Were it not for World War II, Hilary Koprowski might be famous today as a concert pianist instead of a biomedical scientist whose achievements, including development of the first oral polio vaccine, have saved thousands of lives.

Koprowski, who was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1916, at one time considered a career as a pianist, graduating from music conservatories in Warsaw and Rome. As the only child of the first female dental surgeon ever graduated from a Russian dental school, Koprowski grew up with a strong family tradition in medicine, and in 1939, he received his medical degree from the University of Warsaw.

After the outbreak of World War II in Europe disrupted his musical training, he went to Brazil from 1940 to 1944 as a research associate with the Rockefeller Foundation's Yellow Fever Research Service. There, he received training in virology, which led him to pursue a career in...

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