Virology Division News
Robert R. Wagner (1923–2001)
obert R. Wagner, dedicated teacher, scientific pio-
neer, visionary administrator and loyal friend, died
of cancer on September 15, 2001. Bob had successfully
beaten various cancers seven times in the last 35 years so
it was a great shock to find that his courage and determi-
nation were not able to win the battle this eighth time.
Those of us who were fortunate enough to see him shortly
before his death were greeted by a cheerful and active
man who enjoyed visiting and reminiscing about the
wonderful times and acquaintances we had shared.
Bob had a fulfilling life in which he was able to work in some of the best educational
institutions of the time and to interact with inspired and talented scientists, most of whom
became life-long friends. His love of science and of life made it a joy to know and to work
Bob graduated from Columbia University in 1943 and received his M.D. from Yale
Medical School in 1946. As a medical student, he discovered his passion for studying
infectious diseases and began his first research projects in bacteriology and immunology.
He joined the U.S. Navy Medical Corp after completing his internship and served as a
physician at the Chelsea Naval Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. A turning point in his
life occurred when he was transferred in 1948 to the U.S. Navy Medical Research Institute
in Bethesda, Maryland: it was there that he became fascinated with influenza viruses and
embarked upon his career as a virologist. Next was a postdoctoral stint in the laboratory of
Dr. Christopher Andrewes in England. This adventure sealed his fate as a virologist and also
turned him into a life-long anglophile. He and his wife, Mary Burke Wagner, returned to
London many times to enjoy the city they both particularly loved.
Bob returned to Yale University in 1951 as a member of the Faculty of Medicine, and
then joined the Faculty of the Departments of Medicine and Microbiology at Johns Hopkins
Medical School in 1956, where he added interferon to his list of research interests (and
accomplishments). By 1959, he was Director of the Infectious Disease Division of the
Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins. He finally gave up his clinical practice in 1960
when he agreed to serve as Head of the Division of Virology in the newly formed
Department of Microbiology at Johns Hopkins.
Virology Division News
Arch Virol 147/4 (2002)