Image of a cell

Albert B. Sabin

  • National Medal of Science
  • Biological Sciences

For numerous fundamental contributions to the understanding of viruses and viral diseases, culminating in the development of the vaccine which has eliminated poliomyelitis as a major threat to human health.

In the early 1900s, the summer months – and the bacteria hotbeds of swimming pools and lakes – ushered in the season of polio, a disease that causes paralysis in children.

Jonas Salk, hailed as the polio vaccine inventor, was the first to create a successful vaccine using a killed version of the virus.

Meanwhile, Albert Sabin, a Polish researcher, believed that only a medication containing the live virus would yield long-term immunity.

By the 1960s, Sabin’s vaccine, taken orally through drops or sugar cubes, replaced Salk’s killed virus method as the standard in polio prevention in the United States.

“A scientist who is also a human being cannot rest while knowledge which might be used to reduce suffering rests on the shelf,” Sabin said.

Since the advent of the oral medication, worldwide cases of the deadly disease have been reduced by 99 percent, according to the World Health Organization.