed as Assistant Professor. After a period of 3 years as a senior scientist at the Institute of Virology of the University of Würzburg, he was appointed in 1972 as Chairman and Professor of Virology at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. In 1977 he moved to a similar position to the University of Freiburg. From 1983 until 2003 he was appointed as Scientific Director of the Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum (German Cancer Research Center) in Heidelberg. He retired from this position in 2003.
He received a number of national and international awards, among them the Robert-Koch-Price, the Charles S. Mott Price of the General Motors Cancer Research Foundaton, the Federation of the European Cancer Societies Clinical Research Award, the Paul-Ehrlich-Ludwig Darmstätter-Price, the Jung-Price, Hamburg, the Charles Rudolphe Brupbacher Price, Zürich, the Prince Mahidol Award, Bangkok, the Raymond Bourgine Award, Paris, the Coley-Award, New York, the Life Science Achievement Award of the American Association for Cancer Research, San Diego, the German Special Order of Merit with Star and the Nobel-Prize for Medicine, 2008. He received 30 honorary MD and Ph.D. doctorates.