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date: 21 October 2019

Flexner, Simonlocked

(25 March 1863–02 May 1946)
  • Patricia Gossel


Flexner, Simon (25 March 1863–02 May 1946), pathologist and bacteriologist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of well-educated Jewish immigrants Morris Flexner, a merchant and salesman, and Esther Abraham, a seamstress. Simon Flexner had little formal education. As a child he was an indifferent student and a mischief maker. He quit school in the sixth grade and held a variety of menial jobs. At age sixteen he nearly succumbed to typhoid fever, and after he recovered his attitude toward education changed. He became a pharmacy apprentice at Vincent Davis’s drugstore for two years and attended two three-month courses of lectures at the Louisville College of Pharmacy, surprising his family by finishing first in his class in 1882. Upon graduating he clerked for eight years in the drugstore owned by his eldest brother, Jacob. Simon lived over the store, made up for his educational deficits by studying math and science from his brothers’ school books, took up botanizing and microscopy, and organized the Louisville Microscopical Club. He taught himself histology and acquired an interest in pathology through local doctors, who gathered to converse in Jacob’s store and brought him specimens to analyze. Simon Flexner hoped to open his own pathological laboratory in Louisville, so he entered the University of Louisville School of Medicine and earned an M.D. in 1889. At the urging of his younger brother Abraham, who later became known for writing the Carnegie Institution report on American medical schools, Flexner enrolled in the postgraduate course in pathology at the Johns Hopkins University....

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