Hart E. Van Riper; Led Polio Research Foundation
Hart E. Van Riper, 95, a pediatrician who was medical director of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, forerunner of the March of Dimes, when it funded the polio vaccine research of Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin. The foundation was created in 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was afflicted by poliomyelitis, a viral inflammation of the gray matter of the spinal cord that causes paralysis. The virus was prone to attack children and had caused a record epidemic in the early 1950s. By then the foundation was raising about $50 million a year to underwrite a search for a safe vaccine. Van Riper, whose wife contracted polio as an adult, oversaw the research efforts that eventually led to the development of the Salk and Sabin vaccines. By 1955, the foundation had financed the inoculation of 6.5 million children with the Salk vaccine. Under Van Riper’s leadership, the foundation organized the first International Poliomyelitis Conference in 1948, which helped make polio research an international issue. An Illinois native, he practiced pediatrics in Madison, Wis., and worked in the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Labor Department before joining the infantile paralysis foundation in New York in 1945, stepping down in 1956. For the next 14 years he was medical director and vice president of Geigy Pharmaceuticals in New York. On Nov. 4 in Indianapolis.