Polioforever's Blog

Thomas M. Rivers

Thomas Milton Rivers (1888-1962) was born in Jonesboro, Georgia and graduated with a BA from Emory College. His acceptance and completion of a degree from Johns Hopkins University (JHU) was interrupted by stint at the Panama Canal Zone hospital, from which he returned in 1912, graduating from JHU in 1915. The cause of Rivers’ transfer to Panama is given as the diagnosis of “neuromuscular degeneration..which forced him to leave medical school and work as a lab assistant at a hospital in the Panama Canal Zone.” Rivers joined the Navy in WWI; the Rockefeller Institute in 1922 where he directed the infectious disease ward of the hospital until 1937; and then in the Navy again for WWII where he rose to the rank of Rear Admiral as leader of the Naval Medical Research Unit. Rivers unofficially took Simon Flexner’s job as RIMR director in 1937 until his retirement in 1956. He stayed active with the Rockefeller Foundation his entire life. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Milton_Rivers

In the immediate aftermath of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, an organizational unit to study atomic-bomb effects began taking shape, coalescing into the Committee on Atomic Casualties, led by Thomas Rivers. The Committee oversaw the activity of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission [ABCC] which was tasked with onsite investigation in Japan:

The ABCC was a designated field agency of the [National] Research Council [NRC], its activities supervised by a Committee on Atomic Casualties in the Division of Medical Sciences, headed by Thomas M. Rivers, bacteriologist and Director of the Hospital of the Rockefeller Institute…   A survey of projected studies made a year later suggested a duration of the work of the ABCC on the order of one hundred years…  The Commission originally planned to determine the incidence of new diseases uniquely associated with radiation, altered incidence of known diseases, altered natural histories of particular diseases, and changes in physiological status without overt disease… [i.e.]possible acceleration in the aging process in the exposed.” http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=579&page490  [pp490-493]

“The bacteriologist and virologist Thomas Milton Rivers spent over thirty years at the Rockefeller Institute as a researcher in the Department of Bacteriology and from 1937-1955, as Director. Working on measles and pneumonia, Rivers discovered the parainfluenzae bacillus and cultivated vaccine virus for human use, and during the 1950s, he played an important role in coordinating research on poliomyelitis as head of the National Institute for Infantile Paralysis… Between 1922 and 1955, Rivers molded Rockefeller into the preeminent laboratory for research on viruses, and in over 100 papers published during these years, Rivers addressed a range of topics relating to some of the most devastating viral diseases, including smallpox, Rift Valley Fever, and epidemic encephalitis… In the last few years of his life, Rivers served as medical director of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, with which he had been associated since 1938, and as such, played a highly visible role in the development of the polio vaccine. He stepped down in 1958 to become Vice President for medical Affairs, remaining in that position until his death in 1962. Rivers was recognized for his work with election to the American Philosophical Society (1942) and the National Academy of Sciences (1932), and he served as president of the American Society for Clinical Investigation (1932), the Society of American Immunologists (1934), and the Society of American Bacteriologists (1936).”  Papers http://www.amphilsoc.org/mole/view?docId=ead/Mss.B.R52-ead.xml;query=;brand=default

TMR also served as president of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) During the 1936 annual meeting, Dr. Rivers presented the first Eli Lilly & Co. Award in Bacteriology and Immunology to Harry Eagle. Eli Lilly later became the largest producer of Salk vaccine and Dr. Eagle developed the nutrient medium (Eagle’s medium) used in virus culture http://users.ipfw.edu/merkel/BranchHis.htm

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