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Nathan Allen. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B01026).

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Allen, Nathan (25 April 1813–01 January 1889), physician, social reformer, and public health advocate, was born in Princeton, Massachusetts, the son of Moses Allen and Mehitable Oliver, farmers. He spent his first seventeen years on the family farm, learning to work hard and to follow the Christian principles of his parents. He could not afford a higher education, but a friend in Leicester helped pay his tuition at Amherst Academy and then at Amherst College, where he matriculated in 1832, graduating in 1836....

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Baker, Henry Brooks (29 December 1837–04 April 1920), public health pioneer and author, was born in Brattleboro, Vermont, the son of Ezra Baker and Deborah Knowlton Bigelow. Ezra Baker died when Henry was three. In 1849 the family (Deborah had remarried) moved to Bunker Hill, Ingham County, Michigan, and a year later moved on to Mason, the county seat, ten miles south of Lansing. Henry left home before he reached his fourteenth birthday. For the next few years he worked and attended school irregularly....

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Beers, Clifford Whittingham (30 March 1876–09 June 1943), founder of the mental hygiene movement, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of Robert Anthony Beers, a produce merchant, and Ida Cooke. He spent much of his childhood supervised by an aunt. He attended local public schools and then, at eighteen, matriculated at Yale University’s Sheffield Scientific School. Shortly after he began his studies, his older brother was diagnosed with epilepsy. Fear of developing the disease haunted Beers’s years at Yale; nevertheless, he graduated in 1897 with a Ph.B. After three years working as a clerk in business firms in New York City, Beers suffered a mental breakdown and attempted suicide. Hospitalized between August 1900 and September 1903 with only brief discharges, he was treated at Stamford Hall, the Hartford Retreat, and the Connecticut State Hospital at Middletown. At all of these institutions, he suffered mistreatments ranging from humiliation to physical abuse. Outraged at the untherapeutic conditions and determined, upon his release, to work to reform them, he once intentionally caused himself to be transferred to a more severe ward to experience the worst conditions the hospital had to offer, including physical abuse and fifteen consecutive hours in a straight jacket. After his release he returned briefly to the business world, intent on acquiring enough prestige and money to begin a campaign to fight for the reform of mental institutions. The stress that these ambitions induced necessitated a brief return to the Hartford Retreat for several months in late 1904 and early 1905....

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Biggs, Hermann Michael (29 September 1859–28 June 1923), pathologist, bacteriologist, physician, and public health official, was born in Trumansburg, New York, the son of Joseph Hunt Biggs and Melissa Pratt. Dr. Biggs married Frances M. Richardson, of Hornellsville, New York, in 1898; they had two children. Biggs received his primary education in Ithaca, New York, and matriculated into Cornell University, where he received the bachelor of arts degree in 1882. From Cornell Biggs went on to medical school at the Bellevue Hospital Medical College, where he received his M.D. the following year. He spent the next eighteen months (1882–1883) in the postgraduate course at Bellevue, where he served as a rotating intern and resident physician. Upon completion of this course, Biggs traveled to Europe and spent the next two years (1883–1885) studying bacteriology in Berlin and Griefswald. When he returned to New York City in 1886, Biggs was made director of the newly opened Carnegie Bacteriology Laboratory of the Bellevue Hospital. His rise in academic rank was meteoric; appointed a lecturer in pathology in 1886, Biggs was made a full professor of pathology in 1889, professor of materia medica (pharmacology) in 1892, professor of therapeutics in 1898, and professor of medicine in 1912....

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John Shaw Billings. Courtesy of the Clendening History of Medicine Library and Museum, University of Kansas Medical Center.

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Billings, John Shaw (12 April 1838–11 March 1913), army medical officer, library organizer, and public health activist, was born near Allensville, Indiana, the son of James Billings, a farmer and storekeeper, and Abby Shaw. Despite spotty secondary schooling, he ultimately went to Miami College (Ohio), where he earned his B.A. in 1857. He was awarded the M.D. by the Medical College of Ohio in 1860. Billings remained with the latter institution for a year as an anatomical demonstrator, but after the outbreak of the Civil War he joined the U.S. Army as a contract surgeon. In 1862 he was commissioned first lieutenant and assistant surgeon and went on to make army service his career. Also in 1862 he married Katharine Mary Stevens; they had five children....

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Bowditch, Henry Ingersoll (09 August 1808–14 January 1892), physician, public hygienist, and abolitionist, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Bowditch, a mathematician and astronomer, and Mary Ingersoll. Raised in a patrician family, Bowditch, who received his early education at the Salem Private Grammar School and Boston Public Latin School, graduated from Harvard College in 1828. He then studied at the Harvard Medical School and supplemented its didactic lectures by serving in 1831–1832 as house officer at the Massachusetts General Hospital....

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Breckinridge, Mary (17 February 1881–16 May 1965), advocate of nurse-midwifery, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the daughter of Clifton Rodes Breckinridge, a congressman and ambassador to Russia, and Katherine Carson. Educated at Rosemont-Dezaley in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the Low and Heywood School in Stamford, Connecticut, Breckinridge married Henry Ruffner Morrison in 1904. After her husband’s death less than two years later, she attended St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing in New York City from 1907 to 1910 and graduated as a registered nurse. Her second marriage in 1912, to Richard Ryan Thompson, ended in divorce in 1920, and Breckinridge resumed her maiden name. With her second husband, she had two children; one died at the age of four, and the other died shortly after birth. According to Breckinridge, the deaths of her children prompted her lifelong commitment to improving the health and welfare of mothers and babies....

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Herman N. Bundesen. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B03896).

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Bundesen, Herman Niels (27 April 1882–15 August 1960), physician, author, and politician, was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of a Danish father and a German mother whose identities are unknown. Brought to Chicago at an early age by his impoverished, widowed mother, he graduated from Northwestern University Medical School in 1909. Also in 1909 he married Rega Russell; they had six children....

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Hugh Cabot. Courtesy of the Clendening History of Medicine Library, University of Kansas Medical Center.

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Cabot, Hugh (11 August 1872–14 August 1945), surgeon, educator, and medical reformer, was born in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, the son of James Elliot Cabot, an architect, naturalist, and graduate of Harvard Law School, and Elizabeth Dwight. The youngest of seven boys, Cabot was an active child, exposed to music, the Unitarian religion, the challenge of the outdoors, and his parents’ philanthropic ideals. His privileged yet altruistic upbringing underlay his future productive life....

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Codman, Ernest Amory (30 December 1869–23 November 1930), or Amory Codman, orthopedic surgeon and medical reformer, was born in Boston, the son of Elizabeth Hurd Codman and William Coombs Codman, a wealthy businessman. Codman spent his life in Boston as the talented son of one of the city's elite families. He received his early education at a private boarding school and entered high school at the scientifically oriented St. Marks's School, where in his senior year he won the prestigious Founder's Medal. Upon graduation in June 1887 Codman entered Harvard College, graduating with honors in June 1891 and moving on to Harvard Medical School. In medical school, Codman met ...

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Coit, Henry Leber (16 March 1854–12 March 1917), pediatrician, was born in Peapack, New Jersey, the son of John Summerfield Coit, a Methodist minister, and Ellen Neafie. He received his early education in Newark public schools. In 1876 he graduated class valedictorian from the College of Pharmacy in New York and then went to work as a chemist for Tarrant & Company in New York City. He worked as a chemist and taught at the College of Pharmacy while he attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, from which he graduated with a degree in medicine in 1883....

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Cramp, Arthur Joseph (10 September 1872–25 November 1951), American Medical Association investigator and critic of health quackery, was born in London, England, the son of Joseph Cramp and Mary Ann Jackson. About 1891 Cramp migrated to Missouri, attending Maryville Seminary and in 1897 marrying Lillian Caroline Torrey. From 1894 to 1902 he taught science in Milwaukee high schools and served as principal of the Wisconsin Industrial School for Boys at Waukesha....

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Crumbine, Samuel Jay (17 September 1862–12 July 1954), physician and public health reformer, was born in Venango County, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Jacob Krumbine and Sarah Mull. Crumbine’s father, a blacksmith and small-scale farmer, served in the 101st Pennsylvania Infantry during the Civil War, was captured, and died in Libby Prison. Crumbine and his mother lived with his maternal grandmother until, at the age of eight, he entered the Soldiers Orphan School in Mercer, Pennsylvania. Because schoolmates called him “Crummie,” he began spelling his last name with a ...

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Dederich, Charles (22 March 1913–28 February 1997), reformed alcoholic and founder of Synanon, was born Charles Edwin Dederich in Toledo, Ohio, the son of Charles Edwin Dederich, a promoter, and Agnes Kountz Dederich, a singer. When Dederich was four years old, his father, an alcoholic, was killed in an automobile accident. Dederich graduated from high school and entered the University of Notre Dame. Eighteen months later, he dropped out because of poor grades. Returning to Ohio, Dederich enrolled in the University of Toledo but flunked out there as well. After securing work at Gulf Oil's Toledo office, he married a woman whose name is unknown and had one son. Dederich worked at Gulf as a traveling salesman. In 1944 he was diagnosed with meningitis and fell into a coma for two weeks. Through the experimental use of penicillin, he revived. Still, he suffered from some facial paralysis and loss of hearing and was convinced that he was dying. He quit his job and moved with his family to Los Angeles. In California, Dederich divorced his wife, married Ruth Jason (the date is unknown), and had a daughter. He found work at Douglas Aircraft but had difficulty maintaining employment because of his drinking and dependence on benzedrine....

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Drinker, Cecil Kent (17 March 1887–14 April 1956), physician and industrial health expert, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Henry Sturgis Drinker, an engineer, lawyer, and president of Lehigh University, and Aimee Ernesta Beaux. He earned a B.S. from Haverford College in 1908 and an M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1913. He then spent a year as research assistant for ...

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Eliot, Martha May (07 April 1891–14 February 1978), pediatrician, advocate for maternal and child health, and teacher, was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, the daughter of Christopher Rhodes Eliot, a Unitarian minister, and Mary Jackson May. Eliot attended the Prince School and Miss Windsor’s School in Boston, going on to Radcliffe College, where she majored in classical literature. Having developed an interest in medicine, she also completed premedical requirements, graduating in 1913. She then applied to Harvard Medical School, which did not then admit women; having made her attempt and her point, she entered Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1914, receiving the M.D. with honors in 1918. Following an internship in medicine at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, she completed a residency in pediatrics at St. Louis Children’s Hospital (1919–1920)....