Maurice Brodie

Maurice Brodie (1903-1939) was a British-born American virologist who developed a polio vaccine in 1935.

Maurice Brodie
Maurice brodie.jpg
Born19 August 1903
Died9 May 1939 (aged 35)
Occupationphysician, virologist
Years active1928–1939
Spouse(s)Edna Singer Stewart Brodie (m 1938–1939, his death)

Early years and educationEdit

Brodie was born in Liverpool, England, the son of Samuel Broude and Esther Ginsburg. The family immigrated to Ottawa, Canada in 1910. Maurice graduated from Lisgar Collegiate Institute and McGill University Faculty of Medicine, Alpha Omega Alpha, in 1928; he was named a Wood Gold Medalist.[1] He served as a medical intern, and in 1931 he received a masters of science degree in physiology from McGill.[2][3] Brodie belonged to the McGill chapter of Sigma Alpha Mu,[4] and had been a staff reporter of the Ottawa Citizen, 1927-1928.[5] At McGill 1932 he received a grant from the Banting Research Foundation for his studies of polio.[6]

Polio researchEdit

Maurice Brodie joined the New York City Health Department and the bacteriology department at New York University Medical College. In 1935, Brodie demonstrated induction of immunity in monkeys with inactivated polio virus.[7] Isabel Morgan demonstrated the same phenomenon again a decade later.[8]

Brodie was head of one of two separate teams that developed polio vaccines and reported their results at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in November 1935.[9] Both projects were cancelled as a result of complications from vaccine trials resulting in the death of 6 participants and the paralysis of 10 others. The resulting public outrage delayed further research on the polio vaccine until the 1950's, when the Salk and Sabin vaccines were produced.

John Kolmer[10] of Temple University in Philadelphia, presented his findings first. He had developed an attenuated poliovirus vaccine, which he tested in about 10,000 children across much of the United States and Canada.[11] Five of these children died of polio and 10 more were paralyzed, usually in the arm where the vaccine was injected, and frequently affecting children in towns where no polio outbreak had occurred.[11] He had no control group, but asserted that many more children would have gotten sick.[11] The response from other researchers was uncharacteristically blunt; one of them directly called Kolmer a murderer.[11] Brodie presented his results afterwards, but the feelings of the researchers were already unfavorable before he started because of Kolmer's report.[11] Brodie and his team had prepared a formaldehyde-killed poliovirus vaccine, testing it first on Brodie himself and five co-workers, and eventually on 7,000 children and adults, with another 4,500 people serving as a control group.[11] In the control group, Brodie reported that five out of 4500 developed polio; in the group receiving the vaccine, one out of 7,000 developed polio. This difference is not quite statistically significant, and other researchers believed that the one case was likely caused by the vaccine. Two more possible cases were reported later.[11] Rockefeller Institute Virologist Thomas Rivers declared that Brodie's vaccine was ineffective, while the safety of Kolmer’s vaccine was in doubt.[12] Dr William Hallock Park, director of the New York City Health Department Research Laboratories, thereupon decided to discontinue development of Brodie's vaccine, which he had sponsored.[13] But some experts felt Brodie's vaccine deserved further study; the case against it was inconclusive and too hastily drawn.[14]

Later careerEdit

In 1936, Brodie moved to Detroit, where he became director of laboratories at Providence Hospital and hospital pathologist.[15] He died suddenly while working in his laboratory, 3:45 pm, Tuesday 9 May 1939. Cause of death was coronary thrombosis.[16] His remains were sent to Ottawa for burial.[17][18] He was interred in the Jewish Cemetery on Metcalfe Road (now the Jewish Memorial Gardens on Bank Street) in Ottawa.[19][20]


Maurice Brodie was a brother of Bernard Beryl Brodie (7 August 1907 – 28 February 1989), a leading researcher on drug therapy.[21] [22]


  1. ^ McGill Medicine: The Second Half Century, 1885–1936, Volume 2 p 273
  2. ^ Local students to get degrees. Ottawa Evening Journal 27 May 1931 p2
  3. ^ Famous Doctor Visiting Home Tells of Work. The Ottawa Journal 9 Sept 1936
  4. ^ Fraternity award given doctor for paralysis serum. The Salt Lake City Tribune 5 Jan 1936
  5. ^ Dr. Maurice Brodie dies in Detroit. The Gazette (Montreal). 12 May 1939
  6. ^ The Gazette (Montreal) 20 Jan 1933 p5
  7. ^ Maurice Brodie. Active Immunization in Monkeys Against Poliomyelitis with Germicidally Inactivated Virus. Immunol January 1, 1935, 28 (1) 1–18
  8. ^ MORGAN IM. Immunization of monkeys with formalin-inactivated poliomyelitis viruses. Am J Hyg. 1948 Nov;48(3):394–406. PubMed PMID 18893238
  9. ^ Maurice Brodie on Google Scholar
  10. ^ John Kolmer biography
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Offit, Paul A. (2005). The Cutter Incident: How America's First Polio Vaccine Led to the Growing Vaccine Crisis. Yale University Press. pp. 4–18. ISBN 0300130376.
  12. ^ Infantile paralysis vaccines discussed. St Louis Post Dispatch 20 Nov 1935 p 10
  13. ^ The fight against polio. New York Times 29 December 1935
  14. ^ Value of paralysis vaccine is unknown. Greensboro Daily News Friday, Aug 28, 1936 Greensboro, NC Page: 4
  15. ^ Mystery death is investigated. Detroit Free Press 10 Dec 1938 p 14
  16. ^ Tony Gould. A Summer Plague: Polio and Its Survivors. Yale University Press; Reprint edition (October 20, 1997) p68
  17. ^ Detroit Free Press, 11 May 1939
  18. ^ Burial in Ottawa for Dr. Brodie. Detroit Times Thursday, May 11, 1939 Detroit, MI Page: 3
  19. ^ Honor memory Dr. Brodie. The Ottawa Journal 12 May 1939
  20. ^ Maurice Brodie, noted scientist, passes at Detroit. Ottawa Citizen 10 May 1939 p1.
  21. ^ Dr. Bernard Brodie honored in US. Ottawa Journal 3 April 1940
  22. ^ Dr Henry Brodie obit, NY Times

Further readingEdit

Steven Lehrer. Explorers of the Body. Doubleday 1979, 2006.