Polio Place

A service of Post-Polio Health International

Simon Flexner, MD

Born: March 25, 1863
Died: May 2, 1946

Major Contribution:

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 Research in 1903, a position he held until 1935.

Other Information:

Brief Biography:  Flexner was born in 1863 in Louisville, Kentucky, and received his medical degree from the University of Louisville at age 26.  He was a post-graduate student at the newly-established medical school at Johns Hopkins University and was soon appointed resident pathologist. He investigated cerebrospinal meningitis in Maryland and spent two years in the Philippines exploring tropical diseases.  He became the chair of pathology at the University of Pennsylvania in early 1901 was sent to San Francisco to confirm bubonic plague cases.

He became a champion of experimental pathology and helped to base medicine and medical education on a sound scientific basis. The early finding of poliovirus antibodies was confidence building, but his belief that the poliovirus entered through the nose and proceeding directly to the central nervous system prevented him and others from quickly finding a vaccine. It would not happen until 11 years after his death in 1946. 

Location of papers:
American Philosophical Society
105 South Fifth Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106-3386
Online Table of Contents of these papers is available.

A Guide to Selected Files of the Professional Papers of Simon Flexner at the American Philosophical Society Library. Margaret Miller, Simon Flexner. American Philosophical Society. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society Library, 1979 Located at 22 libraries.

The Rockefeller Chronicle. Anne Bennett Swingle. Hopkins Medical News, Fall 2002. This article describes the development of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, including Simon Flexner’s role. 

Painting of Simon Flexner at Medicine in American Art.

Major Articles: Simon Flexner, MD

Articles found at HighWire Press® Standford University. ( *Asterisk denotes article is free of subscription fee.)

A Note On The Serum Treatment Of Poliomyelitis (Infantile Paralysis).* Simon Flexner. Science, Aug 1916; 44: 259 - 261.

Physiological Stimulation Of The Choroid Plexus And Experimental Poliomyelitis.* Simon Flexner, Harold L. Amoss, and Frederick Eberson. J. Exp. Med., Jun 1918; 27: 679 - 687.

Persistence Of The Virus Of Poliomyelitis In The Nasopharynx.* Simon Flexner and Harold L. Amoss. J. Exp. Med., Apr 1919; 29: 379 - 395.

Experiments On The Nasal Route Of Infection In Poliomyelitis.* Simon Flexner and Harold L. Amoss. J. Exp. Med., Jan 1920; 31: 123 - 134.

Encephalitis And Poliomyelitis.* Simon Flexner. PNAS, Mar 1920; 6: 103 - 104.

Revived Activity Of The Virus Of Poliomyelitis.* Simon Flexner and Harold L. Amoss. J. Exp. Med., Jan 1924; 39: 191 - 197.

An Immunizing Strain Of The Virus Of Poliomyelitis.* Simon Flexner and Harold L. Amoss. J. Exp. Med., Apr 1924; 39: 625 - 630.

A Method for the Determination of the Activity of Antipoliomyelitic Serum. Simon Flexner and Cornelius P. Rhoads. PNAS, Jul 1929; 15: 609 - 611.

Poliomyelitis (Infantile Paralysis). Simon Flexner. Science, Sep 1931; 74: 251 - 254. Accelerated Infection In Experimental Poliomyelitis. Simon Flexner. Science, Nov 1931; 74: 520 - 521.

Simultaneity In The Onset Of Poliomyelitis. Simon Flexner. Science, Dec 1931; 74: 601 - 602. Prevention Of Poliomyelitis. Simon Flexner. Science, Jan 1933; 77: 7 - 11.

Prevention Of Poliomyelitis. Simon Flexner. Science, Jan 1933; 77: 7 - 11.

Accelerated, Experimental Poliomyelitis In Nasally Instilled Monkeys. Simon Flexner. Science, Apr 1933; 77: 413 - 414.

Medical Research In The Clinic And Laboratory.Simon Flexner.Science, Jul 1933;78:1- 5.

Early Changes In The Cerebrospinal Fluid Of Monkeys Nasally Instilled With The Virus Of Poliomyelitis. Simon Flexner. Science, Aug 1933; 78: 129 - 130.

Doctor William H. Welch. 1850-1934. Simon Flexner. Science, Jun 1934; 79: 529 - 533.

Concerning Active Immunization In Poliomyelitis. Simon Flexner. Science, Nov 1935; 82: 420 - 421.

The Effects Of Nasally Instilled Virus Of Poliomyelitis On The Cerebrospinal Fluid And The Blood Of Monkeys.* Simon Flexner. J. Exp. Med., Dec 1935; 62: 787 - 804.

Respiratory Versus Gastro-Intestinal Infection In Poliomyelitis.* Simon Flexner. J. Exp. Med., Feb 1936; 63: 209 - 226.

Letters Of Dr. William H. Welch. Simon Flexner. Science, Jul 1936; 84: 63. Reinfection (Second Attack) In Experimental Poliomyelitis.* Simon Flexner. J. Exp. Med., Apr 1937; 65: 497 - 513.

A Half Century Of American Medicine. Simon Flexner. Science, May 1937; 85: 505 - 512.

The Profile Genius Of An American Medical Pioneer.* S Flexner and JT Flexner; Chest, Jul 1971; 60: 13.

The Transmission Of Acute Poliomyelitis To Monkeys. Simon Flexner, M.D. and Paul A. Lewis, M.D Landmark articles. Nov 13 and Dec 4, 1909, (JAMA 1909) JAMA, Aug 1983; 250: 805. Located at 2,570 libraries.

OBITUARY. Simon Flexner. Science, May 1932; 75: 504 - 507.

Articles from WorldCat

Simon Flexner papers, 1902-1945. Simon Flexner. Archival Material (Microfilm copies of originals at APS) Located at Washington University, School of Medical Library, St Louis, Missouri 63110 United States.

Simon Flexner. SC Schatzki. AJR. American Journal of Roentgenology, 1997 Nov; 169(5): 1395-6 From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Located at 683 libraries.

Making medicine scientific: Simon Flexner and experimental medicine at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, 1901-1945. Karen Deane Ross. 2006. Located at University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55455, United States.

The Battle Against Polio. Stephanie True Peters. Juvenile audience Internet Resource. New York: Benchmark Books, ©2005. Located at 385 libraries.

Bibliography: Dr. Simon Flexner, 1890-1937. H. A. von Berg. New York: The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY 14642, United States.

Leadership in a Medical Philanthropy: Simon Flexner and the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. Andrea K Blumenthal. 1991. Thesis/dissertation/manuscript. Archival Material located at: University of Oklahoma, Indiana University, Purdue University, Ohio State University, University of Pittsburgh, Johns Hopkins University, Welch Medical Library, University of Maryland, Drew University Library.

An American Saga: The Story of Helen Thomas and Simon Flexner. James Thomas Flexner. 1984. Boston:Little, Brown.Located at 674 libraries.

Poliomyelitis and the Rockefeller Institute: Social Effects and Institutional Response. Saul Benison. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Vol. xxix, 1974.

Articles from JSTOR

William Henry Welch. Simon Flexner. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 75, No. 4 (1935), pp. 325-331 Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0003-049X%281935%2975%3A4%3C325%3AWHW%3...

Simon Flexner. 1863-1946. Peyton Rous. Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society, Vol. 6, No. 18 (Nov., 1949), pp. 408-445.

Dirt and Diseases: Polio Before FDR. Naomi Rogers. Author(s) of Review: Harry M. Marks Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Summer, 1995), pp. 154-156.

Suggested key words for additional publication searches: pathology, bacteriology, epidemiology, poliomyelitis, vaccine development, Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, medical philanthropy.


View All Artifacts

Back to Top