John Franklin Enders
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1954
Born: 10 February 1897, West Hartford, CT, USA
Died: 8 September 1985, Waterford, CT, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA; Research Division of Infectious Diseases, Children's Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA
Prize motivation: “for their discovery of the ability of poliomyelitis viruses to grow in cultures of various types of tissue”
Prize share: 1/3
Many infectious diseases are caused by viruses—very small biological particles. A virus lacks metabolism of its own and cannot multiply without infecting a living cell. For a long time the prevailing opinion was that viruses could not be cultured in a laboratory. However, in 1941 John Enders, Frederick Robbins, and Thomas Weller succeeded in culturing the virus that causes polio in human muscle and tissue in a laboratory setting. This became an important step on the road toward a vaccine against polio.