Thomas H. Weller of Needham, who won the 1954 Nobel Prize in Medicine for research that laid the groundwork for the eventual development of the polio vaccine, died Aug. 23. He was 93.

Thomas H. Weller of Needham, who won the 1954 Nobel Prize in Medicine for research that laid the groundwork for the eventual development of the polio vaccine, died Aug. 23. He was 93.

At the time of his death, Weller was professor emeritus of tropical public health at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Weller received the Nobel Prize for Medicine with Drs. John Enders and Frederick Robbins for discovering how to grow poliomyelitis viruses in culture for the first time, according to a press release from the Harvard School of Public Health.

By demonstrating that human tissues could be grown in test tubes, which eliminated the need for laboratory animals, the discovery laid the foundation for others to develop the polio vaccine and later other vaccines. Weller was also involved in isolating the cause of chicken pox and shingles. He and others discovered rubella, which causes German measles.

“Professor Weller became a champion for public health and the effort to focus the best of science on the diseases and health problems of the poorest people on the globe,” said Barry R. Bloom, Dean of Harvard School of Public Health, in the press release. “His impact has been incalculable, and his legacy will be something cherished by generations to come at [the Harvard School of Public Health] and far beyond.”

Weller’s wife, Kathleen, said his upbringing in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he grew up surrounded by nature and folks studying it, had a significant influence on his future work.

“He learned a lot about nature, birds and trees there,” Kathleen Weller said. “That influenced his life … He wasn’t a tennis player or a basketball player; it was nature and science.”

It also influenced his decision to come to Needham, buying a home on Winding River Road in the 1950s in a more secluded, rustic part of town.

“When he saw this piece of property, he was thrilled,” Kathleen Weller said. “Just out there was the Charles River and birds and nature.”

Weller earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1936 and a master’s degree from the university a year later. He graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1940, receiving his clinical training at Children’s Hospital in Boston.

Two years later, he began serving at a laboratory in Puerto Rico with the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army, where he worked on malaria control. After the war, Weller returned to Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Weller’s department, now known as the Department of Tropical Public Health, was eventually transferred to the Harvard School of Public Medicine. Weller was named the Richard Pearson Strong Professor of Tropical Public Health in 1954 and became head of the department, a role he served until 1981. He achieved emeritus status in 1985.

“Thomas Weller was one of the great scientists of the 20th century and a leader in neglected tropical diseases,” said Dyann Wirth, chairman of the HSPH Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and Richard Pearson Strong Professor of Infectious Diseases. “He inspired many during his lifetime, and his vision led an entire field for many decades. His legacy is one to be remembered.”

In addition to his Nobel Prize, Weller received the E. Mead Johnson Award of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Bristol Award of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the George Ledlie Prize of Harvard University and the VZV Research Foundation Scientific Achievement Award.

In 1964, he was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences. He has held positions with the U.S. Public Health Service, World Health Organization and U.S. Agency for International Development.

In 1996, he received the Walter Reed Medal from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. He wrote an autobiography in 2004, “Growing Pathogens in Tissue Cultures: Fifty Years in Academic Tropical Medicine, Pediatrics and Virology.”

Weller is survived by his wife, Kathleen (Fahey); two sons, Peter and, Robert; a daughter, Janet; and six grandchildren.

His funeral services were private.

Memorial donations may be made to the Needham Public Library, 1139 Highland Ave., Needham, MA 02494.