August 25, 1916—August 4, 2003
BY ADEL MAHMOUD
FREDERICK C. ROBBINS WAS a major force in the fields of infectious diseases, pediatrics, and public health. Early in his career he established a prominent position in the science of medicine, having won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1954 for work performed in the laboratory of his mentor and co-Nobel Laureate, John Enders. The two of them were joined by Tom Weller in receiving this remarkable honor. Fred Robbins’s talent and leadership were demonstrable all through the subsequent 50 years as a physician, investigator, educator, and a statesman of science.
The seminal observation for which Enders, Weller, and Robbins were awarded the Nobel Prize stems from their discovery of how to grow poliomyelitis virus in human cell cultures. This finding led to the development of the two most effective poliomyelitis vaccines and their use in eliminating paralytic polio in many parts of the world. During his scientific career, Fred Robbins was gratified to witness the impact of this seminal discovery on the lives of billions; it was unfortunate that he was unable to see this eradication come to a successful conclusion during his lifetime.
I had the honor and good fortune to be mentored by Fred for over 30 years and to watch him as a professor,