Maurice Hilleman Has Saved 8 Million Lives Yet Unknown

The people who carry lofty ambitions can end up settling for mediocrity. A man with mediocre ambitions is very unlike to become ...

9 months ago
Maurice Hilleman Has Saved 8 Million Lives Yet Unknown

The people who carry lofty ambitions can end up settling for mediocrity. A man with mediocre ambitions is very unlike to become the most celebrated minds in his field. This is just what Maurice Hilleman did. 

By the time of his death in 2005, Hilleman had produced 40 vaccines. It is estimated that it saved around 8 million lives in a year. This was not actually bad for someone who wanted to manage a departmental store.  

Here is an insight into the works and life journey of Maurice Hilleman. 

Head of Virus and Vaccination Wing at Merck

Source = Ncbi

Pharma house Merck recruited him to lead their virus and vaccination wing. He held this position nearly 5 decades. He worked seven days a week and fired those who could not follow the suit. A reporter once asked him about the proudest moment in his career. He replied


“Being able to survive while being a bastard.” 

Bastard or not Maurice Hilleman produced results. 45 years at Merck made him discover vaccines for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, measles, mumps, meningitis, pneumonia, rubella and Haemophilus influenza bacteria


By the time of his death in 2005, Hilleman had produced 40 vaccines. It is estimated that it saved around 8 million lives in a year. This was not actually bad for someone who wanted to manage a departmental store.  

Wondering how dreaming small led him to this position? Read further.

How did it start?

Source = Getty

Hilleman’s career began in 1944. He developed a vaccine for Japanese B encephalitis during his work tenure in E.R. Squibb, a New Jersey pharmaceutical. 


Four years later he shifted to DC. He started studying virus mutations while working at the Army Medical Centre’s Department of Respiratory Diseases. He produced a flu vaccine to prevent 1957 pandemic of Hong Kong flu. It also won him a medal for Distinguished Service.


Hilleman got in demand after this. 

Early life of Maurice

Source = Montana State University

Hilleman was born in 1919. He has spent his adolescence working in a family farm in Montana. Though he had bigger dreams, he aspired to become manager of JC Penney Store. But fate intervened.


After completing his bachelor’s in microbiology and chemistry, he went for his PhD studies from the Chicago University.


His professors lobbied for Maurice to continue his academia after attending grad but he took the industrial route instead. Working in industry would help him find clinical applications for his research. 

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