Yvonne Margaret (née Barr) Balding (1932 - 2016)

Yvonne Margaret (née Barr) Balding (1932-2016) was an Irish virologist.

Co-discoverer of human herpes virus 4, more commonly known as the Epstein-Barr virus, along with Sir Anthony Epstein and Bert Achong in 1964.

There is little biographical information about Dr Barr. Immediately following completion of her PhD in 1966, she emigrated to Melbourne, Australia; raised two children; gained the Diploma of Education; and taught biology in secondary schools for 20 years.

  • Born Yvonne Margaret Barr on March 11, 1932 in Carlow, Ireland
  • BA, Zoology from Trinity College, Dublin
  • 1963 – Laboratory assistant to Michael Anthony Epstein (1921 – ) at the Bland-Sutton Institute of Pathology, Middlesex Hospital, London
  • 1964 – Discovery of human herpes virus 4 (HHV-4) in Burkitt lymphoma
  • 1965 – Married Australian Stuart F. Balding (1932-2019) in Sussex, United Kingdom
  • 1966 – PhD, University of London
  • Died February 13, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia

Medical Eponyms
Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) (1964)

The EBV, or human herpes virus 4 (HHV-4), is a Lymphocryptovirus belonging to the subfamily Gammaherpesvirinae of the family Herpesviridae. The virus consists of a linear double-stranded DNA core surrounded by a nucleocapsid and an envelope that contains glycoproteins. In addition, EBV has been defined as a category I human tumor virus by the UICC (1997).

On March 22, 1961, Denis Burkitt (1911-1993) visited England from Uganda and presented a lecture at Middlesex Hospital detailing “The Commonest Children’s Cancer in Tropical Africa — A Hitherto Unrecognised Syndrome”. Epstein was in the audience.

I had been working at the Middlesex Hospital on the then seriously unfashionable cancer causing viruses of chickens (Rous sarcoma virus)…when Burkitt mentioned the peculiar temperature and rainfall determined geography of the tumour I immediately considered the possible involvement of a human cancer-causing virus spread by a climate-dependent vector and decided, even as Burkitt was talking, to stop my current work and seek for such an agent

Epstein 2012

Epstein asked Burkitt for a tissue sample and arranged for samples of tumours taken from children with Burkitt lymphoma to be shipped from Uganda to Epstein’s lab in London. He searched in vein for 2 years, but was not able to isolate the virus. With a US National Institute of Health grant for $45,000, Epstein recruited Yvonne Barr for cell culture preparation, and the electron microscopy skills of Bert Geoffrey Achong (1928-1996) to help him in the search.

On Friday 5 December 1963 fog caused the flight from Uganda to be diverted to Manchester and the tissue sample was delayed. The tissue sample was from the upper jaw of a 9 year old girl with Burkitt lymphoma from Kampala. On reaching Epstein’s lab in London, the usually clear sample transit fluid was found to be cloudy with huge numbers of viable, free-floating lymphoma cells shaken from the sample by the unusually long flight. Lymphoma cell lines were cultured and grew continuously, forming the immortal cell line EB-1 after Epstein and Barr.

…the free floating cells from this delayed sample were set up in suspension and the first cell line duly grew out designated EB to distinguish it from HeLa, OMK, BHK and other cells in the laboratory…This was the first time that any cells from the human lymphocytic series had ever been grown in vitro…the discovery was rapidly sent for publication with my research assistants, Bert Achong, who helped with the electron microscopy, and Yvonne Barr, who helped with the cell culture

Epstein 2012

In 1968, the virology team of Gertrude and Werner Henle discovered how to immunize against the Epstein–Barr virus and confirmed a link between this virus and infectious mononucleosis. The Henle’s are responsible for

A herpes-type virus has been detected with remarkable frequency in cell lines derived from Burkitt’s lymphomas, leukemic tissues, or buffy coats of a variety of patients and healthy donors. This agent is being named EB virus (EBV), for convenience, after the cell lines in which it was first observed…The present report indicates that EBV is related to, and probably the cause of, infectious mononucleosis.

Henle G, Henle W, Diehl V. 1968

Major Publications




EBV 50th anniversary Conference at Keble College, Oxford, UK 23-25 March, 2014


Studied at University of Leeds-MBChB and Microbiology in Relation to Medicine BSc. British doctor currently working in Emergency Medicine in Perth, Australia.

BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

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