Thinking Citizen Blog — Maurice Hilleman (1919–2005) — “the Salt of the Earth” (Anthony Fauci)
Thinking Citizen Blog — Thursday is Health, Health Care, and Global Health Policy Day
Today’s Topic: Maurice Hilleman (1919–2005) — “the Salt of the Earth” (Anthony Fauci)
Who is the most under-appreciated hero in modern history? It might be Maurice Hilleman. I had not heard of him until yesterday. In the opinion of Anthony Fauci, Hilleman may have saved more human lives than any scientist in history. Today, his story. (Don’t miss the 16 minute video — second link below.) Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
HIS VACCINES MAY SAVE 8 MILLION LIVES PER YEAR !!!!!!!!
1. He developed 40 vaccines!!!
2. “Of the 14 vaccines routinely recommended in current American vaccine schedules, Hilleman and his team developed eight: those for measles, mumps, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, chickenpox, Neisseria meningitidis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Haemophilus influenzae bacteria.”
3. “Very few people, even in the scientific community, are even remotely aware of the scope of what Maurice has contributed.” (Anthony Fauci)
HE GREW UP POOR ON A FARM IN MONTANA; CHOOSES INDUSTRY OVER ACADEMIA
1. “His twin sister died in childbirth. and his mother, Anna, died a few days later.”
2. “It wasn’t like he basked in the glory of his success once he had a vaccine licensed. He went immediately to the next.”
3. “He credited much of his success to his work with chickens as a boy; since the 1930s fertile chicken eggs had been used to grow viruses for vaccines.”
NB: He could not afford to go to medical school, but got a scholarship to get a PhD in virology at the University of Chicago. “Instead of entering the world of academe and teaching classes, he turned instead to industry. Academia, full of paper-writing and lecturing, didn’t allow him to use his skill set for practical applications. “The goal of industry very much matched Maurice’s desires to get to something that worked,” Fauci said. “Not necessarily the first person to publish something.”
HIS FIRST VACCINE, HIS GENERAL METHOD, HIS WORK ETHIC
1. His first vaccine was against Japanese encephalitis,developed at the ER Squibb company in 1944, “to protect US troops fighting in the Pacific during World War II.”
2. “Maurice invented vaccines based on the ideas of Louis Pasteur and other early scientists. The idea was to take a virus and weaken it — often by passing the virus through cells from chicken embryos — until it was too weak to cause the full-blown disease, but still potent enough to spark people’s immune systems to produce their own natural antibody defenses to fight off the disease.”
3. “A strong proponent of a seven-day work week for scientists, Hilleman cites his upbringing on a farm in rural Montana as the inspiration for both his work ethic and his coarse language.”
NB: He developed most of his vaccines during his 45 years at the drug company, Merck.
“There’s great joy in being useful.” (Maurice Hilleman)
16 minute video on Hilleman’s life:
For the last four years of posts organized by theme:
Please share the most interesting thing you learned in the last week related to health, health care or health care policy — the ethics, economics, politics, history…. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to health are or health care policy that the rest of us may have missed. Or just some random health-related fact that blew you away.
This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your mind something really important you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than you otherwise would about something that matters.