The Discovery of Viruses and the Evolution of Vaccinology

  • Nicholas C. Artenstein
  • Andrew W. Artenstein


The early part of the twentieth century produced significantly fewer major advances in vaccinology than had the latter part of the previous century. However, beginning with the landmark work of the German physician Robert Koch, who in 1876 definitively demonstrated the transmissible nature of Bacillus anthracis, both periods witnessed a number of important scientific advances that would serve to build a firm foundation for the future of vaccines. As described in Chaps. 4 and 5, Louis Pasteur extended the work of Koch to formalize the concept of microbial attenuation, leading directly to his audacious experiments with live, attenuated anthrax vaccine in livestock and rabies vaccine in humans.

In parallel with the significant developments in bacteriology (rabies was also felt to be a bacterial infection until its viral etiology was discovered in the early part of the twentieth century) that were taking place during the late nineteenth century, scientific investigations were unfolding that sought to explain the well-recognized but poorly understood observations regarding immunity to toxins and other diseases. The work of Ilya Metchnikoff and Paul Ehrlich established the basis for the concepts of cellular and humoral immunity, respectively and launched the field of immunology (Chap. 3). Incremental scientific developments by others in the fledgling arena led, almost synergistically, to further refinements in vaccine science during the early part of the twentieth century. Concurrent with these developments in microbiology and immunology, another line of scientific inquiry was evolving, led by the work of a group of agricultural chemists and plant biologists in the countryside of Western Europe, that would have the fortuitous consequence of revolutionizing vaccinology.


Bacillus Anthracis Tissue Culture Technique Yellow Fever Virus Rabies Vaccine Yellow Fever Vaccine 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas C. Artenstein
    • 1
  • Andrew W. Artenstein
    • 2
  1. 1.Carleton CollegeNorthfieldUSA
  2. 2.Department of Medicine, Center for Biodefense and Emerging Pathogens, Memorial Hospital of Rhode IslandThe Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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