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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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Austin, Harriet N. (1825–1891), hydropathic physician and health and dress reformer, was born in Connecticut but raised in Moravia, New York. Little is known about her parentage or early life. At age twenty-six she enrolled in the first class of the coeducational American Hydropathic Institute operated by ...

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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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Bissell, Emily Perkins (31 May 1861–08 March 1948), volunteer social worker and author, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the daughter of Champion Aristarcus Bissell, a lawyer and banker, and Josephine Wales. Her forebears settled in Connecticut where her father, a Yale graduate, was reared. Her maternal grandfather, John Wales, served as a U.S. senator from Delaware from 1849 to 1851. Bissell was educated in Wilmington and at Miss Charlier’s School in New York City....

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Blackwell, Elizabeth (03 February 1821–31 May 1910), physician, reformer, and medical educator, was born in Bristol, England, daughter of Samuel Blackwell, a prosperous sugar refiner, and Hannah Lane. Her father’s interest in abolitionism and in “perfectionist reform,” the belief that through education and spiritual regeneration human beings could achieve a just society on earth, coupled with a series of financial reversals, prompted a move to the United States in 1832 when Elizabeth was eleven....

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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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Buckel, C. Annette (25 August 1833–17 August 1912), physician, Civil War nurse, and mental health activist, was born Cloe Annette Buckel in Warsaw, New York, the daughter of Thomas Buckel and his wife (given name unknown), whose surname was Bartlett. Both parents died when Buckel, an only child, was three months old. Until the age of four she lived with her grandparents, and after they died she lived with two young aunts, neither of whom exhibited much warmth toward her. By age four Buckel had learned to read and write. Quickly outgrowing the local district school, she moved on to a more advanced one in a neighboring town. At age fourteen she started teaching school, boarding with her students’ parents, both in New York State and in Canada. While a youth she decided to become a physician. Financially unable to immediately begin formal medical school, she worked in a burnishing factory in Connecticut, living with her employer’s family, and studied Latin as she worked. By living simply and borrowing on a life insurance policy she had purchased, Buckel was able to enter the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1856. She later demonstrated the high regard she felt for the school by leaving it a bequest in her will....

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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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Corson, Juliet (13 January 1841?–18 June 1897), founder of the New York Cooking School and pioneer in the scientific cookery movement, was born in Mount Pleasant, Massachusetts, the daughter of Peter Ross Corson, a prosperous produce merchant, and Mary Ann Henderson. (Although most obituaries and biographical sources give Corson’s birth date as 1842, the Vital Records of Roxbury, Massachusetts, give the date as 1841.) Corson’s family moved to New York City when she was six years old. In New York her uncle, Alfred Upham, helped to raise her and provided her with a classical education. She began to support herself in her late teens after her mother’s death....