Renowned vaccinologist Stanley A. Plotkin, MD, creator of the rubella vaccine used throughout most of the world, helped inaugurate the History of Vaccines website with his November 3 lecture entitled “Four Centuries of Vaccinology.” This lecture is now available to view here on the History of Vaccines blog. The video features footage of Dr. Plotkin’s lecture as well as the slides that accompanied his talk.
Dr. Plotkin, who was an instrumental figure in the development of rubella, polio, rabies, varicella, rotavirus, anthrax, and other vaccines, traces the serendipitous beginnings of vaccinology in the 1700s to its flowering in the latter half of the 20th century. Additionally, he highlights the relationship of vaccinology to industrial and technological developments, as well as the special role of Philadelphia institutions and researchers in vaccine development. Especially interesting is a description of an exchange with Albert B. Sabin, MD, at a scientific meeting in the late 1960s, when Sabin objected to Plotkin’s (and others’) use of cell lines derived from human fetal tissue. Plotkin replied, “I must say that despite my great and sincere respect for Dr. Sabin, I think the statements he has made are strictly ex cathedra and without a factual basis. So my conclusion is that what we are dealing with here is theology, and you see, in theology it is very difficult to disprove the existence of ghosts. But this is not, to my mind, a basis for making intellectual decisions.”
The video is housed on The Mütter Museum’s YouTube channel.
About the Speaker
Dr. Plotkin is Emeritus Professor of the University of Pennsylvania and The Wistar Institute. His many professional awards include the Sabin Gold Medal Award, the French Legion of Honor Medal, and the Maxwell Finland Award for Scientific Achievement. A more detailed biography of Dr. Plotkin is available as part of the program for the aforementioned Finland Award.