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Jakob Heine - remembered and honoured in the USA

d'Kräz 11 (1991) English version

Five great members of the Heine family, whose roots are in Lauterbach, Germany, are represented on the web, one of them Jakob Heine (1800-1879).

(cf. family tree of the Heines from Lauterbach )

The renown of this physician and scientist, who was enobled by the Württemberg king, extends beyond the 19th century and his German background. Testimonial to this is a bronze bust of Jakob Heine at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation at Warm Springs, Georgia, in the United States, where he is honoured as the discoverer of the "Heine-Medin disease", better known as "polio" or "infantile paralysis" ("poliomyelitis").
Older contacts by correspondence and a recent personal visit to Warm Springs by my English friend and associate Henry Lytton Cobbold have made it possible for me to say a bit more about the background to this homage to Lauterbach-born Jakob Heine together with sixteen other personalities whose busts are also displayed at Warm Springs.

The Warm Springs Foundation

(Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation)

Illustration 1: Warm Springs is located in the West of Georgia near the border to Alabama

About 70 miles southwest of Atlanta and 30 miles north of Columbus (cf. map in illustration 1) lies Warm Springs, which is indelibly linked to the name of  US  president Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882 - 1945). The place became known to the whole world when on April 12, 1945 - shortly after his fourth inauguration - the president died there. This was not by chance, for, in 1932, Roosevelt had built himself a home in Warm Springs called the "Little White House".
Before and during his presidency (1933-1945) Roosevelt made several visits to Warm Springs. He had contracted polio in 1921 and despite a severe handicap had overcome the disease sufficiently to be able to run for president and serve for twelve years. This improvement was partly due to regular visits - since 1924 - to Warms Springs for hydrotherapy.
In 1927 Roosevelt founded the "Georgia Warm Springs Foundation", whose primary purpose was the treatment of polio patients.
Today - after the successful defeat of the disease in the 1950s - the institution is known as
"Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation"  and in twenty-six departments takes care of patients with handicaps of all kinds.

Jakob Heine in the "Polio Hall of Fame"

In 1958 the "Warm Springs Foundation" celebrated its 25th anniversary. Sculptor Edmond Romulus Aamateis was commissioned to create bronze busts commemorating the most important physicians and scientists involved in the discovery of, and fight against polio over the preceding century. The busts of fifteen polio experts - fourteen men and one woman - were arranged alongside the façade of what was then "Roosevelt Hall"  (today: "Founders Hall"). Busts number 16 and 17 are those of two laymen, President Roosevelt and Basil O'Connor, former president of the "Warm Springs Foundation".
Together with two reliefs at the exit showing Roosevelt and the author Helen Keller - who was deaf and blind - the busts constitute a kind of Hall of Fame dedicated to people from two continents and two centuries who have successfully fought polio.

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Illustration 2: Jakob Heine from Lauterbach, on the left (1), in a row with President Roosevelt, top right (16) ( photo of the "Hall of Fame" taken in August 2001 by Henry Lytton Cobbold)

Let's take a closer look at the sculptures: Significantly, the first bust (1) is of Jakob Heine (1800-1879), the very first to discover and describe - in a book published in Stuttgart in 1840, and revised in 1860 - what he called "Spinale Kinderlähmung" (infantile spinal paralysis).
The second bust represents the Swedish doctor and polio explorer Oskar Medin (1847-1927), who discovered the contagious and epidemic character of the disease, which made his pupil Ivar Wickman (1872-1914) (3) coin the name "Heine-Medin disease".
After these three pioneers of polio research we see Karl Landsteiner (1868-1943) (4), an Austrian physician, who discovered the virus causing poliomyelitis in 1909 and demonstrated that polio can be transmitted to experimental monkeys. Landsteiner was awarded the Nobel prize in Medicine (1930) for his discovery of human blood groups.

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Illustration 3: The first four busts, from left to right: Heine, Medin, Wickman, Landsteiner (photo by Henry Lytton Cobbold)

Here is a closer look at the Heine bust:

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Illustration 4: Jakob Heine (photo taken by Henry Lytton Cobbold)

Next in line we find the following personalities:

  • Thomas M. Rivers (1888 - 1962) (5), Dean of American virologists; chairman of the National Foundation committee which planned the successful 1954 vaccine field trials
  • Charles Armstrong (6), Public Health Service physician who discovered in 1939 that certain strains of polio viruses could be transmitted to cotton rats, greatly simplifying some types of study.
  • John R. Paul (7), Yale University virologist; first virus research grantee of the National Foundation (1938). He contributed to the knowledge of how polio is spread.
  • Albert Bruce Sabin (1906 - 1993) (8), Cincinnati University scientist and leader in the search for a live virus vaccine for polio. He helped show that the virus reaches the central nervous system.  Sabin is the father of oral vaccine with live viruses.
  • Thomas Francis Jr. (1900 - 1969)  (9) , teacher and tutur of Salk (15), University of Michigan epidemiologist. Director of the evaluation of 1954-55 which demonstrated the safety and effectivenes of the Salk vaccine.
  • John L. Melnick (1914 - 2001) (10), Yale University scientist, later at National Insitutes of Health, whose studies of polio in many parts of the world helped clarify the development of immunity in populations exposed to the virus.
  • Isabel Morgan (11) , Johns Hopkins University scientist, later at Columbia University, who prepared an experimental vaccine from virus inactivated with formaldehyde that protected monkeys against paralytic polio.
  • Howard A. Howe (12) , Johns Hopkins scientist who was the first to show that chimpanzees can acquire polio infection by mouth. He carried out small scale experiments in human beings with a formaline treated vaccine.
  • David Bodian  (1910 - 1992) (13), Johns Hopkins University scientist, whose studies showed that the virus gets into the blood stream before reaching the central nervous system and therefore could be blocked by antibodies in the blood.
  • John F. Enders (1897 - 1985) (14), Scientist at the Children's Medical Center, Boston, who led the way in finding how to grow polio viruses in cultures of non-nervous tissue, which made possible the production of a safe and effective vaccine in quantity. In recognition of this achievement Enders and his co-workers Thomas Huckle Weller and Frederick Chapman Robbins won the 1954 Nobel Prize in Medicine.
  • Jonas E. Salk  (1914 - 1995) (15), University of Pittsburgh scientist, who developed the vaccine which bears his name. He tested the vaccine of "inactivated" polio viruses on himself and his three children and gave it to thousands of children in the Pittsburgh area before the nationwide field trials.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) (16) , 32nd president of the USA, who, in 1921, contracted paralytic polio causing severe disability. Roosevelt founded the "Georgia Warm Springs Foundation" in 1927 and the "National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP)" in 1938.
  • Basil O'Connor(*1892) (17), New York lawyer,law partner and friend of FDR, and known as the architect of the fight against polio. He was president of the NFIP from its outset in 1938 and of the "Georgia Warm Springs Foundation" after 1945.

The order of the busts after Landsteiner is no longer chronological. Sabin, Enders and Salk deserve particular attention. Jonas E. Salk (15) and Albert B. Sabin (8) were the two virologists whose studies led to mass vaccination all over the world. Salk developed the injected vaccine that bears his name, whereas Sabin is the father of oral vaccination with live viruses. Nobel Prize winner Enders led the way to the production of a safe and effective vaccine in quantity. The other (exclusively American) doctors, through their studies, helped pave the way for these outstanding medical scientists.
Thus the busts present a diverse, but distinct, group from our fellow countryman Jakob Heine, the two Swedes Medin and Wickman and the Austrian Landsteiner to the Americans Salk and Sabin, who defeated polio for good.
With a different position of the head, turned left towards the scientists, the two laymen Roosevelt (16) und O'Connor (17), conclude the line of successful fighters against an insiduous disease whose initial discovery and description is proudly credited to Lauterbach-born Jakob Heine.

I would like to thank Henry Lytton Cobbold who provided the new photos and looked over the English version.

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