Thomas Milton Rivers

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Thomas Milton Rivers
Thomas M. Rivers' bust in the Polio Hall of Fame
Born September 3, 1888
Jonesboro, Georgia
Died May 12, 1962(1962-05-12) (aged 73)
Forest Hills, New York
Residence Forest Hills, New York
Nationality American
Alma mater

Johns Hopkins University

Emory College
Known for first description of the Haemophilus parainfluenzae
Scientific career
Fields virology
Institutions Rockefeller Institute

Thomas Milton Rivers (September 3, 1888 – May 12, 1962) was an American bacteriologist and virologist. The "father of modern virology."[1]


Born in Jonesboro, Georgia, he graduated from Emory College in 1909 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Immediately following graduation, Rivers was admitted to the Johns Hopkins Medical School. His plans of becoming a physician could not be realized at first as he was diagnosed with a neuromuscular degeneration which forced him to leave medical school and work as a laboratory assistant at a hospital in the Panama Canal Zone. When by 1912 the illness had not become worse he returned to Johns Hopkins and graduated in 1915. He stayed at Johns Hopkins until 1919.

In March 1922 he headed the infectious disease ward at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research and became the institute's director in June 1937. After retiring in 1956, he remained active with the Rockefeller Foundation. His work in the 1930s and 1940s contributed to making the institute a leader in viral research. In 1934 Rivers was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in section 10 (pathology and microbiology).[2] As chairman of committees on research and vaccine advisory for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, he oversaw the clinical trials of Jonas Salk's vaccine. He served in the armed forces medical corps during both World Wars. During the Second World War, Rivers led the Naval Medical Research Unit Two (NAMRU-2) in the South Pacific, rising to the rank of Rear Admiral.

In 1948 Rivers edited a standard book on viral and Rickettsial infections.[3]

In 1958 he was inducted into the Polio Hall of Fame at Warm Springs, Georgia (see photo).

Rivers was married to Teresa Jacobina Riefle of Baltimore. Rivers died at Forest Hills, New York in 1962 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on account if his military rank.[4]


  1. ^ Oshinsky p. 18
  2. ^ Archives of NAS
  3. ^ THOMAS M. RIVERS, Editor: Viral and Rickettsial Infections of Man, J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia,1949.
  4. ^ Findagrave

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Thomas M. Rivers Papers at the American Philosophical Society [1]