William Franklyn-Miller Biography

John Franklin Enders, known as the Father of modern vaccines, was an influential American virologist and microbiologist. His groundbreaking research and discoveries in the field of science have had a lasting impact. Enders is credited with cultivating the polio-virus in human cell tissue cultures, leading to the development of a live vaccine for polio. Additionally, he isolated the measles virus and successfully developed a vaccine to eradicate the disease. Surprisingly, Enders did not pursue science until later in life, initially enrolling in a literature course at Harvard. However, his interest in biology and medicine was reignited by his friendship with medical students, prompting him to pursue a Ph.D. in bacteriology and immunology. Enders’ contributions were recognized with the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1953 for his work on culturing the poliovirus. Throughout his career, he continued to make significant advancements, including the isolation and vaccine development for measles.

Quick Facts

  • Died At Age: 88
  • Died on: September 8, 1985
  • U.S. State: Connecticut
  • Virologists
  • Immunologists
  • Awards:
    • 1954 – Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
    • 1954 – Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research

Childhood & Early Life

John Franklin Enders was born on February 10, 1897, in West Hartford, Connecticut, to John Ostrom Enders and Harriet Goulden Enders. His father was the CEO of the Hartford National Bank and left Enders $19 million upon his death. Enders attended the Noah Webster School in Hartford and later St Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. He enrolled at Yale University but left during World War I to join the United States Army Air Corps. After the war, he returned to Yale to complete his degree.


After completing his degree, Enders tried his hand at several fields including real estate and studying English literature at Harvard University. It was at Harvard that he became interested in biology and enrolled for a PhD degree in bacteriology and immunology. In 1930, he was awarded his doctorate degree for his thesis on bacterial anaphylaxis and hypersensitivity.

Enders joined Harvard University as a faculty member in the department of bacteriology and immunology. He studied factors related to bacterial virulence and resistance of the host organism. In 1941, he studied the virus of the mumps and made significant breakthroughs in the detection and diagnosis of the disease. During World War II, he served as a civilian consultant on epidemic diseases.

After the war, Enders established a laboratory for research on infectious diseases at the Children’s Medical Center in Boston. He collaborated with colleagues to study the nature of mumps and chicken-pox virus and made important discoveries in poliovirus research. Using his techniques, the first polio vaccine was produced in 1953. Enders, along with his colleagues, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1954 for their work on polioviruses. He also made contributions to the study of measles and cancer-related viruses.

Major Works

Enders’ major contributions include cultivating the poliomyelitis virus in non-nervous tissue cultures, which led to the development of the polio vaccine. He also isolated the measles virus and developed the measles vaccine.

Awards & Achievements

Enders received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1954 for his work on polioviruses. He also received the Kyle Award from the US Public Health Service and the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Science Achievements Award from the American Medical Association. He became a foreign member of the Royal Society of London in 1967.

Personal Life & Legacy

Enders married Sarah Frances Bennett in 1927 and had two children. After her death, he married Carolyn B. Keane and had a son. Enders passed away on September 8, 1985, at the age of 88.

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