Wendell Stanley

The Living Dead Virus

Influenza Research

What did Stanley do?

Using chemical detergents he dissolved the fatty envelope of the virus so he had access to the capsid.

He then used centrifugal force to separate the capsids from the detergents, fats and shell proteins.

Once the capsids were isolated he would then crystalize them so their molecular make up could be analysed by firing x rays at the DNA and RNA. Based on the strength, type, wave length, and angle of the returning beams ( shown in color by the computer representation) the genes could be analysed one nucleoprotein at a time.

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Stanley's research on the virus which causes the mosaic disease in tobacco plants led to the isolation of a nucleoprotein (DNA and RNA) which displayed tobacco mosaic virus activity. The virus acted inanimate but it presented evidence of being a living organism. Stanley showed that viruses blurred the lines between the living organisms and nonliving molecules studied by chemists.

Most recently his work on the preparation and investigation of influenza and similar viruses has led to his development of the centrifuge-type influenza vaccine by using centrifugal techniques derived from chemistry.

Later, Stanley turned his attention to the study of cancer, stated in 1956, "I believe the time has come when we should assume that viruses are responsible for most, if not all, kinds of cancer." He worked tirelessly in the 1950s and 1960s to promote cancer awareness and raise funds for further research because of this hypothesis.

He is a recognized world authority on viruses and, he has written over 150 papers on the topic and contributed chapters to several books on the subject of microbiology, chemistry, and philosophy of life and what it means to be living.


  • American Association for the Advancement of Science Prize in 1937
  • Alder Prize (Harvard),
  • 1947; Franklin Medal and Presidential Certificate of Merit
  • 1948; the Modern Medicine Award
  • 1958; and the American Cancer Society's Medal for Distinguished Service in Cancer Control
  • He has been awarded honorary Doctor of Science degrees by Earlham, Harvard, Yale (1938), Princeton (1947) and Illinois (1959)
  • he has also been awarded Doctor of Law degrees of the Universities of California (1946) and Indiana (1951), the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (1953) and Mills College (1960)
  • and in 1947 the University of Paris awareded him honoris causa.


  1. "The American Association of Immunologists." The American Association of Immunologists. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Jan. 2016.

  1. "The American Association of Immunologists." The American Association of Immunologists. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Jan. 2016.

  1. "Stanley, Wendell." Biography in Context. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Jan. 2016.