Thomas Huckle Weller

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Thomas Huckle Weller
Thomas Huckle Weller.jpg
Born(1915-06-15)June 15, 1915
DiedAugust 23, 2008(2008-08-23) (aged 93)
Nationality United States
Alma mater University of Michigan, Harvard Medical School
Known for poliomyelitis viruses
Awards E. Mead Johnson Award (1953)
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1954)
Scientific career
Fields virology

Thomas Huckle Weller (June 15, 1915 – August 23, 2008) was an American virologist. He, John Franklin Enders and Frederick Chapman Robbins were awarded a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1954 for showing how to cultivate poliomyelitis viruses in a test tube, using a combination of human embryonic skin and muscle tissue. [1]


Weller was born and grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and then went to the University of Michigan, where his father Carl Vernon Weller was a professor in the Department of Pathology. At Michigan, he studied medical zoology and received a B.S. and an M.S., with his masters thesis on fish parasites. In 1936, Weller entered Harvard Medical School, and in 1939 began working under John Franklin Enders, with whom he would later (along with Frederick Chapman Robbins) share the Nobel Prize. It was Enders who got Weller involved in researching viruses and tissue-culture techniques for determining infectious disease causes. Weller received his MD in 1940, and went to work at Children's Hospital in Boston. In 1942, during World War II, he entered the Army Medical Corps and was stationed at the Antilles Medical Laboratory in Puerto Rico, earning the rank of Major and heading the facility's Departments of Bacteriology, Virology and Parasitology. After the War, he returned to Children's Hospital in Boston, and it was there in 1947, that he rejoined Enders in the newly created Research Division of Infectious Diseases. After several leading positions, in July 1954, he was appointed Tropical Public Health Department Head at the Harvard School of Public Health. Weller also served from 1953 to 1959 as Director of the Commission on Parasitic Diseases of the American Armed Forces Epidemiological Board. In 1954 he was awarded the George Ledlie prize in recognition of his research on rubella, polio and cytomegalovirus(CMV) viruses.

In addition to his research on polio, for which he won the Nobel Prize, Weller also contributed to treating schistosomiasis, and Coxsackie viruses. He was also the first to isolate the virus responsible for varicella.

In 1945, Weller married Kathleen Fahey who died in 2011 aged 95. They had two sons and two daughters.


Related Research Articles

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Polio, short for poliomyelitis, or infantile paralysis, is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. In about 0.5 percent of cases, there is muscle weakness resulting in an inability to move. This can occur over a few hours to a few days. The weakness most often involves the legs, but may less commonly involve the muscles of the head, neck and diaphragm. Many people fully recover. In those with muscle weakness, about 2 to 5 percent of children and 15 to 30 percent of adults die. Another 25 percent of people have minor symptoms such as fever and a sore throat, and up to 5 percent have headache, neck stiffness and pains in the arms and legs. These people are usually back to normal within one or two weeks. In up to 70 percent of infections there are no symptoms. Years after recovery, post-polio syndrome may occur, with a slow development of muscle weakness similar to that which the person had during the initial infection.

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Rubella, also known as German measles or three-day measles, is an infection caused by the rubella virus. This disease is often mild with half of people not realizing that they are infected. A rash may start around two weeks after exposure and last for three days. It usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. The rash is sometimes itchy and is not as bright as that of measles. Swollen lymph nodes are common and may last a few weeks. A fever, sore throat, and fatigue may also occur. In adults joint pain is common. Complications may include bleeding problems, testicular swelling, and inflammation of nerves. Infection during early pregnancy may result in a child born with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) or miscarriage. Symptoms of CRS include problems with the eyes such as cataracts, ears such as deafness, heart, and brain. Problems are rare after the 20th week of pregnancy.

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