Obituary: Gunnar Haukenes (1927 – 2021)

A nestor of Norwegian virology, Professor Emeritus Gunnar Haukenes, has passed away.

Gunnar Haukenes died on 21 August 2021 after a short illness in his 95th year. He was born in Arendal in 1927 and proved to be gifted both intellectually and musically with perfect pitch. In his youth, he had to choose between professional careers as a pianist and medical education. It was the medicine that won, and he completed his medical education at the University of Oslo in 1951.

Gunnar Haukenes defended his doctoral degree “Immunochemical studies on Polysaccharide A from Staphylococcus aureus” in 1962. This was among the first doctoral degrees at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Bergen, and he followed up with several publications in this bacteriological course in the next few years. He also had a research stay abroad at the University of Rochester, New York, from 1963 to 1964.

Gunnar Haukenes’ professional identity is primarily related to the build-up of virological research and diagnostics in Bergen, first with studies of the immune response to influenza viruses, later with research on rubella virus, measles virus and HIV. In 1963, the microbiological and immunological research moved from Allégaten into the newly built MFH building, today Armauer Hansen’s house, on the medical campus in Bergen.

In 1966, a dedicated virus lab was stablished at the MFH building, with Gunnar Haukenes as the first leader, first as a lecturer at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and at the same time a consultant in virology at Haukeland Hospital. In the next few years, Haukenes built up both virological research and diagnostics in Bergen. His position as lecturer was in 1972 changed into a personal professorship.

The medical students remember Haukenes as a highly skilled and thorough lecturer in virology, and as a committed and friendly person who would answer any question in the breaks.

Gunnar Haukenes had a colossal knowledge in medical microbiology and was consulted by colleagues both locally and nationally, and he always impressed with his precise and wise answers. In the Norwegian and Scandinavian virology environments, he was an authority and was described as one of Scandinavia’s foremost virologists of the era.

Throughout his life, he was a gifted piano player. For the past seven years, after his wife died, Haukenes lived at Fantoft Care Centre, where he daily played piano for the other residents.


Gunnar Haukenes will be remembered as a sympathetic and dedicated scientist and lecturer with great integrity and profound knowledge that many benefited from.


For colleagues at the University of Bergen and Haukeland University Hospital,

Lars Haarr, Birgitta Åsjö, Karl-Henning Kalland, Elling Ulvestad


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