John Franklin Enders, known as the “Father of Modern Vaccines,” was an American virologist and microbiologist who had a significant impact on science through his groundbreaking research and discoveries. Enders, a pioneer in modern virology, is credited with culturing the poliovirus in human cell tissue cultures, which led to the invention of an attenuated live polio vaccine. Enders’ career accomplishments, however, do not stop there. Enders discovered the measles virus, which led to the development of the measles vaccine, which effectively eradicated the disease. Surprisingly, after reading the accomplishments, one is led to conclude that Enders foray into science began at a young age. However, it is astounding to learn that Enders did not pursue science until much later in life. Enders was enrolled in a Harvard literature course when he met some medical students who revived his interest in biology and medicine. He subsequently decided to apply for a position as a Ph.D. candidate in bacteriology and immunology. Enders began his research program after getting his PhD degree. For growing the poliovirus, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1953. He discovered the measles virus and produced a vaccine against it later in his career.
Childhood and Adolescence
On February 10, 1897, in West Hartford, Connecticut, John Franklin Enders was born into a wealthy family to John Ostrom Enders and Harriet Goulden Enders. Enders’ father was the CEO of the Hartford National Bank, and when he died, he gave him $19 million.
Enders received his education at Hartford’s Noah Webster School. He went on to St Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, after that.
For his graduation, Enders enrolled at Yale University. During World War I, however, he went to join the United States Army Air Corps as a flight instructor and lieutenant.
Enders returned to Yale to finish his graduating degree after serving in the army during World War I. He was a member of Scroll and Key and Delta Kappa Epsilon at Yale.
Enders dabbled in a variety of disciplines after earning his bachelor’s degree. He got into the real estate sector, but it didn’t appeal to him. He subsequently went to Harvard University to study English literature, Germanic and Celtic languages with the intention of becoming a teacher, but he dropped out halfway through.
Enders made friends with medical students while at Harvard. Ender’s interest in biology was renewed as a result of their friendship. As a result, he enrolled at Harvard University to pursue a PhD in bacteriology and immunology. Enders was awarded a doctoral degree in 1930 for his thesis, which demonstrated that bacterial anaphylaxis and tuberculin hypersensitivity are two separate occurrences.
The career of John Franklin Enders
John Franklin Enders pursued a career in bacteriology after earning his doctorate. He returned to his alma institution, Harvard University, as a professor. He was hired as an assistant in the bacteriology and immunology department.
Enders explored the clarification of various aspects associated with bacterial virulence and host organism resistance during his early years at Harvard. He elucidated the inhibitory effect of Pneumococcus type-specific capsular polysaccharides on the phagocytic process alongside Ward, Shaffer, and Wu. This research identified a novel type of Type I polysaccharide and provided evidence that a catalytic-like component is involved in the opsonization of bacteria by certain antibodies.
Enders was appointed as an assistant professor at Harvard University in 1935. Three years later, he began researching mammalian viruses. He researched the mumps virus in 1941.
The development of procedures for detecting antibodies to the mumps virus was Enders’ first big breakthrough. He demonstrated that the virus could be produced in chick embryos and tissue culture with the support of colleagues. The work served as the foundation for the disease’s diagnosis and the development of a skin test for its detection. The research revealed that mumps can manifest themselves in a non-visual form that confers the same level of resistance as the visible sickness. The findings of the investigations laid the groundwork for the creation of illness prevention strategies. For the disease, an attenuated live-virus vaccination is now available.
Enders was moved from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor at Harvard University in 1941. During WWII, he worked as a civilian consultant to the Secretary of War on epidemic diseases.
Enders was invited to create a laboratory for infectious illness research at the Children’s Medical Center in Boston during WWII (in 1946). Much of the study on viral diseases was done at this laboratory when he was in charge of it.
After the war, Enders worked with Dr. Frederick Robbins and Dr. Thomas Weller to research the biology of the mumps and chickenpox virus. In the study, various human cells in culture were used. Some of the cultures were infected with the poliovirus at Ender’s suggestion. The poliovirus did, however, replicate in a culture made up of cells that were not from the nervous system. This finding, as well as the investigations that it enabled, ushered in a new era in poliovirus study. The research resulted in the prospect of developing a poliovirus vaccine.
Dr. Jonas Salk developed the first polio vaccine in 1953 using the technique developed by Enders, Robbins, and Weller. Because of the initial polio vaccine’s success, it was mass-produced in massive quantities.
For their extraordinary accomplishment in identifying the ability of polioviruses to proliferate in cultures of diverse types of tissue, the three (Enders, Robbins, and Weller) shared the most prestigious award, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, in 1954.
He began research on measles shortly after the successful creation of the polio vaccine. In 1954, he isolated the measles virus from David Edmonton, an 11-year-old child. In his research, he was able to successfully develop the virus in tissue culture. Following that, he conducted a series of studies that led to the development of a measles vaccine in 1962.
Enders shifted his focus to cancer-related viruses in the latter years of his life. Enders made significant contributions to this field as well, particularly to the research of cell fusion between various species as a technique of modifying cell susceptibility to viruses, similar to earlier challenges.
Major Projects of John Franklin Enders
Enders made a significant contribution to the fields of virology and immunology. He is recognized for culturing the poliomyelitis virus in non-nervous tissue cultures, which was a prerequisite for Dr. Jonas Salk’s discovery of the polio vaccine in 1953. He also made a significant contribution by isolating the measles virus and, as a result, inventing the measles vaccine.
Achievements & Awards
Enders was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1954, along with his colleagues Robbins and Weller, for their discovery of the ability of polioviruses to proliferate in culture of many types of tissues.
Enders was awarded the Kyle Award by the US Public Health Service in 1955.
In 1963, the American Medical Association honored Enders with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Science Achievements Award.
He joined the Royal Society of London as a foreign member in 1967.
Personal History and Legacy
In the year 1927, John Franklin Enders married Sarah Frances Bennett. John Ostrom Enders II and Sarah Enders are the couple’s two children.
Enders married Carolyn B. Keane of Newton Center, Massachusetts, after his wife died in 1943. William Edmund Keane was his son from her.
Enders died in Waterford, Connecticut, on September 8, 1985, at the age of 88.
John Franklin Enders Net Worth
John is one of the wealthiest biologists and one of the most well-known biologists. John Franklin Enders’ net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.