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 rabiesvaccine that remains widely used.
But his most noteworthy innovation — developing the first viable vaccine against polio and testing it successfully on humans — is far less well known. It has long been eclipsed in public memory by the triumphs of Salk, whose injectable vaccine was introduced in 1955, and Sabin, whose oral vaccine was introduced in stages in the early 1960s.
“Koprowski’s was the first serious scientific attempt at a live-virus polio vaccine,” said the historian David M. Oshinsky, whose 2005 book, “Polio: An American Story,” chronicles the race to pre-empt the disease. “Jonas Salk is a god in America, Albert Sabin’s got a ton of publicity, and Hilary Koprowski, who really should be part of that trinity, is the forgotten man.”