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 Verne 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

Karl Landsteiner, MD - June 14, 1868 - June 26, 1943

Credited with discovering the poliomyelitis virus, Karl Landsteiner demonstrated a slide of the familiar histological picture of acute poliomyelitis that had been made from the spinal cords of two monkeys, who had been injected with a suspension from a boy of nine who died from polio. This early work (1908) was done with Erwin Popper. Landsteiner...

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Virginia "Gini" Grace Wilson Laurie - June 10, 1913 - June 28, 1989

Gini Laurie earned two titles from the disability community during her lifetime: “glue that holds the world’s polio survivors together” and “grandmother of the independent living moving.” Laurie edited a journal in the late ‘50s and ’60s that featured letters from polio survivors from all over the world with a focus on people with disabilities...

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Dame Annie Jean Macnamara, MD - April 1, 1899 - October 13, 1968

An Australian medical doctor and scientist, Dame Annie Jean Macnamara (later Connor) was best known for her contributions as a consultant and medical officer to the Poliomyelitis Committee of Victoria 1925-31. During the 1937-38 polio epidemic, she worked with Frank Macfarlane Burnet (who later won a Nobel Prize for medicine) to discover that...

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Joseph Louis Melnick, PhD - October 9, 1914 - January 7, 2001

An American, Dr. Melnick was among the first researchers to demonstrate that the poliovirus belongs to a group known as enteroviruses and that they only rarely invade the central nervous system. In 1961, he led a team that developed thermostabilized live polio vaccines, making possible the immunization of millions of people in countries without...

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Isabel Merrick Morgan, PhD - August 20, 1911 - August 18, 1996

Morgan's team successfully inoculated monkeys with a killed-virurs vaccine. From 1945-50, her work at Johns Hopkins defined the level of circulating antibodies needed in the blood stream to protect monkeys from an intracerebral challenge from the poliovirus. Her experiments advanced the knowledge needed to develop a viable vaccine.

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Mark O'Brien - July 31, 1949 - July 4, 1999

Mark O’Brien was a journalist, poet and advocate for people with disabilities. A quadriplegic from polio in 1955, he was dependent on mechanical ventilation using the iron lung much of the time but he also used a chest cuirass. He was cared for by personal attendants that he hired and could fire. He was an ardent opponent of euthanasia and...

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Basil O'Connor - January 8, 1892 - March 9, 1972

A lawyer by training, American born Basil O’Connor was "the architect of the fight against poliomyelitis." In 1927, O’Connor was recruited by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to raise funds to support polio patients at Warm Springs, Georgia. O’Connor assumed the lead role of the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation when Roosevelt was elected Governor of...

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John Rodman Paul, MD - April 18, 1893 - May 6, 1971

John R. Paul and his colleague Dr. James D. Trask identified strains of poliovirus in human waste and the same strains in sewage, thus contributing essential understanding of how polio is spread. From his later study of Alaskan Eskimos (1949), he made the important discovery that a single experience with poliomyelitis resulted in lifelong immunity...

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Jacquelin Perry, MD, DSc (Hon) - May 31, 1918 - March 11, 2013

Known among her peers as the Grande Dame of Orthopaedics, Dr. Jacquelin Perry was one of the first ten women to be certified by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery. She broke new ground in laboratory research by becoming the country’s foremost expert on gait analysis. She is co-author, with Judith Burnfield, of Gait Analysis: Normal and...

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Thomas Milton Rivers, MD - September 3, 1868 - May 12, 1962

Rivers was known as the father of modern virology, in part due to his 1927 publication called Filterable Viruses A Critical Review. He played a critical role in the medical activities of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP) as their "leading scientific spirit." He was the interpreter of science to the Foundations's administration...

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