ROBBINS, DR. FREDERICK CHAPMAN (25 August 1916- 4 August 2003) was a pediatrician, Nobel Prize laureate, and former Dean of the Medical School at CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY. Born to botanists William J. and Christine Chapman Robbins in Auburn, AL, Frederick Robbins grew up in Columbia, MO, and received his A.B. (1936) and B.S. (1938) from the University of Missouri. Robbins graduated Harvard Medical School in 1940 and began his appointment as resident physician at the Children's Hospital Medical Center in Boston until 1942 when he left to serve the U.S. Army in North Africa and Italy. In the Army, Robbins served as Chief of the Virus and Rickettsial Disease Section of the Fifteenth Medical General Laboratory where he focused on research into the composition of infectious hepatitis, typhus fever, Q fever, and mumps. At the time of his discharge in 1946, Robbins had reached the rank of major and received the Bronze Star for Distinguished Service.

The return to civilian life brought Robbins back to the Children's Hospital Research Center where he completed his residency in 1948. For the next two years, Robbins held a Senior Fellowship in Virus Diseases from the National Research Council and served as a member of the Faculty at Harvard Medical School. Robbins' research on viruses under Dr. John F. Enders at the Children's Hospital focused primarily on the cultivation of the Poliomyelitis virus in tissue culture in enough quantities to make large-scale vaccine experiments viable. Working with Enders and Thomas Weller, Robbins' efforts in developing the technique for cultivating the polio virus in tissue culture marked an important step in the development in Jonas E. Salk and Albert B. Sabin's polio vaccines and, consequently, the nearly complete eradication of the disease in North America. The development of the technique continues to be of crucial importance into the AIDS research and, recently, the identification of the coronavirus that caused the worldwide SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic in 2003. It was for this work that Robbins, Enders, and Weller shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1954.

Robbins moved to Cleveland in May 1952 where he accepted an appointment as Professor of Pediatrics at Western Reserve University's School of Medicine and Director of the Department of Pediatrics and Contagious Diseases at Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital (see CUYAHOGA COUNTY HOSPITAL SYSTEM). At his new position, Robbins embraced the Medical School's efforts at curriculum reform and served as the school's Committee on Medical Education as its chair from 1958-62. In 1966, Robbins was appointed Dean of the Medical School; a position he held until 1980 when he assumed the Presidency of the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine. While president of the Institute of Medicine, Robbins conducted the pilot study into Reye's Syndrome, which uncovered the dangers of prescribing aspirin for children with viral infections.

Robbins returned to CWRU in 1985 as a distinguished University professor Emeritus and continued to remain a daily fixture at the medical school. Robbins played an important role in the medical school's collaboration with the Uganda's Makerere University to conduct HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis research. This collaboration has been associated with decreased incidence of HIV infection in the central African nation. In 1990, Robbins aided in the establishment of CWRU's Center for Adolescent Health and between 1992 and 2000 served as the Center's director.

In addition to receiving the Nobel Prize in 1954, Robbins received numerous awards and honorary degrees including CWRU's Special Medical Alumni Association Board of Trustees Award in 1993, the FRANK and Dorothy Humel Hovorka Prize for exceptional achievement in teaching, research, and service in 1994, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal from the American Philosophical Society in 1999. In May 2002, alumni and friends of the medical school donated funds to establish the Frederick C. Robbins, M.D. Professorship in Child and Adolescent Health and in October the east wing of the medical school was renamed the Frederick C. Robbins Building. The school also established a travel fellowship bearing Robbins' name in order to facilitate a medical student's research in another country.

While working at the Children's Hospital Research Center in 1948, Robbins met his wife Alice Havemeyer Northup, who was working as a laboratory technician. Daughter of Nobel Prize winning chemist John Northrup, the two were married on June 19, 1948 and had two children, Alice Christine and Louise Enders.

Article Categories