Polio Place

A service of Post-Polio Health International


Many researchers contributed to an understanding of the poliomyelitis virus and its control with immunizations. Preventing poliomyelitis was the focus of the work done in the first half of the Twentieth Century. Other scientists and physicians left an important legacy by developing treatments and devices during that time. 

Many people have been instrumental in improving the lives of polio's survivors - the people for whom the vaccine was too late. 

Explore the lives of these notable individuals. 

John E. Affeldt, MD Thomas Francis, Jr., MD Isabel Merrick Morgan, PhD
Augusta Alba, MD Paul R. Harrington, MD Mark O'Brien
David Bodian PhD, MD Judith E. Heumann Basil O'Connor
Charles H. Bynum Dorothy M. Horstmann, MD John Rodman Paul, MD
Victor J. Cabasso, DSc Florence Peterson Kendall Jacquelin Perry, MD
Justin Dart, Jr. Sister Elizabeth Kenny Thomas Milton Rivers
Philip A. Drinker, PhD Ruth L. Kirschstein, MD Edward V. Roberts
Renato Dulbecco, MD Hilary Koprowski, MD Frederick C. Robbins, MD
John "Jack" Haven Emerson Karl Landsteiner, MD Franklin Delano Roosevelt
John Franklin Enders, PhD Virginia "Gini" Laurie Albert B. Sabin, MD
Leone N. Farrell, PhD Jean Macnamara, MD Jonas Salk, MD
Simon Flexner, MD Joseph Louis Melnick, PhD Mary E. Switzer
    Thomas H. Weller, MD

Leone Norwood Farrell, PhD - April 13, 1904 - September 24, 1986

Leone Farrell, PhD, was a key figure in the successful mass production of the polio vaccine, enabling Jonas Salk and his team enough serum to perform the initial polio vaccine trials in 1954. As part of a Canadian team of scientists, Farrell supervised a complex production process known as the “Toronto Method” resulting in about 3,000 liters of...

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Simon Flexner, MD - March 25, 1863 - May 2, 1946

Simon Flexner was an American pathologist who showed that antibodies formed by experimental infection could neutralize the poliovirus. It was in 1911 that he discovered the poliovirus antibodies, and he was confident that a "cure" would quickly be found. Flexner was appointed the first director of the influential Rockefeller Institute for Medical...

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Thomas Francis, Jr., MD - July 15, 1900 - October 1, 1969

As director of the Poliomyelitis Vaccine Evaluation Center at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Dr. Francis designed, supervised and evaluated the field trials of the injected inactivated polio vaccine (1954) developed by Jonas Salk. He agreed to oversee the project only if an equal or larger number of children were injected with an inert...

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Paul Randall Harrington, MD - September 27, 1911 - November 29, 1980

Paul Randall Harrington was an American orthopedic surgeon best known as the designer of the Harrington Rod, an internal device for the straightening and immobilization of the spine. It entered common use in the early 1960s and remained the gold standard for scoliosis surgery until the late 1990s. The poliomyelitis epidemics of the post-war years...

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Judith Ellen Heumann - December 18, 1947 -

Judith E. Heumann is an American disability rights activist and an internationally recognized leader in the disability community. After 30-plus years working as an activist, Heumann advocates that “Disability only becomes a tragedy for me when society fails to provide the things we need to lead our lives—job opportunities or barrier-free buildings...

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Dorothy Millicent Horstmann, MD - July 2, 1911 - January 11, 2001

Dr. Horstmann made medical history by showing that the poliovirus enters the bloodstream for a brief period of time before attacking the central nervous system. Her team detected the poliovirus in the blood of infected monkeys and chimpanzees before the signs of paralysis appeared. The virus was not found after paralysis, because antibodies had...

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Florence Peterson Kendall - May 5, 1910 - January 28, 2006

Florence Peterson Kendall, PT, FAPTA, had a 75-year career as the United States’ foremost and influential physical therapist and is considered the “mother” of physical therapy. Florence and her husband, Henry O. Kendall, also a physical therapist, spent many years treating polio patients at Children's Hospital in Baltimore. At that time, physical...

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Sister Elizabeth Kenny - September 20, 1880 - November 30, 1952

Kenny was an Australian nurse who as early as 1910 had reported treating polio cases in the bush back "to normalcy." She was told by the orthopedic surgeons of the time that her ideas violated the accepted rules for treatment, among which was immobilization (e.g., splinting, plaster casting.) In the the '40s, she wrote articles and visited the...

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Ruth L. Kirschstein, MD - October 12, 1926 - October 6, 2009

Ruth L. Kirschstein, MD was a pathologist and a science administrator. In 1974, she became the first woman to be appointed director of an Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), ie, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Her career spanned more than half a century. After the Cutter Incident of 1955, Ruth played a...

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Hilary Koprowski, MD - December 5, 1916 - April 11, 2013

Hilary Koprowski developed the first oral polio vaccine in 1950 when he fed, on February 27, an attenuated Type II strain oral polio vaccine to a child. There were no side effects following vaccination and the child developed antibodies against polio. Within a year, he attenuated Type I and III of poliovirus and made them into vaccines which were...

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