Harry M. Meyer, Jr., M.D. (1928-2001)

Dr. Harry M. Meyer Jr., was one of the inventors of the rubella vaccine. Rubella is a contagious viral infection best known by its distinctive red rash.

Meyer grew up in Palestine, Texas, attended Hendrix College, and then the University of Arkansas School of Medicine.

He worked as a researcher in the Army Medical Corps at Walter Reed Army Hospital after graduation. Meyer was recruited to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to be head of the Virus Research Section in the Laboratory of Virology and Rickettsiology in the Division of Biologics Standards (DBS) in 1959 and moved into Building 29, third floor, when it opened in 1960.

Dr. Meyer worked on the measles vaccine with Dr. John Enders of Harvard where they conducted trials in West Africa from 1961 to 1964.

a black and white photo of a man with black glasses wearing a suit and tie

FDA History Office
He became chief of the Laboratory of Viral Immunology in DBS in 1964.  Dr. Meyer moved to Building 29A after it opened in 1967, working on the second floor.

Meyer worked with Dr. Parkman on the first rubella vaccine beginning in 1964 and the rubella antibody test (patented in 1971).

With the administrative transition of the DBS from the NIH to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1972, Meyer became the director of what was then called the Bureau of Biologics. He stayed in this role from 1972 until he retired in 1986. Under Meyer’s leadership, the FDA biologics team initiated review of all licensed biologics for safety, effectiveness, and labeling; they developed techniques to assess allergenic product activities; and they licensed the first AIDS test kit. When he retired, biologics was called the FDA Center for Drugs and Biologics; by 1987, it would become the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, which is the name it maintains to this day.

Meyer was the recipient of several awards during his career including: the FDA Award of Merit, the FDA Commissioner’s Special Citation, the Public Health Service Meritorious Service Award, and the Chevalier de l’Ordre National of the Republic of Upper Volta (West Africa) in 1963 for his work on the measles vaccine. He also received a letter of commendation from President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Dr. Meyer worked in Building 29, Rooms 330, 332, 212, and 130 and in Building 29A, Rooms 2B08, 2B06, and 2B20. 

a black and white photo of one woman and two men working in a lab, wearing white lab coats

Dr. Harry M. Meyer Jr., at left, Hope Hopps at center, and Dr. Paul Parkman at right, working in the rubella lab. National Library of Medicine

a black and white photo of a man with black glasses wearing a plaid suit and tie

Dr. Harry M. Meyer Jr. portrait from FDA Personnel Directory. FDA History Office

a black and white photo of one women and two men looking at a document on a desk in the lab

Dr. Harry M. Meyer Jr. at left, Dr. Daniel Hostetler at center, and Barbara Bernheim at right, in lab at NIH. They were all part of the measles team who went to Upper Volta for vaccine trials. The NIH Record April 23, 1963