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David Bodian was born in St. Louis. He received his Ph.D. in anatomy in 1934 and his M.D. in 1937 from the University of Chicago. He came to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1939 as a research fellow in anatomy. The following year, Bodian was an assistant professor of anatomy at Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He returned to Johns Hopkins in 1942 as a lecturer in anatomy in the school of medicine and assistant professor of epidemiology in the school of public health. In 1957, Bodian became professor of anatomy and the director of the anatomy department in the school of medicine. Along with his colleagues, Howard Howe and Isabel M. Morgan, Bodian helped lay the groundwork for the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines through their research into the neuropathology of poliomyelitis. Bodian’s team demonstrated that the polio virus that was transmitted through the mouth and digestive tract was in fact three distinct types of virus, and they showed that antibodies to the virus were carried through the bloodstream, demonstrating that for a vaccine to be effective it must include antibodies recognizing all three types of virus. Bodian’s group also developed early poliomyelitis vaccines, first a formalin-treated vaccine that successfully immunized monkeys, and then another that significantly elevated the levels of antibodies in children. In addition, Bodian developed a technique to stain nerve fibers and nerve endings (named the Bodian stain) and made major contributions to the knowledge of the basic structure of nerve cells.

Scope and Content

The David Bodian Collection spans most of his career at Johns Hopkins. It contains professional correspondence, manuscripts, committee records, scientific data, slides, photos, medical illustrations, and reprints. The correspondence and committee records document Bodian’s research about the polio virus and his involvement in the nationwide effort to vaccinate America’s children against polio.

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Collection is currently unprocessed but a partial inventory exists.

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