Loeb, Leo

views updated

Loeb, Leo

(b. Mayen, Germany, 21 September 1869; d. St. Louis, Missouri, 28 December 1959)

medicine, pathology, cancer research.

Loeb’s mother, Barbara Isay Loeb, died when he was three; his father, Benedict Loeb, died of tuberculosis when the boy was six. He lived with his maternal grandfather in Trier and at age ten moved to Berlin to live with a maternal aunt and uncle, whose daughter Helene married Albert Schweitzer. Tuberculosis and other ailments interrupted Loeb’s schooling and recurred occasionally during his life. After 1889 he attended for short periods the universities of Heidelberg, Berlin, Freiburg (where he studied with August Weismann) and Basel (where he studied with Bunge and Miescher). His disapproval of rising German nationalism and militarism led him to take up medicine at the University of Zurich in 1890-1892. He did his clinical work at the University of Edinburgh and the medical school of London Hospital, occasionally attended lectures at other London medical schools, and returned to Zurich to complete his medical studies in 1895-1897. In his work toward the M.D., which required a thesis, he did skin transplantation experiments on guinea pigs under the direction of the pathologist Hugo Ribbert.

Loeb received the M.D. in 1897, then went to Chicago, where his older brother Jacques was a physiologist at the University. (He had previously visited his brother at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in 1892 and 1894.) During five years in Chicago, Loeb practiced briefly near the University of Chicago, where he was physician to John Dewey’s experimental school and was adjunct professor of pathology at Rush Medical College (later affiliated with the University of Illinois). In a rented room behind a drugstore he did experimental research on the healing of skin wounds of guinea pigs; he extended this research during a brief stay at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where he met William Osier, W. S. Thayer, and L. F. Barker (internal medicine); W. S. Halsted (surgery); W. H. Welch and Simon Flexner (pathology); and Mall and Harrison (anatomy). He also did research during summers at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole.

Loeb next held a research fellowship under Adami at McGill University in 1902 1903. He was assistant professor of experimental pathology at the University of Pennsylvania in 1904-1910; directed laboratory research at Barnard Skin and Cancer Hospital, St. Louis, 1910-1915; and was professor of comparative pathology at Washington University, St. Louis, in 1915-1924, succeeding Eugene L. Opie as Mallinckrodt professor of pathology and department chairman in 1924-1937. On 3 January 1922, at the age of fifty-three, Loeb married Georgianna Sands, a physician in Port Chester, New York. He became emeritus professor of pathology in 1937 but continued to work as research professor (endowed by the Oscar Johnson Institute) until his final retirement in 1941 at the age of seventy-two.

Loeb continued to do research during summers at the Marine Biological Laboratory until 1950, when he nearly died of tuberculosis. Remaining thereafter in St. Louis, he worked on two books, one on the causes and nature of cancer and the other on the psychical factors of human life; both were unfinished at his death.

Among Loeb’s honors were appointments to two endowed professorships; the John Phillips Memorial Prize (1935), awarded annually to an outstanding physician by the American College of Physicians; an annual lectureship in his name, endowed by his students at Washington University; an honorary D.Sc. from Washington University in 1948; and election as a member and officeholder in national and international medical and scientific organizations.

Of his contributions to science, his biographer, Ernest W. Goodpasture, wrote, “Although Loeb did not perfect in vitro culture of cells, he conceptually paved the way.” Placing Loeb among the pioneers in studying the compatibility reactions of hosts toward transplanted tissues of the same and different species, Goodpasture wrote, “Loeb’s histological studies of the fate of transplanted tissue, both normal and tumorous, were probably the first, certainly the most detailed, investigations of this kind.”

His chief research writings were on tissue and tumor growth, tissue culture, pathology of circulation, venom of Heloderma, analysis of experimental amoebocyte tissue, internal secretions, and the biological basis of individuality. Philip A. Shaffer cited Loeb as having helped inaugurate the experimental approach to the study of cancer in the United States.


Loeb’s major books, mainly collaborations, are The Venom of Heloderma, Carnegie Publication no. 177 (Washington, D.C., 1913); Edema (Baltimore, 1924); and The Biological Basis of Individuality (Springfield, III., 1945). His “Autobiographical Notes” appeared in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 2 , no. 1 (Autumn 1958), 1—23.

Philip A. Shaffer’s “Biographical Notes on Dr. Leo Loeb” precedes a comprehensive (over 400 entries) “Bibliography of Writings of Dr. Leo Loeb From 1896 to 1949,” in Archives of Pathology (Chicago), 50 , no. 6 (Dec. 1950), 661-675.

See also New York Times (Dec. 30, 1959), 21; Ernest W, Goodpasture, “Leo Loeb, September 21, 1869-December 28, 1959,” in Biographical Memoirs, National Academy of Sciences, 35 (1961), 205-219; and W. Stanley Hartroft, “Leo Loeb, 1869-1959,” in Archives of Pathology (Chicago), 70 , no. 2 (Aug. 1960), 269-274.

Franklin Parker