Isabel Morgan

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Isabel Morgan

Isabel Merrick Morgan (also Morgan Mountain) (20 August 1911 – 18 August 1996) was an American virologist at Johns Hopkins University, who – in a research team with David Bodian and Howard Howe – prepared an experimental vaccine that protected monkeys against poliomyelitis. She was the daughter of Thomas Hunt Morgan and Lilian Vaughan Sampson.

Academic career and research work on polio[edit]

Isabel Morgan graduated from Stanford University and wrote her doctoral thesis in bacteriology at the University of Pennsylvania . She joined the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York in 1938.
There she worked in Peter Olitsky’s lab and did research work on immunity to viral diseases, e. g. polio and encephalomyelitis.[1][2]
In 1944 Morgan - induced by David Bodian - joined a group of virologists at Johns Hopkins and began experiments to immunize monkeys against polio with killed viruses. She grew poliovirus in nervous tissue and inactivated it with formaldehyde. After vaccination with the inactivated virus the monkeys were able to resist injections with high concentrations of live poliovirus.

Morgan's bust at Warm Springs

Morgan's work was a key link in the chain of progress toward a killed-virus polio vaccine, one that culminated in the approval of Jonas Salk's vaccine for general use in 1955. Until Morgan did her work, no-one knew that anything short of a live virus could convey immunity to polio. Morgan's polio research only lasted from 1944 to 1949, which makes it remarkable that she made an effect in such a short time. Oshinsky points out her reluctance to take the logical next step, which was vaccine testing in humans.

In January 1958 she was inducted into the Polio Hall of Fame at Warm Springs, Georgia. She was the only woman who was so honored for her research work (Eleanor Roosevelt was also included).

Work in Westchester department and at the Sloan-Kettering Institute[edit]

In 1949 Isabel Morgan left Johns Hopkins and married former Air Force Colonel Joseph Mountain, who was a data processor in New York. The couple moved to Westchester County and Morgan took a job with the county's Department of Laboratory Research.

After her marriage Isabel Morgan never returned to polio research.She did, however, publish articles on polio.[3] When her stepson Jimmy Mountain was killed in an air crash in 1960 she gave up her job at the County Department and got a master's degree in biostatistics from Columbia University. She went on to work as a consultant at the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute in Manhattan.
Isabel Morgan died in 1996, two days before her 85th birthday.


  1. ^ Oshinsky, pages 130-133
  2. ^ The Journal of Experimental Medicine (JEM), Vol 76 (1942), pp. 357-369
  3. ^ where she appears as Isabel Morgan Mountain, PhD, as can be seen in The Journal of Experimental Medicine (JEM), Vol 108 (1958), pp. 505f.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Publications by Isabel Morgan in: