J. Michael Lane, a General in the Rout of Smallpox, Dies at 84


“Obviously we were happy and elated,” Dr. Lane said in July in a phone interview for this obituary from his home, where he was in hospice care. “But it was expected. We had watched the curve go down in the early ’70s, and the official announcement wasn’t a big deal. What was a big deal was successfully getting rid of the disease in 1977.”

Credit…via Lane family

John Michael Lane was born in Boston on Feb. 14, 1936, to Eileen O’Connor and Alfred Baker Lewis II. Their subsequent marriage was her first and his second, and the surname Lane was created by his mother and conferred upon John and an older brother, Roger. John had another brother, Stephen Lewis, as well as a half brother, Alfred Baker Lewis III, and two half sisters, Helena Lewis and Caroline Lewis, the children of Mr. Lewis II’s first marriage.

John’s father, a Socialist with inherited wealth, was a treasurer of the national N.A.A.C.P. and spoke on racial equality at Black churches and colleges in the South in the 1940s. He and his wife sponsored Jewish refugees from Germany during World War II. She was a director of Planned Parenthood and the Y.W.C.A.

When the boy, called Mike, was 6, the family moved to Greenwich, Conn., where he graduated from the private Brunswick School in 1952. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Yale in 1957, a medical degree from Harvard in 1961 and a master’s in public health epidemiology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1967. After interning at Bellevue Hospital in New York, he joined the C.D.C. in 1963 and within a year was assigned to the smallpox fight.

Dr. Lane’s marriage to Carolina Hernandez, in 1969, ended in divorce in 1998. He and Ms. Summer were married that year.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter from his first marriage, Cynthia Michelle Edward, and a stepdaughter, Annabel Moore, as well as his brother, his half brother and half sisters, and two grandchildren.

After the smallpox triumph, Dr. Lane remained at the C.D.C. as director of the Center for Prevention Services from 1980 to 1987. He taught at Emory University in Atlanta from 1988 to 1991, at the Australian National University in Canberra from 1991 to 1993, and again at Emory from 1993 to 2001.



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