In Memoriam: World Renowned Authority on Infectious Diseases, Robert E. Shope

Robert E. Shope, M.D., emeritus professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale School of Medicine, and professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston, died at age 74 in Texas on January 19, 2004 after a long illness.

Shope was one of the leading virologists of his generation. His research focused on many viruses, including arboviruses and rodent-borne viruses. Throughout his career, he helped investigate or led investigations of Rift Valley fever, Lassa fever, Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever, yellow fever and other diseases. He served as president of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, was recipient of the Bailey K. Ashford Award, the Richard M. Taylor Award, the Walter Reed Medal and numerous other prestigious awards and citations.

“I am honored to have been a faculty colleague of Bob Shope, a gifted scientist and educator, a splendid mentor to generations of public health and medical students at Yale,” said Curtis Patton, professor and head of Global Health, professor of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases and director of International Medical Studies at Yale School of Medicine. “His work represents examples of courageous, brilliant, pioneering research, enduring contributions to the fields of infectious diseases and global health.”

The son of Richard Shope, who discovered Rabbit fibroma virus and who worked with Peyton Rous in the discovery of the first papovavirus, Shope attended Cornell University and earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology in 1951 and an M.D. in 1954. He then completed his internship and residency at Yale.

Shope began his 30-year career at Yale in 1965 when he joined the EPH faculty as assistant professor. He served as director of the Yale Arbovirus Research Unit, director of Medical Education and head of the Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology.

Shope’s travels took him to almost every part of the world where mosquitoes or rodents harbored viruses. He worked as an Army medical officer at (then) Camp Detrick and in Malaysia at the Institute of Tropical Medicine. He headed the Rockefeller Foundation’s laboratory in Belem, Brazil, studying yellow fever and participating in the identification of hundreds of previously unknown viruses.

“Bob Shope was an encyclopedia of information about arboviruses,” said his friend and colleague Charles H. Calisher, a professor at Colorado State University. “The world lost a great scientist, many of us lost a great friend, and Dr. Robert E. Shope’s children lost a great father.”

Upon his retirement from Yale in 1995, Shope joined UTMB. He and colleague Robert Tesh brought with them the World Reference Center for Emerging Viruses and Arboviruses, a collection of about 4,000 viruses spread by insects and an additional 1,000 viruses. At UTMB, he also served as professor of preventive medicine and community health at the Sealy Centers for Structural Biology, Environmental Health and Medicine, and Vaccine Development. He was also the John S. Dunn Distinguished Professor.

Shope is survived by his wife, Virginia Shope of Branford, Connecticut; sons, Peter and Steve, both of Newfields, New Hampshire; daughters, Deborah Shope of Galveston, Texas and Bonnie Rice of Belmont, Massachusetts; two brothers, Tom Shope of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Richard Shope of Hudson, Wisconsin; a sister, Nancy FitzGerrell of Boulder, Colorado; and six grandchildren.

A memorial scholarship fund is being established at UTMB in Shope’s honor to support students working in the area of arboviral and emerging infectious diseases. Contributions may be sent to: Robert E. Shope, M.D. Memorial Fellowship, c/o Memorials and Tributes, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, Texas 77555-0148.

Media Contact

Karen N. Peart:, 203-432-1326