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Maurice Hilleman

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 28 April 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1028

Microbe hunter, pioneering virologist, and the 20th century's leading vaccinologist

Maurice Hilleman was responsible for developing more than 40 vaccines, including measles, mumps, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningitis, pneumonia, Haemophilus influenzae bacteria, and rubella. His vaccines have been credited with saving millions of lives and with eradicating common childhood diseases. The measles vaccine alone has prevented approximately one million deaths. Among other accomplishments, he succeeded in characterising and isolating many viruses, including the hepatitis A vaccine in culture.

Despite Hilleman's many breakthroughs in immunology and vaccinology, he has never been a household name. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Hilleman had “little use for self credit.” Dr Fauci told the BMJ that Hilleman's contributions were “the best kept secret among the lay public. If you look at the whole field of vaccinology, nobody was more influential.”

Hilleman's interest in microbiology and science had its roots in his childhood. …

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