David in the Mobile Biological Isolation System / Houston, Texas / June 1978


"The Boy in the Bubble" 

David (1971-1984) 
As his mother looks on, six-year-old David plays with a water hose during one of his initial ventures outside the confines of the Texas Children's Hospital in Houston in June 1978. David was born at the hospital with an extremely rare hereditary disorder known as severe combined immune deficiency. Because his brother had died of the disease, doctors immediately placed David into a plastic isolation unit that acted as an artificial immune system. The NASA-made mobile isolator system shown here allowed him a degree of mobility. David, who became known to the world as "the boy in the bubble," lived in such isolators for nearly 13 years. He died on February 22, 1984, following an unsuccessful bone marrow graft, an attempt to provide him with the capacity to make antibodies on his own and thus free him from the bubble. 

More information about David and a schematic diagram of the Mobile Biological Isolation System can be found at http://historywired.si.edu/detail.cfm?ID=3