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

John E. Affeldt, MD - May 26, 1918 -

Medical director at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in Los Angeles County from 1957-1964, Dr. Affeldt was in charge of the polio respiratory center there (one of 13 in the US) and organized the first extensive home care system for significantly disabled polio survivors, who were up to that time "warehoused" in the hospital.

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Augusta Strongman Alba, MD - October 7, 1924 -

Dr. Alba’s medical career, ultimately as Associate Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University, centered on polio survivors who required breathing assistance. Her dedication to solving the respiratory insufficiency problems of polio patients led her to master every piece of ventilator equipment and technique—the rocking bed, chest...

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David Bodian, PhD, MD - May 15, 1910 - September 18, 1992

A long-time polio researcher, Bodian and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins demonstrated that there were only three strains of poliovirus: Type I, Type II and Type III. The distribution percentage (82.1%, 10.2%, 7.7% respectively) found in the early samples of the late 40s held. Bodian demonstrated that the poliovirus was transmitted through the...

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Charles Hudson Bynum - November 11, 1905 - January 8, 1996

Charles Hudson Bynum was an African-American educator and civil rights campaigner who became the Director of Interracial Activities for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (March of Dimes) from 1944 to 1971. His path-breaking work of outreach to African-Americans with polio in the United States helped to ensure that black children and...

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Victor J. Cabasso, DSc - April 1, 1915 - February 28, 2012

Victor J. Cabasso was a pioneer virologist and immunologist who worked with Dr. Albert Sabin on creating the polio vaccine. At the Lederle Laboratories in New York, they created two strains of live polio virus and developed methods for weakening one strain until it could not possibly cause the disease while retaining its complete structure. The...

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Justin Dart, Jr. - August 29, 1930 - June 22, 2002

Justin Dart was an international human rights activist and leader of the international disability rights movement for three decades. His leadership and accomplishments earned him the distinction of “the father of the Americans with Disabilities Act” and “the godfather of the disability rights movement.”

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Philip A. Drinker, PhD - December 12, 1894 - October 19, 1972

Drinker and his colleague, Louis A. Shaw, successfully revived a comatose girl of 8 who had polio by placing her in their Drinker respirator or "iron lung." She died a few days later of pneumonia, but, in 1928, the concept of external assisted ventilation was established.

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Renato Dulbecco, MD - February 22, 1914 - February 19, 2012

Dr. Dulbecco, an Italian-born American virologist, worked on methods to culture the viruses. Along with Marguerite Vogt at the California Institute of Technology, he was the first to successfully grow the poliovirus in vitro (“in glass”), purify it (plaque purification) and determine the amount of poliovirus present in a cell culture. This step...

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John "Jack" Haven Emerson - February 5, 1906 - February 4, 1997

A self-taught American inventor of biomedical devices, Emerson specialized in respiratory equipment (see "Polio Equipment Price List, March 31, 1956") and made improvements to the design of the iron lung. The Emerson lung was lighter, quieter, simpler, more reliable and was widely used in the ‘30s and ‘40s and the 1950s polio epidemics.

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John Franklin Enders, PhD - February 10, 1897 - September 8, 1985

John Franklin Enders was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for cultivating poliomyelitis virus in non-nervous tissue cultures. Receiving the award with him were his younger colleagues Frederick C. Robbins and Thomas H. Weller, both who worked with him at the Research Division of Infectious Disease at the Children's Hospital of...

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