Pediatrician and Polio Pioneer

Today is the 83rd birthday of Frederick Chapman Robbins, an American pediatrician and virologist who played an important role in the development of the polio vaccine.

After investigating viral epidemics for the U.S. Army during World War II, Robbins joined a research team at the Children's Hospital in Boston. In 1948, he found a way to grow viruses in the laboratory, using cultured cells in a nutrient solution--a discovery that made isolation and study of viruses much easier.

By 1952, Robbins's group had successfully propagated the polio virus in mixtures of human embryonic skin and muscle cells. This culture system not only helped Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin produce polio vaccines, but also shed light on how poliomyelitis attacks the body. It suggested that the virus infects other tissues first before it invades the brain and spinal cord. Robbins and his colleagues John Enders and Thomas Weller received the 1954 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their work.

[Source: Britannica Online]