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Robert M. Chanock Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS C 628


Correspondence, research reports and data, reprints, lectures, and conference notes document Dr. Robert M. Chanock's career studying and developing therapies for respiratory viruses that are particularly common in children, notably human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the para-influenza viruses.


  • 1933-2008 (bulk 1950-2008)


87.5 Linear Feet (72 boxes)


Physical Location

Materials stored onsite. History of Medicine Division. National Library of Medicine

Language of Materials

Collection materials primarily in English

Access Restrictions

Collection is restricted. Portions of the collection are restricted according to HMD's Access to Health Information of Individuals policy. Contact the Reference Staff for information regarding access. For access to the policy and application form, please visit

Copyright and Re-use Information

Donor's copyrights were transferred to the public domain. Archival collections often contain mixed copyrights; while NLM is the owner of the physical items, permission to examine collection materials is not an authorization to publish. These materials are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. It is the user's responsibility to research and understand any applicable copyright and re-publication rights not allowed by fair use. NLM does not grant permissions to publish.

Privacy Information

Archives and manuscript collections may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in any collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications for which the National Library of Medicine assumes no responsibility.

Biographical Note

Robert M. Chanock (1924-2010) was an influential pediatrician and virologist. He served as head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease's (NIAID) Laboratory of Infectious Diseases (LID) from 1968 to 2001. He is best known for making major contributions to the prevention and treatment of childhood respiratory infections. Chanock was an internationally renowned virologist who identified a baffling pathogen that infects the majority of infants and is the most common cause of life-threatening pneumonia in premature babies; the first to identify and characterize this pathogen, which he called human respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. During his six-decade career at NIAID Chanock performed wide-ranging and groundbreaking research on a number of stubborn and dangerous diseases, particularly those affecting children and babies. He was equally admired by colleagues for his ability to foster a dynamic and creative environment in which other scientists also thrived. Members of his lab group identified Norovirus (Norwalk virus), which causes intestinal flu, and developed the first nasal spray flu vaccine. He led research into adenovirus, hepatitis A, rotavirus, West Nile virus, and dengue fever. His team developed vaccines for Hepatitis A, rotavirus, and West Nile virus as well as the first nasal spray flu vaccine. Chanock holds several patents for these inventions and many others.

Chanock was born and grew up in Chicago. Drafted into the Army in 1943 and given a choice to deploy overseas or go to medical school, he chose school and was accepted into the University of Chicago undegraduate school and its School of Medicine, receiving degrees in 1945 and 1947. After interning at Highland Hospital in Oakland, Ca., he returned to Chicago for training in pediatrics. In 1950 while on a fellowship at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, he began working with his mentor and professional inspiration, Dr. Albert Sabin.

Chanock was drafted again in 1952 during the Korean War and was sent to Korea to deal with an outbreak of Japanese encephalitis, also known as Japanese B virus. Chanock never completed this work after suffering a burst appendix; instead he turned to researching infectious diseases while stationed in Tokyo for the remainder of his Korean War service. Upon his return to civilian life, Dr. Chanock studied little-understood viruses which commonly plagued infants. His research took him back to Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Johns Hopkins University before he joined NIAID at NIH. In 1957 he discovered the human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which causes respiratory infections in infants. This breakthrough was followed by the determination of four related agents, called para-influenza viruses.

In 1962 Dr. Chanock demonstrated that atypical or walking pneumonia was caused by the bacterium mycoplasma pneumoniae and that it could be cured with antibiotics. His lab developed vaccines to prevent adenovirus infection, Hepatitis A, and rotavirus, the most common cause of severe diarrhoea in infants and young children, and importantly the first nasal spray flu virus vaccine for use with children.

Dr. Chanock is considered an important and influential virologist. He became a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1973 and is the recipient of the Robert Koch Prize, the Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal, the E. Mead Johnson Award, the Public Health Service’s Meritorious Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Gorgas Medal. Chanock died at age 86 on July 30, 2010.

Collection Summary

Correspondence, lab notebooks, research reports and data, reprints, lectures, and conference notes document Dr. Robert M. Chanock's professional research career at NIAID's Laboratory of Infectious Disease studying and developing therapies for respiratory viruses that are particularly common in children, notably human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the para-influenza viruses. Research strengths include a nearly comphrehnsive set of lab notebooks documenting the lab's work on Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and Paramyxoviridae infections and the business of collaborating with various pharmaceutical companies to produce vaccines.

Series 1, Personal and Biographical (1933-2008), includes correspondence (1950-1957) from research positions Dr. Chanock held before joining NIAID, at the University of Cincinnati and Johns Hopkins, and in the Army in Korea. Dr. Chanock's personal and family life are reflected in correspondence and congratulatory exchanges from colleagues (1933-2008) along with photographs (circa 1950s-2005), oral history transcripts (2001-2003), and certificates and awards (1964-2008).

Series 2: NIH-NIAID-Laboratory of Infectious Diseases (LID) (1955-2008) contains incomplete sets of NIAID annual reports (1967-1983), LID annual reports (1966-1997), and LID Board of Scientific Counselor's Reviews (1978-2004). Correspondence (1955-2008) exists in varied orientations: a group arranged alphabetically by correspondent surname spans 1957 to 1979; chronological files are incomplete from 1968 to 1995 and are augmented by informally collected "chronological" files dated 1957-2008; there are also files, arranged alphabetically, by subject (1955-2007). Completing the series is a group of 35mm slide presentations (1961-2005), arranged chronologically, on LID research topics such as mycoplasma and respiratory syncytial virus.

Series 3, Research (1951-2008) is the largest portion of the collection and has many sections. Lab notebooks (1958-2000) are probably the most comprehensive and valuable part of this series. Arranged by surname of the LID researcher, they provide a day to day picture of research being conducted in the lab. The work of Dr. Chanock, Albert Kapikian, and Wallace P. Rowe are documented here, along with nine other researchers. A smaller set of lab notebooks designated by subject title, such as neuroaminidase, is arranged alphabetically. Research data, (1950-2008), is the least well described part of this series. Often these chronologically arranged folders bear brief titles, leaving only the material's date and context to aid in determining more specifically what studies they may pertain to. Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) (1972-2003) with several pharmaceutical companies, notably Lederle and Wyeth, are arranged alphabetically by company name. Research contract reports range in date from 1952 to 1998. All of them after 1957 are contracts with NIAID. Most are arranged by contract number, the bulk of whose numbers are prefaced by "N01" or "PH". Proposals for research contracts which don't correspond to known contracts (1955-2001) are arranged chronologically. Investigational New Drugs (IND) reports (1963-2001) record results, in the form of supplements, of experimental drug testing by NIAID in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies. These are arranged by the Food and Drug Administration's assigned IND number. LID lab research reports (1960-2004) concern only documentation of studies undertaken in the NIAID lab without collaborators. These are arranged chronologically except in the few exceptions when contract numbers are evident.

Series 4, Patents (1966-2008) which Dr. Chanock co-invented, is arranged numerically by patent number. Related to each is material often in several folders documenting the patent submission and approval process, licensing to pharmaceutical companies, and applications for corresponding foreign patents.

Series 5, Writings/Reprints (1953-2007) contains an incomplete set of Dr. Chanock's scientific articles, which in their entirety total 653 (1953-2003). Smaller subsections of this series hold eight articles by Dr. Chanock which are not represented on his bibliography (1954-2007); drafts of articles not corresponding with his published work (circa 1960s-circa 2007); and untitled drafts and writing fragments (circa 1955-circa 2007). Reprints are arranged by number assigned in Dr. Chanock's bibliography. The other sections are chronological.

Series 6, Meetings (1954-2005) contains programs, proceedings, notes, and other related information collected by Dr. Chanock when he attended national and international health conferences focusing on virology. He regularly attended meetings held by the American Society for Clinical Investigation, World Health Organization, American Epidemiological Society, and American Society for Microbiology. The series is arranged chronologically.

Series 7, Lectures and Speeches (1951-2005) are arranged chronologically. While a number of the earlier speeches lack identification as to where or when they were delivered, most after 1970 were lectures given at conferences or on honorary occasions.

Series 8, Videocassettes (1985-1987) mostly cover two subjects: the February 12, 1985 Wallace P. Rowe Symposium, and the August 26, 1986 Scientific Symposium in Honor of Albert B. Sabin's 80th Birthday.


Correspondence, research reports and data, reprints, lectures, and conference notes document Dr. Robert M. Chanock's career studying and developing therapies for respiratory viruses that are particularly common in children, notably human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the para-influenza viruses.

Physical Location

Materials stored onsite. History of Medicine Division. National Library of Medicine


Gift, Stephen Chanock, February 15, 2011, Acc. 2011-009; Transfer, Jeffrey Cohen/NIAID, June 17, 2011, Acc. 2011-024.


Processed by
Jim Labosier
Encoded by
Jim Labosier
Processing completed
July 2018

Processing Information

The Robert Chanock Papers were rehoused from their original containers into archival containers after initial receipt from the donor. In the course of final processing several categories of material were weeded from the original accession and discarded by the processing archivist: books and reprints about viral research not authored by Chanock (books also reviewed for retention by Rare Books staff); personally identifiable information in the form of personnel records, performance reviews, and letters of recommendation relating to employees supervised by Chanock; files relating to Chanock's personal finances. Archivists augmented the original collection by conducting an Archive-It web crawl of selected websites.

Finding Aid to the Robert M. Chanock Papers, 1933-2008 (bulk 1950-2008)
Unverified Partial Draft
Jim Labosier
July 2018
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English
Edition statement

Collecting Area Details

Part of the Archives and Modern Manuscripts Collection Collecting Area

8600 Rockville Pike
Bldg 38/1E-21, MSC 3819
Bethesda MD 20894 US
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