Weller, Thomas Huckle, 1915-2008

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Thomas Huckle Weller, 1915- , AB, 1936, University of Michigan; SM, 1937, University of Michigan; MD, 1940, Harvard Medical School, was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine with John Enders and Frederick Robbins for the successful cultivation of poliomyelitis virus in tissue cultures, which contributed to the development of polio vaccines. Weller was Assistant Director of the Research Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Hospital in Boston, Mass. from 1949 to 1954, when he was named Richard Pearson Strong Professor of Tropical Public Health and Chairman of the Department at Harvard School of Public Health; he also served as Director of the Center for the Prevention of Infectious Diseases, at Harvard School of Public Health from 1965 to 1981. In 1953, Weller became the first American with Frederick Neva to isolate the causative virus of chicken-pox and of shingles, later proving that the two different diseases were caused by the same virus; they developed the first laboratory tests for chicken-pox and shingles.

From the description of Papers, 1960s-1970s. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 79025819

Thomas Huckle Weller (1915-2008), A.B., S.M., 1936, 1937, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; M.D., 1940, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, was a virologist and 1954 Nobel Prize winner who headed the Department of Tropical Health at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, from 1954 to1981.

Weller was born 15 June 1915, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His father, Carl Vernon Weller, headed the pathology department at the University of Michigan, where Weller studied medical zoology and parasitology. At Harvard Medical School, Weller continued his interest in parasitology, combining it with a concern for medical applications in the public health field. In 1942, Weller enlisted in the Army Medical Corps, and while stationed in Puerto Rico, was in charge of the Parasitology and Malaria sections. He also studied cases of schistosomiasis in the country’s male population and developed new diagnostic methods. After the war, Weller returned to Boston to take a position at Children’s Hospital and continued as a research fellow in Pediatrics. In 1948, while working to develop new ways of culturing viruses, he and his colleagues, John Franklin Enders and Frederick Chapman Robbins, were successful in growing the polio virus in human embryonic tissue. This made it possible for Albert Sabin and Jonas Salk to create their polio vaccine. In 1954, Weller and his two collaborators were honored with a Nobel Prize for their efforts. The award came shortly after Weller had accepted Harvard School of Public Health's Richard P. Strong Professorship appointment as head of the Department of Tropical Health, a position he held until his retirement in 1981. In 1953, Weller was asked by the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board to create a commission on parasitic diseases to direct research studies on the effects of such diseases on world populations. Weller served as Director of the Commission while also acting as consultant to the Surgeon General from 1953 to 1959; he would later serve on the Commission on Malaria from 1964 to1972. Throughout, Weller continued his work in virology, and in 1957, he successfully cultivated varicella-zoster, the cause of chicken-pox and shingles. In 1960, using a sample virus obtained from his ten year old son, he isolated the rubella virus responsible for the German Measles.

In addition to the winning the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1954, Weller received many awards for his research, including induction into the National Academy of Science, the E. Mead Johnson Award of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the George Ledlie Prize of Harvard University, and the Walter Reed Medal from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Weller wrote an autobiography in 2004 entitled, Growing Pathogens in Tissue Cultures: Fifty Years in Academic Tropical Medicine, Pediatrics, and Virology.

Thomas Huckle Weller married Kathleen Fahey in 1945, and had two sons, Peter and Robert, and one daughter, Janet. He died in 2008.

From the guide to the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board records of Thomas Huckle Weller, 1953-1972 (inclusive), 1960-1972 (bulk)., (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.Center for the History of Medicine.)

Role Title Holding Repository
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associatedWith Dibner, Bern, person
associatedWith Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine. corporateBody
associatedWith Harvard School of Public Health. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country


Birth 1915-06-15

Death 2008-08-23



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