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Albert B. Sabin Papers

Identifier: WC-AS-1993

Scope and Content

The Sabin archives occupy nearly 400 linear feet and consist of correspondence, laboratory notebooks, manuscripts, and other research papers generated by Sabin during his long and active medical career. This extensive collection also contains his honors, awards, medals and other memorabilia, as well as research materials such as microscope slides, lantern slides and some raw material. In addition, there are hundreds of photographs and many video recordings and audiotapes. The collection spans the years 1930 to 1993, with the bulk of material being from Sabin's tenure in Cincinnati from 1939 to 1969.


  • Creation: 1930-1993
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1939-1969


Language of Materials

The records are in English, Portuguese, Russian, French, German, Italian and Spanish

Restrictions on Access

Series or folders marked [RESTRICTED] contain confidential patient information. Access will be granted on an as needed basis.

Restrictions on Use

Series or folders marked [RESTRICTED] contain confidential patient information. Researchers may neither USE nor REVEAL BY NAME OR ASSOCIATION the identity of any individual whose health information is in a document of record without the express written permission from the persons named or their legal guardians or heirs.

Biography of Albert B. Sabin, 1906-1993

Dr. Albert Sabin, developer of the oral, live virus polio vaccine, began his career in biomedical research in 1926 while still a student at New York University where he received his M.D. degree. He worked at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research from 1935-1939. From 1939 through 1969, Dr. Sabin was successively Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Professor of Research Pediatrics, and Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and The Children's Hospital Research Foundation. A Lieutenant Colonel, he served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps as a member of the Epidemiological Board from February 1943 to September 1945. His work included studies on sandfly fever, and the development of vaccines against dengue fever and Japanese B encephalitis. From 1970, he served successively as President of the Weizmann Institute of Science (1970-72), full-time expert consultant of the U.S. National Cancer Institute (1974), Distinguished Research Professor of Biomedicine at the Medical University of South Carolina (1974-82), and Senior Expert Consultant at the Fogarty International Center for Advanced Studies in the Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (1984-86).

In 1986 at the age of 80, Dr. Sabin retired from his full-time positions but continued part-time at the Fogarty International Center as a Senior Medical Science Advisor and a lecturer in the United States and abroad. In 1988 poor health and increasing physical disability forced Dr. Sabin into complete retirement.

In 1960, after extensive, worldwide preliminary trials, Dr. Sabin's oral polio vaccine was first used in about 100 million children in Europe. While it was approved for use in the U.S. in late 1960, it was not until 1962-64 that about 100 million persons of all ages received the vaccine in the U.S. It is estimated that from 1965-66, worldwide use of the vaccine prevented about 5 million cases of paralytic polio and 500,000 deaths. In 1972, in an unprecedented humanitarian gesture, he donated the strains of the polio virus to World Health Organization to increase their availability to developing countries.

Before going to Cincinnati in 1939, Dr. Sabin was noted for his work of fundamental studies on poliomyelitis and other viruses causing diseases of the nervous system, the protozoan parasite toxoplasma, and arthritis. During the 30 years in Cincinnati, his work on human poliomyelitis and the complex properties of the polio viruses had the greatest practical impact. He also worked on arthropod-borne viruses and the human diseases they cause, such as dengue, sandfly fever, and Japanese B Encephalitis. He also worked on the genetics of natural resistance to certain viruses and the discovery of the unique dye test for toxoplasma antibody that greatly elucidated the role of this parasite in human disease.

Dr. Sabin served on many advisory committees on medical research, including those of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Armed Forces, World Health Organization, and Pan American Health Organization. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences (elected in 1951), American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Association of the American Physicians, American Pediatric Society, and many other professional societies in the U.S. and abroad, including the U.S.S.R. Academy of Medical Sciences.

Dr. Sabin received forty-six honorary degrees from U.S. and foreign universities. His numerous awards include the U.S. National Medal of Science (1970), Presidential Medal of Freedom (1986), Medal of Liberty (1986), Order of Friendship among Peoples awarded by the President of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. (1986), and from the President of Brasil, the Ordem Cruzeiro do Sul, Grande Oficial (1986) and Gran Cruz Ordem do Rio Branco (1991).

When the National Medal of Science was presented to Dr. Sabin in 1970 by the President of the United States, the citation read, "For numerous fundamental contributions to the understanding of viruses and viral diseases, culminating in the development of the vaccine which has eliminated poliomyelitis as a major threat to human health."

When the definitive history of the twentieth century is written, the achievements of medicine will occupy a significant place, and within that history Dr. Albert B. Sabin will occupy a preeminent position. Throughout the world he is one of the most recognizable and revered names in medical sciences. In the 1960s, Dr. John R. Paul, Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology at Yale University, wrote about Albert Sabin in his history of poliomyelitis, "No man has ever contributed so much effective information and so continuously over so many years to so many aspects of poliomyelitis as Sabin."

Dr. Sabin continued into his eighties to have a powerful and significant impact on the international scientific community in his capacity as medical statesman, consultant, and lecturer. His contributions were not just in the scientific realm but included a more global perspective of humanitarianism. He became a "courier of peace" and fought the diseases of ignorance and poverty by espousing the same strategies of mutual trust and international cooperation which led to the conquest of poliomyelitis.

Dr. Sabin died in 1993, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


400 Linear Feet


The personal and professional papers of Albert B. Sabin, who developed the oral polio vaccine while at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and The Children's Hospital Research Foundation. Some material in this series have been digitized through a 2010 National Endowment for the Humanities grant. To view these digitized materials, please visit

Statement of Arrangement

The collection is organized into twelve series, each with several sub-series. The arrangement is generally by topic, format, and then chronological. Occasionally, the format is emphasized followed by a topical, then chronological arrangement. Lastly, some materials lend themselves only to a format, chronological structure.

  1. 1. Correspondence
  2. 2. Laboratory Notebooks and Other Notes
  3. 3. Manuscripts
  4. 4. Microscope Slides
  5. 5. Military Service
  6. 6. Miscellaneous
  7. 7. Oral Polio Vaccine
  8. 8. Other Diseases Researched
  9. 9. Poliomyelitis
  10. 10. Professional Affiliations and Memberships
  11. 11. Professional and Personal Engagements
  12. 12. Reference Material

Physical Location

Henry R. Winkler Center for the History of the Health Professions

Acquisition Information

This collection was given to the university by Dr. Sabin's widow, Heloisa Sabin, in 1993.

Related Material

Sabin-related materials received by the Winkler Center after 1993 can be found in the following addendum: Among the materials in this addendum are documents that reflect Dr. Sabin's tenure at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

The March of Dimes Archives holds a large collection of materials related to the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis and its mission to eradicate polio. This includes a collection titled "Salk and Sabin Polio Vaccine Records," which contains memoranda, correspondence, telegrams, reports, news clippings and reprints related to Dr. Sabin's oral polio vaccine. For more information, please contact David Rose, archivist at the March of Dimes, at 1275 Mamaroneck Avenue, White Plains, NY 10605, or

The Rockefeller Archive Center also has a collection of materials related to Dr. Sabin from 1934-1986. For more information about their materials, contact the archivist at the Rockefeller Archive Center, 15 Dayton Avenue, Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591, or

The Jonas Salk papers can be found at the Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California-San Diego, and includes correspondence between Dr. Sabin and Dr. Salk, as well as files related to poliomyelitis. For more information about the Salk papers, please contact the Mandeville Special Collections Library at or (858)534-2533.


The following publications cited the Hauck Center for the Albert B. Sabin Archives as a source for their research.
  • Bruno, Richard L. The Polio Paradox : Uncovering the Hidden History of Polio to Understand and Treat "Post-Polio Syndrome" and Chronic Fatigue. New York: Warner Books, 2002.
  • ___. "Paralytic vs. "Nonparalytic" Polio: Distinction without a Difference?" American Journal of PhysicalMedicine and Rehabilitation 79.1 (2000): 4-12.
  • ___. "Non-Paralytic" Polio as a Prelude to Post-Polio Sequelae." International Post Polio Support Organization. 6 June 2009 .
  • Coutinho, F.A.B., et al. "Threshold Conditions for a Non-Autonomous Epidemic System Describing the Population Dynamics of Dengue." Bulletin of Mathematical Biology 68.8 (2006): 2263-82.
  • Halpern, Sydney. Lesser Harms: The Morality of Risk in Medical Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
  • Hampton, Lee. "Albert Sabin and the Coalition to Eliminate Polio from the Americas." AmericanJournal of Public Health 99.1 (2009): 34-44.
  • Massad, Eduardo, et al. "Yellow Fever Vaccination: How Much is Enough?" Vaccine 23.30 (2005): 3908- 14.
  • Morens, David. "Major Albert B. Sabin, the Armed Forces Epidemiology Board, and Epidemic Dengue in Hawai'i, 1943-1944. A Crash Program to Find the Cause of dengue Fever during World War II." Annual meeting of the American Epidemiological Society. 25 March 2005.
  • ___. "Major Albert B. Sabin, the Armed Forces Epidemiology Board, and epidemic dengue in Hawai'i, 1943-1944. A Crash Program to Find the Cause of Dengue Fever during World War II. Preliminary Findings Based on New Data from the Albert B. Sabin Archives." Annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Washington, D.C. 12 December 2005.
  • Morra, John. "Dr. Albert B. Sabin, the U.S. Army, and the Conquest of Epidemic Disease." Science in Uniform, Uniforms in Science: Historical Studies of American Military and Scientific Interactions. Eds. Margaret Vining and Barton C. Hacker. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2007.
  • Oshinsky, David M. Polio : An American Story. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
  • Swanson, William. "Birth of a Cold War Vaccine." Scientific American (April 2012): 66-69.
  • The Polio Crusade. Dir. Sarah Colt. DVD. PBS Home Video, 2009.
Finding aid for the Albert B. Sabin Papers
Edited Full Draft
Finding aid prepared by Maggie (Yax) Heran
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English
Sponsored by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), 2010-2013

Revision Statements

  • 2012-2012: Subsequent revisions by Mary Kroeger Vuyk and Stephanie Bricking

Repository Details

Part of the University of Cincinnati, Health Sciences Library, Henry R. Winkler Center for the History of the Health Professions Repository

Donald C. Harrison Health Sciences Library
231 Albert Sabin Way
Cincinnati Ohio 45267-0574