A branch of Biology by Braden Fink


Virology is just like it sounds. The study of viruses. These include their structure, classification, evolution, the way they infect and spread, and their use in research and therapy.

A virologist studies viruses that affects humans and other living matter in community clinical, agricultural, and natural environments. They usually work in a research or instructive settings. Some even acquire additional training and work with pharmaceuticals.

Edward Jenner

Edward Jenner was born on May 17, 1749, in Berkely, Gloucestershire, England. After completing training, he went to St. George's hospital in london to study anatomy and surgery. Once finishing his studies, he returned to Berkely and set up a medial practice where he then stayed until he died. Jenner was found in a state of apoplexy in January 1823 with his right side becoming paralyzed. He finally died of a stroke on January 26, 1823.

In 1788, smallpox swept through Gloustershire. Jenner noticed that his patients who worked with a lot of cattle and had been exposed to a milder disease, Cowpox, didn't contract smallpox. Jenner conducted an experiment in 1796 on an 8 year old boy. He made two cuts on the boy's arm and applied some cowpox puss. The boy had a slight fever but remained healthy. Weeks later Jenner repeated this except using smallpox puss. The boy remained healthy and Jenner's treatment was named vaccination after the medical name of cowpox, Vaccinia.

Jenner left a legacy behind for others to follow. His work with viruses before they were even known to be a thing paved the way for future virologist by bringing interest to the branch. His vaccination helped destroy smallpox where it can now only bee seen in a lab effectively mastering the concept of a virus.

Jonas Salk

Jonas Salk was born October 28, 1914. When he grew up, he was part of the Michigan school of public health working to cure the flu (influenza). In 1947, he became head of the Pittsburg virus research lab. He married Donna Lindsay who bore him 3 sons from 1939-1968. They ended up divorcing and Salk married Francois Gilot, who had been in a relationship with the famous painter Pablo Picasso prior to their marriage.

The same year as becoming head of the virus research lab, Salk began research on Polio. By 1951, he realized that there were 3 types of the virus. With this he developed a "killed virus" vaccine and began testing in 1952. Using formaldehyde, Salk killed the poliovirus, but kept it intact enough to trigger the necessary immune response. 2 years later with approximately 2 million children given the vaccine to prove its effectiveness, it happened. In 1955 the vaccine was approved for widespread use leaving Salk a national hero.

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Jonas Salk Picture by Alfred Eisenstaedt
Jonas along with Jenner both made great breakthroughs in the branch. His work with the virus helped make polio a worry of the past and eased the suffering of human beings from it. The change that a virologist could bring about was represented by no one better than him.

Robert Gallo

Gallo was born in Waterbury, Connecticut on March 23, 1937. A big part of Gallo's youth was the illness and death of his only sibling, Judy to Leukemia. This put him in contact with Dr. Marcus Cox. In highschool, Gallo spent a lot of time with the doctor and assisting him. When entering college he knew he wanted a career in biomedical research.In 1961 Gallo married Mary Jane Hayes and together they had 2 childrem. He graduated from medical school in '63. In 1965 He joined the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Gallo discovered a T-cell growth factor which would keep white blood cells alive longer outside the body. This allowed for the discovery of a human retrovirus in 1981, which was called HTLV or Human T-cell Leukemia Virus. Gallo noticed similarities between this and a new disease called AIDS. He suspected it was caused by a virus or a retrovirus. A year later he succeeded in identifying the AIDS virus. Gall developed a test to screen blood for antibodies to the virus.

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Robert Gallo. Picture by Paul Smaglik
Gallo gave much to the branch with his work with many viruses over his career. His worked helped save many lives and limit the spread of Aides/ HIV with his system of detecting the virus.