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Election Year: 1975
Scientific Discipline: Microbial Biology
Membership Type: Member
Wallace P. Rowe was best known for his studies on retroviruses and tumor virology. He found that retroviruses, or viruses that use reverse transcription to replicate within the host cell, were directly related to leukemia in mice. This study demonstrated that although the genetically-transmitted viruses were individually harmless, they could combine with each other to form cancerous tumors. Rowe was the first scientist to recognize the role of the immune response in the pathogenesis of murine lymphocytic choriomeningitis. He also studied cell differentiation, or the way identical cells developed differently in different organs, and he was able to produce a more generalized understanding of a cell’s control mechanisms. Rowe also characterized a group of viruses called the adenoviruses and established their relation to human diseases. By studying the DNA and RNA compositions of viruses, he was able to determine that their genomes were carried as chromosomal loci, and located at least one such genome in the virus’ chromosome.
Rowe went to the College of William and Mary to earn his B.S. in 1945. He attended the Johns Hopkins Medical School and received his M.D. in 1948. The following year he became a virologist at the Naval Medical Research Institute in Maryland. In 1952, he became an assistant surgeon at the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He was promoted to full surgeon four years later. He continued to rise through the medical ranks until he became the chief of the laboratory for NIAID in 1968. Rowe was the recipient of several awards for his groundbreaking work, including the Eli Lilly Award in 1960, the USPHS Meritorious Service Medal in 1970, the Rockefeller Public Service Award in 1972, and the Howard Taylor Ricketts Award in 1974.