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The American Association of Immunologists

Thomas M. Rivers

Brief Bio

Thomas M. Rivers was the twentieth president of the American Association of Immunologists, serving from 1933 to 1934. He spent more than 30 years at the Rockefeller Institute Hospital, where he was director from 1937 to 1955.

Rivers began his medical education at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1909. However, in his second year, doctors at Johns Hopkins diagnosed him with progressive muscular atrophy of the Aran-Duchene type. With this news, Rivers returned home to Georgia. Restless and “kind of fed up waiting to die,” he worked as a laboratory assistant at San Thomas Hospital in Panama (1912–1913). Eighteen months later, with his diagnosis under control, Rivers returned to Johns Hopkins, where he received his M.D. in 1915. Upon graduation, Rivers began his pediatrics career at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he was an intern (1915–1916), an assistant resident (1916–1917), and a resident (1917–1918). He also taught as an instructor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (1916–1918).

While serving under Eugene Opie (AAI ’23, president 1928–1929) on a U.S. Army Medical Corps commission, charged with investigating the 1918 influenza pandemic, Rivers discovered his predilection for research and laboratory work. Abandoning pediatrics in favor of basic medical research after the war, Rivers spent a few years as an instructor and associate in bacteriology at Johns Hopkins (1919–1922) before leaving his post for an appointment as an associate in the Infectious Disease Ward at the Rockefeller Institute Hospital in 1922. Rivers remained at the Rockefeller Institute for the next three decades, as a member (1927–1953), director of the hospital (1937–1955), and vice president (1953–1955). Following his retirement from the Rockefeller Institute in 1955, he served first as the medical director (1955–1958) and then as the vice president of medical affairs (1958–1962) for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.

AAI Service History

Joined: 1921
President: 1933–1934
Councillor: 1934–1938

The Journal of Immunology
Board of Editors: 1936–1942
Associate Editor: 1943–1951

President's Address

"Vaccination of Monkeys and Laboratory Workers against Psittacosis," March 28, 1934

The Journal of Immunology 26, no. 4 (1934): 328–29.

Select Honors and Awards

  • Member, National Academy of Sciences, 1934
  • Member, American Philosophical Society, 1942
  • U.S. Legion of Merit, 1945

Institutional/Biographical Links

 


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