This virologist saved millions of children—and stopped a pandemic
In 1957 a flu pandemic hit the U.S., but Maurice Hilleman was ready with a vaccine he mass produced in only months.
In April 1957, a mysterious illness was making its way through Hong Kong. Medical workers encountered throngs of children with “glassy-eyed stares,” and more than 10 percent of the city’s population was infected with influenza. The scientific community stayed quiet, but American virologist Maurice Hilleman recognized the threat: A pandemic was brewing.
Hilleman thought the disease was a new strain of influenza capable of spreading around the world. By the time the virus arrived in the U.S. in fall 1957, he was ready with a vaccine. His work prevented millions from contracting the deadly virus—and that’s a small fraction of the people Hilleman would save over the course of his career.