Isabel Morgan

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Isabel Merrick Morgan
Isabel Merrick Morgan.jpg
Born(1911-10-20)October 20, 1911
DiedOctober 18, 1996(1996-10-18) (aged 84)
Alma mater
Known forResearch into polio immunization
Scientific career

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

Academia and polio research[edit]

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, such as polio and encephalomyelitis.[1][2]

In 1944 Morgan joined a group of virologists, including David Bodian, at Johns Hopkins, where she began experiments to immunize monkeys against polio with killed poliovirus grown in nervous tissue and inactivated with formaldehyde. After vaccination with the inactivated virus, the monkeys were able to resist injections with high concentrations of live poliovirus.[3] Maurice Brodie had demonstrated the same induction of immunity with inactivated virus in 1935.[4]

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, it was believed that only live viruses could convey immunity to polio.

In January 1958 she was inducted into the Polio Hall of Fame at Warm Springs, Georgia. She was and remains the only woman who was so honored for her research work.

Later life[edit]

In 1949, 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, Morgan never returned to polio research. She did, however, publish articles on polio.[5] When her stepson Jimmy Mountain was killed in an air crash in 1960, she gave up her job at the County Department and pursued 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.

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. ^ MORGAN IM. Immunization of monkeys with formalin-inactivated poliomyelitis viruses. Am J Hyg. 1948 Nov;48(3):394-406. PubMed PMID 18893238
  4. ^ Maurice Brodie. Active Immunization in Monkeys Against Poliomyelitis with Germicidally Inactivated Virus. Immunol January 1, 1935, 28 (1) 1-18
  5. ^ 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 Morgan in: