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Frank Lappin Horsfall Papers 1940-1971
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Biography

Biographical Note

Dr. Frank Lappin Horsfall (1906-1971) was born in Seattle, WA. He received his B.A. from the University of Washington in 1927 and attended medical school at McGill University, graduating in 1932. Trained as a surgeon, he spent his first year after medical school at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston as a pathologist. He developed a severe hypersensitivity to formaldehyde, forcing him to leave his pathology studies, and ultimately, surgery. He spent another resident year at Montreal's Royal Victoria Hospital and Montreal General Hospital, but realized he could not work in any environment where formaldehyde was present. Thus, in the fall of 1934, he joined the pneumonia service of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, embarking on a career in microbiology and infectious diseases.

Between 1934-1937, Horsfall's work at the Rockefeller Hospital centered on immunological reactions between pneumococcal capsular polysaccharides and the antibodies to them produced by immunization of various animals. His studies resulted in the use of rabbit antisera over that of horse serum as standard pneumonia treatment. However, this advance was soon displaced by the discovery of sulfonamide drugs. In 1937, Horsfall began a four-year term with the International Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation and marks the beginning of his devotion to the study of viruses and the diseases they cause. Here he began his work on the human influenza virus and the pneumonia virus of mice (PVM), the two most significant highlights of his laboratory research career. Horsfall returned to the Rockefeller Hospital in 1941, becoming Vice President for Clinical Studies and Physician in Chief until he left in 1960. During World War II, he served in the Naval reserves as part of the Naval Medical Research Unit at the Rockefeller Hospital, concentrating on respiratory tract diseases, specifically primary atypical pneumonia.

Horsfall's second career as Director of the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Research Center was an important one, that of a scientific statesman guiding the research of the largest private cancer research institution. His work centered around his synthesis of ideas about carcinogens, especially as they related to the role of viruses as oncogenic agents, the interaction of viruses and chemical agents, immune processes that possible modified malignant change, and the role of chemotherapy. His leadership at Sloan-Kettering came at a time of change for cancer research. The role of chemical carcinogens became the central area of study in the 1960s. Horsfall forcefully argued in a number of important publications that viral and chemical carcinogens may be interrelated, and perhaps were even interdependent. This concept of interdependency between viruses and chemicals marked an important shift in cancer etiology and resulted in rapid advances in cancer research.

Horsfall was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1958, and was a member of the American Philosophical Society (1956) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1967). He authored over 200 publications and received several honorary degrees. His professional awards include the Eli Lily Award in Bacteriology and Immunology (1937), and the Fiftieth Anniversary Gold Medal Award of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (1959).