Biographical Timeline of Sabin

1900 - 1930

Portrait of Sabin early in life

1906 - Albert B. Sabin born in Bialystok, Russian Poland

Albert B. Sabin was born August 26, 1906 in Bialystok which was then a part of Russia. Following pogroms in 1905 most of Sabin’s family moved to the United States. Only his immediate family - mother, father, two sisters, and brother - remained in Bialystok to care for his maternal grandmother. During this time, young Albert attended a German school instead of going to work.

Immigration Document

1921 - Emigrated to U.S. with family

Albert Sabin’s family remained in Bialystok until 1920 when they made the arduous journey to join the rest of their family in the United States. They settled in Paterson, New Jersey where his father secured work in the textile industry. Albert received initial education from relatives and then began studies at Paterson High School. He graduated in 1923, just 16 years old, and headed to New York City to start college.

Sabin with two men

1927 - New York University School of Medicine

Albert Sabin began his undergraduate studies at New York University. Initially intending to become a dentist, he received a B.A. in 1924 and started at the College of Dentistry where he studied until 1926.  His medical classes helped him discover that his true passion lay in scientific research rather than dentistry. He switched his focus and received a B.S. degree in 1927 after which he entered the NYU School of Medicine with a scholarship.

1929 - "Rapid Typing Method for Testing Pneumonia"

Albert Sabin secured a position at Harlem Hospital where he was responsible for figuring out which strain of pneumonia patients had contracted. The overnight test took many hours and consequently patients often died before treatment could begin. Sabin found a way to reduce the necessary time to approximately three hours and the procedure was named for him. As his first major accomplishment, he was able to publish this work and gain some acclaim for the many lives he saved while still a medical student. This standard for testing pneumococcus still carries his name. 

Entry from Sabin's journal

1931 - 1942

Nature of Skin Reactions

1931 - Medical School Graduation

Upon graduation, Dr. Albert Sabin began an internship at Bellevue Hospital. Though still researching facets of the pneumonia virus, a city-wide polio outbreak forced his mentor, Dr. William H. Park, to ask him to shift his focus. In 1933, Dr. Sabin published his first polio-related article that launched his long and illustrious career in polio eradication.

"B" Virus

1932 to 1934 - “B” Monkey Virus

Dr. Sabin’s colleague, Dr. William Brebner from Dr. William Park’s laboratory, passed away after being bitten by one of the monkeys used in research. As part of his intern duties at Bellevue Hospital, Dr. Sabin assisted at the autopsy. He conducted further research into the disease and eventually isolated the new “B”—for Brebner—Monkey Virus. This discovery bolstered Dr. Sabin’s burgeoning career and his reputation as a medical researcher.

Dr. Peter Olitsky

1934 to 1937 - Poliovirus Research with Peter Olitsky

Dr. Sabin worked with Dr. Peter Olitsky to overcome early obstacles to polio research. They found that the virus could be reproduced in nervous tissue which allowed  for experimentation. They also discovered that polio in humans does not enter through the nose as previously posited and disproved the effectiveness of nasal sprays for inoculation, giving researchers important information about the source of human infection.

Studies on B-Virus

1934 - National Research Council Fellowship

In 1934, Dr. Sabin received a fellowship from the US National Research Council to study at the Lister Institute in London. He impressed the Institute’s director with his brilliant mind and published prolifically while abroad. He conducted further experiments on B Monkey Virus, studied pseudorabies, and wrote a series of papers about developing vaccines.

Article Influence of Pathway of Infection

1935 - Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research

After returning from London, Sabin began work at the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research. He first took interest in live-virus vaccines while working with Dr. Max Theiler. Dr. Sabin continued studying polio with his new understanding of live-virus vaccines and made several important advancements in the field while at the Rockefeller Institute.

FDR, National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis

1938 - The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis

The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (now known as the March of Dimes) played an important role in the research and development of Dr. Sabin’s oral polio vaccine. According to the March of Dimes, Dr. Sabin received around $1.5 million to support his research on polio from 1952 to 1961. read more...

Cincinnati College of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Research Foundation

1939 - University of Cincinnati College of Medicine & Children’s Hospital Research Foundation

After many years at the Rockefeller institute, Dr. Sabin got a job offer from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Research Foundation (now Cincinnati Children's). He accepted an associate professorship of pediatrics and a research fellowship in virology. This dual position afforded him the freedom to study what he chose and offered him access to a hospital setting in which to study patients. As a rising star in scientific research, Dr. Sabin brought prestige to the institution and also received several grants.

Gold salts to alleviate arthritis

1940 to 1942 - Gold Compound for Arthritis

A by-product of his work with pneumonia, Dr. Sabin researched rheumatic fever and rheumatoid arthritis. His work progressed to the point that in 1939 he needed to study the afflictions in patients. A factor that  influenced his decision to accept the University of Cincinnati’s job. The research never produced definitive results but it did lead Dr. Sabin to discover a gold compound, also known as gold salts, that was used to alleviate arthritis.

1943 - 1960

Major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps

1943 - U.S. Army Medical Corps

World War II found Dr. Sabin joining the army as a medical researcher. Though he had focused on polio before enlisting, he spent his active military duty studying sandfly fever, St. Louis encephalitis, and Japanese B encephalitis. He often went abroad while enlisted and eventually rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Vaccine Development

1943 to 1945 - Vaccine Work

Dr. Sabin worked as tirelessly for the military as he did with all his research. Working with others on the Neurotropic Virus Commission, he was able to develop vaccines for two strains of encephalitis and dengue fever. These diseases were prevalent among soldiers at the time. Sandfly virus was also plaguing the enlisted and Dr. Sabin was able to isolate and study the virus during his military service.

Sabin-Feldman dye test

1945 to 1948 - Sabin-Feldman Dye Test

Toxoplasma is a parasitic disease for which can be passed from mothers to their unborn children. Working with Dr. Harry A. Feldman, Dr. Sabin and he developed a test using methylene blue to detect the parasite. Since this disease can become quite serious, especially in infants and those with compromised immune systems, it is useful in making diagnoses.

Military photo of Sabin

1946 - Discharged from Active Duty

Dr. Sabin was discharged in 1946 from active military duty but continued consulting on the military’s medical work through 1969. He served on the Virus Commission for twenty years until his resignation in 1963. After that time, Dr. Sabin continued as a consultant in special cases and worked with the Army Epidemiological Board.

Cincinnati Post article: Honor to a Local Scientist

1951 - National Academy of Sciences

Dr. Sabin was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1951. The Cincinnati Enquirer quoted Sabin, when speaking of this honor, as saying, “One of the most gratifying things to a scientist is the esteem of his colleagues. No man fails to go through periods of doubt as to whether he really is accomplishing what he might, and such reassurance as this election to the National Academy of Sciences is a warming and strengthening gesture from a group of men whose esteem I value greatly.” In 1985, he was further honored by becoming an emeritus member of the organization.

Sabin and Salk

1955 - Sabin and Salk: Polio and The Tale of Two Vaccines

Read more about Dr. Sabin's and Dr. Salk's vaccines and how polio changed us at the Smithsonian Museum of National History's website: "Whatever Happened to Polio?"

“Vaccination against Poliomyelitis"

1956, October 6 - “Vaccination against Poliomyelitis – Present and Future”

A blog post highlighted an important day in the development of the oral polio vaccine: October 6, 1956. On this date, Dr. Sabin gave an invited paper at the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine meeting held in Cincinnati called “Vaccination against Poliomyelitis – Present and Future.” It was at this meeting that Dr. Sabin reported that he had developed a polio vaccine using three attenuated poliovirus strains, which provided an “immunizing, symptomless infection” when it was administered orally to over 50 volunteers. read more...

Letter to Sabin from the World Health Organization

1958 to 1959 - International Cooperation

In Dr. Saul Benison’s book on Tom Rivers, Benison asked Dr. Rivers about how countries were chosen to conduct field trials for the Sabin vaccine. Dr. Rivers said, “No one chose the country. Generally, it was the public health officials or virologists of a given country that did the choosing, and usually for reasons of their own.”[1] Dr. Rivers then proceeded to discuss how Czechoslovakia came to be part of the field trials. read more...

Polio Hall of Fame

1958, January 6 - The Faces Behind Polio Eradication

"Together, these four men represent the public face of polio – the courageous victim, the devoted foundation leader, the brilliant researchers with their lifesaving vaccines." -Historian David M. Oshinsky, in reference to President Franklin Roosevelt, Basil O’Connor, and Drs. Sabin and Salk read more...

Sabin in Russia

1959 - Sabin's Oral Vaccine Testing in Russia

As a great example of international and scientific cooperation during the height of the Cold War, Dr. Mikhail Chumakov tested Dr. Albert Sabin's oral vaccine on 10 million children in Russia in 1959. This vaccine trial proved that the oral vaccine was safe to use. For more information about the collaborative effort between Drs. Chumakov and Sabin during the Cold War, please read William Swanson's article "Birth of a Cold War Vaccine" in the April 2012 issue of Scientific American.

Sabin Sunday in Cincinnati, Ohio

1960, April 24 - Sabin Sunday in Cincinnati, Ohio

On Sunday, April 24, 1960, more than 20,000 children in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the surrounding area received the Sabin oral, live-virus polio vaccine in its first public distribution in the United States. Within two weeks, over 180,000 of the region's children ages 3 months to 6 years received the vaccine. Later known as "Sabin Oral Sunday," national campaigns throughout the United States and in many countries around the world, encouraged people to line to receive the oral vaccine in a few drops of syrup or on a sugar cube.

2nd International Conference on Live Poliovirus Vaccines

1960, June 6 - Reports from a Scientific Meeting

The Second International Conference on Live (Attenuated) Poliovirus Vaccines was held in June 1960 at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. and sponsored by the Pan American Health Organization, the World Health Organization, and the Sister Elizabeth Kenny Foundation. read more...

1961 - 1980

Sabin vaccinating two children

1961 - U. S. Public Health Service Approved OPV

Dr. Sabin’s most notable accomplishment was the development of the live-virus oral polio vaccine (OPV). It replaced Salk’s inactive vaccine as the preferred inoculation in the US in 1961. It provided many benefits including: ease of administration, single dose that most likely provides life-long immunity,  live-virus vaccine with which the immunity can be spread from human to human, and as it is less expensive it better controls epidemic outbreaks. In addition to its use in the US, Dr. Sabin traveled regularly to help other countries implement vaccinations. Since it became widely used, polio has virtually been eradicated from the Western Hemisphere.



1966 to 1969 - Link Between Cancer & Viruses

As a noted virologist, Dr. Sabin was interested in viruses as potential cancer-causing agents. He presented regularly at conferences and was a respected researcher in this field. One particular focus of his work was to determine if individuals could become immune to these viruses. These studies were Dr. Sabin’s priority in his final years at the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Research Foundation.

Sabin's Retirement in 1969

1969 - Retirement from UC & Cincinnati Children’s

After 30 years of distinguished service, Dr. Sabin retired in 1969 from Cincinnati Children’s and the University of Cincinnati. His career at the university encompassed many of his most famous discoveries including the oral polio vaccine and the Sabin-Feldman dye test. While headquartered at UC throughout his service to the military and after, he gained international distinction during his time at these institutions.

US Medal of Science

1970 - U.S. Medal of Science

Dr. Sabin received the National Medal of Science from President Nixon in 1970. The medal, presented at the White House, was awarded for his work leading up to and including the development of the oral polio vaccine. His vaccine is credited with eliminating polio as a major threat to human health in the official award citation.

Sabin as President, Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel)

1970 to 1972 - President of Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel)

Dr. Sabin served on the Weizmann Institute of Science’s board of governors and on the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute before becoming its President in 1970. He served until 1972 and was the first president required to be a scientist himself. During his tenure, he oversaw the institute’s reorganization into five departments.  Read more at The Weizmann Institute of Science

Sabin & Benison

1973 to 1978 - Sabin Oral Histories

As a well-known medical historian and oral history expert, Saul Benison was employed by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis for several years, recording the stories of those touched by polio. A few years later, while a Professor of History and Environmental Health at the University of Cincinnati, Benison crossed paths with Dr. Albert Sabin. During this time, they met on several occasions, discussing Dr. Sabin’s career and life in general. Benison’s interviews with Dr. Sabin provide important and under-utilized insights into the work of one of UC’s most famous faculty members, as well as one of the most significant medical discoveries of the modern age.


Named Distinguished Research Professor of Biomedicine

1974 to 1982 - Distinguished Research Professor of Biomedicine

Dr. Sabin became a Distinguished Research Professor of Biomedicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. He worked for several years in labs and offices there focusing on his several research interests. This included the link between virology and cancer as well as the aerosol delivery of measles vaccination. Upon his retirement, he was named an emeritus faculty member.

Sabin as Consultant to the U.S. National Cancer Institute

1974 - National Cancer Institute

Upon Dr. Sabin's return to the United States, he served as a full-time consultant to the U.S. National Cancer Institute which is part of the National Institutes of Health.


1981 - 2012

Aerosolized measles vaccine

1981 to 1989 - Aerosol System for Low Cost Measles Vaccination

Dr. Sabin spent many years working towards the eradication of measles. He developed an aerosolized vaccine in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health (U.S.) and Mexico’s Ministry of Health. In tests, it appeared to be a cost-effective means of providing mass immunization without injections. These are the same principles that informed his development of the oral polio vaccine. His work is still referenced as studies continue in this area.


Sabin presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan

1986 - Presidential Medal of Freedom

The Presidential Medal of Freedom was given to Dr. Sabin by Ronald Reagan in 1986, which is highest award that a United States civilian can receive. Following his work at the Medical University of South Carolina, Dr. Sabin held positions at various institutions including Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and the Fogarty Institute at the National Institutes of Health. He continued part-time at the Fogarty Institute until his ailing health forced his full retirement in 1988.


Dr. Albert Sabin passed away March 3, 1993

1993, March 3 - The Passing of Sabin

After many years of declining health, Dr. Albert Sabin passed away on March 3, 1993 of heart failure and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Though he is most famous for the oral polio vaccine developed, his legacy is that of a brilliant scientist and researcher dedicating to improving world health through all his various works. Memorials to Dr. Sabin can be found throughout the world in honor of his many accomplishments.


1993 - Sabin Vaccine Institute Founded

"The Sabin Vaccine Institute is founded on the legacy and global vision of one of the pre-eminent scientific figures in the history of medicine, Dr. Albert B. Sabin. Best known as the developer of the oral live virus polio vaccine, Dr. Sabin not only dedicated his entire professional career to the elimination of human suffering though his groundbreaking medical advances, he also waged a tireless campaign against poverty and ignorance throughout his lifetime. It was in this spirit of commitment and dedication that his longtime friends and colleagues, led by Heloisa Sabin, his widow, and Dr. H.R. Shepherd, the Founding Chairman, established the Sabin Vaccine Institute in 1993 at the time of Dr. Sabin's death." Learn more...

Sabin Vaccine Institute

2012 - Albert Sabin, MD, Among 2012 Class of Great Ohioans

This press release originally appeared on the UC Health News website on Thursday, April 19, 2012. By: Richard Puff CINCINNATI—Albert Sabin, MD, former distinguished service professor of pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine and researcher at Children’s Hospital (today known as Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center), was named as a Great Ohioan for his pioneering work in developing the oral, live polio vaccine that helped eliminate polio from most countries. Sabin is one of six honorees named today by the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board and Capitol Square Foundation in Columbus. read more...

2012 Class of Great Ohioans