Mason Alumnus at Forefront of Flu Research

Posted: October 19, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Lynn Burke

Jeffery Taubenberger
Jeffery Taubenberger

Worldwide concern that the recent avian flu outbreak could turn into a pandemic that would rival the one in 1918 is bringing national attention to the work of Mason alumnus Jeffery Taubenberger, BA Biology ’82.

Taubenberger, who heads the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) Division of Molecular Pathology, discovered that the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed 40 million to 50 million people worldwide, first began in birds.

The tale of how Taubenberger made this discovery is intriguing in and of itself, involving human autopsy samples from the Civil War stored at AFIP, a body frozen in the Alaskan permafrost and the Smithsonian’s collection of hundreds of birds stored in alcohol. His groundbreaking research has been featured in numerous news stories, newspaper articles (most recently a Washington Post article on Oct. 10 titled “Resurrecting 1918 Flu Virus Took Many Turns”) and books, and he was named ABC News’ Person of the Week on Oct. 7.

Recently, Taubenberger and his research team recreated the 1918 virus in the hope that this knowledge will help in the search for ways to prevent future pandemics.

Read more about Taubenberger in this 2003 Mason Spirit profile.

Write to at