Research to Fight Polio
John F. Enders 1897-1985


John Enders served as a pilot in World War I, sold real estate, and studied English literature and Germanic and Celtic languages at Harvard with the idea of becoming a teacher. But friendships with medical students at Harvard awakened his interest in biology, and he received his doctorate in bacteriology and immunology in 1930.

Enders taught at Harvard until 1946, when he was asked to become director of a new laboratory for research in infectious diseases at the Children's Medical Center. Here, Enders perfected the technique of growing cells in test tubes, which made it possible to grow polio virus and other childhood viruses including measles, German measles, and mumps. In 1954 he received the Nobel Prize for this work, which opened new avenues to the study of viruses and the development of vaccines as well as advances in biology, biochemistry, and genetics.