Dorothy M. Horstmann

Yale University

July 2, 1911 - January 11, 2001


Election Year: 1975
Scientific Discipline: Microbial Biology
Membership Type: Member

Dorothy M. Horstmann examined viral infections, particularly poliomyelitis and rubella.  Observing the poliomyelitis virus, she discovered it was excreted from the intestinal tract for weeks after an acute infection and that the infection was highly communicable in that state.  Horstmann also revealed that viremia, or when a virus enters the bloodstream and can access the entire body, regularly occurred during the incubation period, which allowed her to determine how viremia affected pathogenesis within the central nervous system.  Horstmann characterized the effectiveness, safety, and clinical epidemiology of live attenuated poliovirus vaccines by studying its effect on institutional populations and among the population at large.  When comparing the natural and vaccine-induced immunity in rubella, she found that the vaccine’s ability to provide immunity was compromised.  People exposed to wild variants of the rubella virus had a high rate of reinfection.

Horstmann attended the University of California, Berkeley where she earned her A.B. degree in 1936 and her M.D. degree in 1940.  She became an instructor for Yale Medical School’s section of preventative medicine in 1945.  She continued teaching at the school, rising to the positions of assistant professor in 1948, associate professor in 1952, full professor of epidemiology and pediatrics in 1961, and finally John Rodman Paul Professor of Epidemiology and Professor of Pediatrics in 1969, which she held until her retirement in 1982.  Horstmann was a fellow of the Commonwealth Fund and the National Institutes of Health and was a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (president from 1974 to 1975), and among many others, the American Epidemiological Society (vice president in 1974).  She was the recipient of the Great Heart Award in 1968, the Wilson College Centennial Citation in 1969, and the Modern Medicine Award in 1973.

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