Medical researcher John Wallace was born March 8, 1925 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated from Howard University in 1947 with an honors bachelors in zoology. Originally, he was going to enroll at a medical student at Meharry Medical College. However, after spending a summer in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital doing research with Dr. Albert Sabin, Wallace changed his mind and enrolled at Ohio State University where he received MS and Ph.D. degrees in Bacteriology in 1948 and 1951 respectively.
After obtaining his Ph.D., Wallace because a research associate and bacteriologist at Harvard Medical School. From there he became a professor at Meharry Medical School, Tulane University, Ohio State University, then lastly as the chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Louisville Medical School. He held this position from 1972 until 1990.
Wallace did research in the field of immunology, specifically looking at the regulation of immune response to cancer tumors, infectious disease, and tobacco smoke. During his studies he developed new cell culture techniques and published over 130 articles in refereed journals. He was nominated for the presidency of the American Society of Microbiologist, a group of more than 35,000 microbiologists.
Wallace also had a lifelong passion for increasing the involvement of people of color in the sciences. He was the chairman of Minority Affairs Committee of the American Association of Immunology, and there he put a national plan in place to help bring more people of color into the sciences. The program brought teachers into immunology labs from universities, colleges, high schools, and middle schools. The goal was to develop specialized teaching material on microbiology that could then be taken back to the classroom in schools in minority communities. This in turn would jumpstart an interest in science among these students.
In 1990 Wallace left his position as chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Louisville Medical School to pursue work for the American Association for Medical Colleges, specifically looking at the standards of medical education across the United States. When he stepped down Wallace noted that he was one of only three blacks who held Chairman positions in microbiology at major white research institutions and medical schools.
Dr. John Wallace died of cancer in Louisville, Kentucky sometime in 1992. The precise date is unknown. It is believed he was age 67 at the time of his death. There is no record of Wallace having a wife or children.