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Hilary Koprowski, Who Developed First Live-Virus Polio Vaccine, Dies at 96

It was a brew to rival any in “Macbeth.” The main ingredients were rat brain and a fearsome, carefully cultivated virus.

In his laboratory in Pearl River, N.Y., 20 miles north of Manhattan, Dr. Hilary Koprowski macerated the ingredients in an ordinary kitchen blender one January day in 1948. He poured the result — thick, cold, gray and greasy — into a beaker, lifted it to his lips and drank. It tasted, he later said, like cod liver oil.

With that sip, Dr. Koprowski, a virologist who died on April 11 at 96, inoculated himself against polio, years before the vaccines of Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin.

Dr. Koprowski was one of the world’s foremost biomedical researchers, helping usher in a spate of innovations, including a safer, less painful and more effective rabies vaccine that remains widely used.
 
 

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