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June Almeida: The Scientist who Discovered the Coronavirus

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

The Coronavirus Pandemic has left many with a sense of anxiousness and worry for our loved ones and the future generation. Without the scientific knowledge given by past generations and our ancestors, who knows how long healthcare workers and scientific researchers would take to develop a vaccine. During this unprecedented time, let’s take a look at the woman who not only developed new microscopic techniques, but also discovered the first Coronavirus.

Almeida was born in Glasgow, Scotland. She aspired to attend her local University; however, she dropped out of school at 16 due to the costly tuition. She finally got a job as a lab technician at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. She started to establish herself in the field and was known for her interest in Virology. From there, she got a job at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. After marrying Enriques Almeida, they moved to Canada, where she got a job working with electron microscopes at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto.

Almeida later returned to London, where she worked at St. Thomas's Hospital Medical School. Dr. David Tyrrell contacted her about flu-like samples (labeled B814). Because traditional methods failed, researchers began suspecting B814 was a new virus. Almeida was able to create clear images of the virus and remembered seeing similar viruses while looking at Bronchitis in a chicken and hepatitis liver inflammation in mice. Thanks to Almeida’s confirmation, the virus, which had a halo-like structure, was named Corona after the Latin word for crown.

Almeida’s findings are extremely relevant to today’s events. Without her curiosity and understanding of virology and microscopic techniques, vaccines would take much longer to formulate. Without her dedication and discoveries, we would not be on track with finding a vaccine for COVID-19.

BY: Iris Siha

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