A day to remember: John Enders

John Enders

It was 120 years ago, today

John Franklin Enders (February 10, 1897 – September 8, 1985) was an American biomedical scientist and Nobel laureate. Enders has been called

"The Father of Modern Vaccines."

In 1949, Enders, Thomas Huckle Weller, and Frederick Chapman Robbins reported successful in vitro culture of an animal virus—poliovirus. The three received the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for their discovery of the ability of polioviruses to grow in cultures of various types of tissue".

Meanwhile, Jonas Salk applied the Enders-Weller-Robbins technique to produce large quantities of poliovirus, and then developed a polio vaccine in 1952. Upon the 1954 polio vaccine field trial, whose success Salk announced on the radio, Salk became a public hero but failed to credit the many other researchers that his effort rode upon, and was somewhat shunned by America's scientific establishment.

In 1954, Enders and Peebles isolated measlesvirus from an 11-year-old boy, David Edmonston. Enders began development of measles vaccine, using the 'Edmonston-B Strain' of the virus, leading up to the 'Enders-Edmonston Strain' for the vaccine. In October 1960, an Enders team began trials on 1,500 mentally retarded children in New York City and on 4,000 children in Nigeria.

On 17 September 1961, New York Times announced the measles vaccine effective. Refusing credit for only himself, Enders stressed the collaborative nature of the effort. In 1963, Pfizer introduced a deactivated measles vaccine, and Merck & Co introduced an attenuated measles vaccine.


  1. John Franklin Enders, in Wikipedia. Accessed on 10 February 2017
  2. Measles History, at CDC website, accessed 10 February 2017
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