This 1970 image depicted Dr. James H. Nakano, analyzing collected data, while seated at his desk. Dr. Nakano designed and directed the smallpox laboratory (completed in 1967), which later evolved into one of the world’s primary reference centers, using an electron microscope as the primary method for rapid diagnosis of smallpox, surpassing other methods in speed and reliability. The smallpox lab work was instrumental in delineating the strengths and weaknesses of various lab diagnostic methods in demonstrating that no reservoir of smallpox could be maintained in wild animals; in differentiating among various pox diseases including monkeypox; in testing the possible survival of the smallpox virus in materials used for variolation.
Papers and text book chapters written by Nakano and his associates between 1968 and 1985 constitute a key scientific resource in this field. Dr. Nakano became a part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) global smallpox eradication effort, as a WHO region reference center for smallpox, and in 1974, it was named a WHO collaborating center for smallpox and other poxvirus infections. Dr. Nakano personally worked on the analysis of infectious material from the last case of smallpox in the world.
The CDC’s prestigious James H. Nakano Citation for outstanding scientific paper, was established in his honor.