Joseph Melnick, PhD papers

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MS 015

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Joseph Melnick, PhD papers


  • 1943-1989 (Creation)


86.5 cubic feet (97 boxes)

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Biographical history

Joseph Louis Melnick was born October 9, 1914, in Brooklyn, New York but his family moved to New Haven, Connecticut, when he was seven years old. He earned a B.S. from Wesleyan University in 1936, followed by a Ph.D. in physiological chemistry from Yale University in 1939. He served on the faculty at Yale from 1942 to 1957.
After a year as chief of the Virus Laboratories at the National Institute of Health Division of Biologics Standards, Melnick joined the faculty of Baylor College of Medicine Department of Virology and Epidemiology in 1958. He was dean of Baylor’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences from 1968 to 1991.
Dr. Melnick’s specialty was medical virology, with a focus on polioviruses. He was among the first to demonstrate that the polio virus invades the intestine of a host rather than the central nervous system. He was part of a team that developed thermostabilized live polio vaccine for areas that lacked deep-freeze storage. His research also determined that the Albert Sabin vaccine was safer for the nervous system than other vaccines. He showed that the polio virus could survive long-term in sewage and was mainly transmitted by fecal contamination, often through poorly-washed hands. He and Dr. Dorothy Horstmann determined that the virus could also be transmitted by flies, although this wasn’t the primary method.
Melnick’s team was also among the first to recover human pathenogenic viruses from surface waters and his laboratory was instrumental in developing methods to detect and monitor viruses in the environment. He also had a longstanding interested in virus taxonomy and was the first to name and classify several virus groups. Melnick’s team at Baylor performed research in the late 1960s that would later implicate herpes simplex and other viruses as the root cause of some forms of cervical cancer.
Dr. Melnick was elected the first chair of the Virology Section of the International Association of Microbiologcal Societies, was president of the US Commission on Polio Eradication, and chair of the Advisory Committee on Viral Hepatitis for the Center for Disease Control. He was awarded honorary posts in Israel, for his contributions to controlling a polio outbreak in the Gaza Strip and West Bank in the 1980s, Bulgaria, China, Argentina, and Russia. He also served 30 years on the World Health Organization Expert Panel on Viral Diseases. He was the first American virologist elected to lifetime membership of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, and in 1958 was inducted into the Polio Hall of Fame. He authored over 1,000 items on virology and received numerous awards.
Dr. Melnick retired from Baylor in 1998 and died January 7, 2001

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Joseph Melnick, PhD papers contains correspondence and reprints that document the career of Dr. Melnick, who was a leading epidemiologist, best known for his research on polio.

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Joseph Melnick, M.D.

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