Thomas Weller dies

Thomas Weller, who shared the 1954 Nobel Prize in Medicine for propagating polio virus in culture, passed away on Saturday, August 23rd. He was 93. "Thomas Weller was one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century," said Dyann Wirth in linkurl:statement;http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/2008-releases/thomas-weller-nobel-laureate-professor-emeritus-dies.html released by the Harvard School of Public Health, where she is chair of the department of immunology and infectious dis

Megan Scudellari
Aug 26, 2008
Thomas Weller, who shared the 1954 Nobel Prize in Medicine for propagating polio virus in culture, passed away on Saturday, August 23rd. He was 93. "Thomas Weller was one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century," said Dyann Wirth in linkurl:statement;http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/2008-releases/thomas-weller-nobel-laureate-professor-emeritus-dies.html released by the Harvard School of Public Health, where she is chair of the department of immunology and infectious diseases. "His legacy is one to be remembered." In March of 1948, Weller, at the time a research scientist in the lab of John Enders at Children's Hospital in Boston, attempted to grow chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus) in eight flasks of human embryonic muscle and skin tissue. With four flasks left over from the experiment, Weller chose to inoculate them with poliovirus from the lab refrigerator. "It was almost an afterthought," Weller wrote in his 2004 linkurl:autobiography.;http://books.google.com/books?id=jYbqLuOVJlEC&dq=thomas+weller+growing+pathogens&pg=PP1&ots=mpl1OzbmPj&sig=h9nqBlQiOm_KMBIT9LWrppUL3I0&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result Though the chicken pox virus failed to grow, Enders, Weller, and Weller's...
homas Weller was one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century," said Dyann Wirth in linkurl:statement;http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/2008-releases/thomas-weller-nobel-laureate-professor-emeritus-dies.html released by the Harvard School of Public Health, where she is chair of the department of immunology and infectious diseases. "His legacy is one to be remembered." In March of 1948, Weller, at the time a research scientist in the lab of John Enders at Children's Hospital in Boston, attempted to grow chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus) in eight flasks of human embryonic muscle and skin tissue. With four flasks left over from the experiment, Weller chose to inoculate them with poliovirus from the lab refrigerator. "It was almost an afterthought," Weller wrote in his 2004 linkurl:autobiography.;http://books.google.com/books?id=jYbqLuOVJlEC&dq=thomas+weller+growing+pathogens&pg=PP1&ots=mpl1OzbmPj&sig=h9nqBlQiOm_KMBIT9LWrppUL3I0&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result Though the chicken pox virus failed to grow, Enders, Weller, and Weller's roommate, Frederick Robbins, soon determined that the poliovirus was thriving: Fluid from the flasks paralyzed and killed inoculated mice. Soon the men were growing a limitless supply of poliovirus in a variety of nonneural tissues. The discovery led to closer analysis of the virus and eventually the development of polio vaccines by linkurl:Jonas Salk;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/16617/ and Albert Sabin. Two years before Enders, Weller, and Robbins received the linkurl:Nobel Prize,;http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1954/index.html there were 58,000 reported cases of polio in the United States, the most ever. A decade later, in 1964, only 121 cases of polio were reported nationally. Born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Weller received both his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Michigan, where his father was a pathologist. Weller began his M.D. at Harvard Medical School in 1936, and began working with Enders in his last year there. His clinical training at Children's Hospital was interrupted by World War II. After enlisting in 1942, Weller was stationed in Puerto Rico for two and a half years, where he was head of bacteriology, virology, and parasitology at a laboratory responsible for malaria control. Upon his return, Weller picked up his work in Ender's lab at Children's. He was appointed Richard Pearson Strong Professor of Tropical Public Health at Harvard in July 1954, and held that position until 1981. In 1985 he became a professor emeritus in the department. After the poliovirus discovery, Weller moved forward to other challenges in viral research. Shortly after the cultivation of linkurl:poliovirus,;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17794160?ordinalpos=5&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum Weller isolated and characterized the chickenpox virus in a landmark linkurl:study;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13204357?ordinalpos=2&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum of the pathogen, cited almost 800 times since it was published. In 1957, he and colleagues linkurl:published;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13400856?ordinalpos=2&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum the first isolation of cytomegalovirus, recovered from the urine of children with cytomegalic inclusion disease, which has been cited almost 300 times. Three years later, after worrying over cultures from his sick ten-year-old son for a longer period than usual, Weller was the first to isolate the rubella virus. The discovery was published in 1962 and has been cited 370 times since. Weller published more than 150 papers in his lifetime. Weller is survived by his wife, Kathleen, to whom he was married for over 60 years, two sons, a daughter, and six grandchildren.Homepage image from the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

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