The 1910s Medicine and Health: Headline Makers

views updated

The 1910s Medicine and Health: Headline Makers

Edward Calvin Kendall
William Mayo
Adolf Meyer
Thomas Hunt Morgan
Margaret Sanger
Lillian D. Wald

Edward Calvin Kendall (1886–1972) With a Ph.D. in chemistry from Columbia University, Edward Calvin Kendall spent years researching matters relating to the thyroid hormone (a natural secretion of the endocrine gland that acts as a chemical messenger) of the thyroid gland. In 1915, he succeeded in isolating and chemically identifying the pure crystalline thyroid hormone, a breakthrough in the treatment of thyroid disorders. Then Kendall joined the Mayo Clinic staff, where he investigated the Compound E hormone (which was renamed cortisone). Cortisone became an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, a crippling disease of pain, stiffness, and swelling of the joints. Its application allowed debilitated sufferers to regain the ability to walk and move more freely.

William Mayo (1861–1939) and Charles Mayo (1865–1939) In 1915, physicians and brothers William and Charles Mayo founded the Mayo Clinic as a surgical clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. One of America's first approaches to practicing medicine through teamwork, the Mayo clinic would become a world-renowned full-service medical center. During World War I (1914–18), "Dr. Will" and "Dr. Charlie" were among the chief advisers to the government regarding medical matters. Both men received the U.S. Distinguished Service Medal after the war. With their donation of a $1.5 million endowment in 1915, they also founded the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research at the University of Minnesota.

Adolf Meyer (1866–1950) A native of Switzerland, psychiatric theorist Adolf Meyer trained in at the University of Zurich before finding employment in the United States. Studying the work of American philosophers and psychologists, Meyer came up with a concept of human behavior that he called ergasiology or psychobiology, integrating the results of studies of psychology (the study of the mind) and biology (the study of life and living processes). From 1914 to 1941, he was director of the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, one of the most significant training grounds for psychiatrists. Meyer helped to standardize the method of recording case histories of patients. He also reformed state asylums and was cofounder of a hygiene movement.

Thomas Hunt Morgan (1866–1945) After obtaining a Ph.D. in comparative anatomy and physiology from Johns Hopkins University in 1890, Thomas Hunt Morgan became a professor of biology and zoology. In 1909, he began his extensive experimentation in genetics. Through laboratory work with fruit flies, Morgan was able to unlock many mysteries of heredity. He proved that units of heredity, called genes, were arranged in a line on chromosomes ("colored bodies" found in the nuclei of cells). Morgan's work established the chromosome as the storehouse of hereditary substance passed from one cell to another, and by parent to child, from generation to generation. In 1933, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine for establishing that chromosomes carry hereditary traits.

Margaret Sanger (1879–1966) Activist Margaret Sanger is the single most important force behind the introduction and distribution of birth control methods in the United States. She also helped to remove the stigma of birth control. In her work as a nurse and midwife, she encountered many women who sought methods to restrict pregnancies. Despite a culture that condemned open discussions of sexual matters, Sanger began lecturing and writing articles on sex education and health. She founded the National Birth Control League in 1914 and the Planned Parenthood Foundation of America in 1921. In 1950, she sponsored research that led to the development of the birth control pill.

Lillian D. Wald (1867–1940) While a student at the Woman's Medical College in New York, Lillian D. Wald became acquainted with the shockingly poor health conditions endured by tenement dwellers. She left school and cofounded the Henry Street Visiting Nurse Service on the Lower East Side, where she and colleagues provided health care for the neighborhood. In 1912, she helped persuade Congress to found the United States Children's Bureau for prenatal and maternal care of women with inadequate resources to pay for medical attention during their pregnancies. Wald also created the Rural Nursing Bureau of the American Red Cross. Her efforts laid the foundation for training programs in public health nursing, resulting in improved health conditions for generations of needy people. Photo reproduced courtesy of Library of Congress.

About this article

The 1910s Medicine and Health: Headline Makers

Updated About content Print Article


The 1910s Medicine and Health: Headline Makers