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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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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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Betty Ford. 1974. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-2019).

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Ford, Betty (08 April 1918–08 July 2011), first lady of the United States and public health advocate, was born Elizabeth Ann Bloomer in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest of three children of William S. Bloomer, a traveling salesman, and Hortense Neahr Bloomer. She was raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her father died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 1934; at his funeral Betty learned from her mother that he had been an alcoholic. Starting dance lessons at age eight, Betty briefly thought of becoming a ballerina. However, she soon gravitated toward modern dance, which, after her 1936 graduation from high school, she studied at the Bennington School of Dance in Vermont. One of her instructors, the influential ...

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Kellogg, John Harvey (26 February 1852–14 December 1943), physician, surgeon, and health reformer, was born in rural Livingston County, Michigan, the son of John Preston Kellogg and Anne Stanley, farmers. In 1852 Kellogg’s parents accepted the religious teachings that led to the organization of the Seventh-day Adventist church in 1863. This decision had a marked influence on their son’s life. By 1856 the family had resettled in Battle Creek, Michigan. Part of the proceeds from the sale of their farm was used to relocate the infant Adventist publishing plant from Rochester, New York, to Battle Creek, where Kellogg’s father now operated a small store and broom shop....

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McClennan, Alonzo Clifton (01 May 1855–04 October 1912), black physician and professional leader, was born in Columbia, South Carolina, the orphaned son of unknown parents. As with many African Americans of the post–Civil War era, it was Reconstruction that gave McClennan a chance at larger life. In 1872, at the height of the movement in South Carolina (and thanks to the influence of a guardian-uncle), he became a page in the black-dominated state senate. There he won the notice and friendship of influential legislator ...

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Poindexter, Hildrus Augustus (10 May 1901–20 April 1987), physician, microbiologist, and public health specialist, was born on a farm near Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Fred Poindexter and Luvenia Gilberta Clarke, tenant farmers. After attending the normal (teacher training) department of Swift Memorial College, a Presbyterian school for blacks in Rogersville, Tennessee (1916–1920), he entered Lincoln University (Pa.) and graduated with an A.B. cum laude in 1924. Also in 1924 he married Ruth Viola Grier, with whom he would have one child, a daughter. He attended Dartmouth Medical School for two years before earning an M.D. at Harvard University in 1929, an A.M. in bacteriology at Columbia University in 1930, a Ph.D. in bacteriology and parasitology at Columbia in 1932, and an M.P.H. from Columbia in 1937....

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Putnam, Elizabeth Lowell (02 February 1862–05 June 1935), pioneer in prenatal care, antisuffragist, and conservative political activist, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the daughter of Augustus Lowell and Katharine Lawrence. From early childhood until age five she lived with her family in France. In 1888 she married a noted Boston lawyer and a distant cousin, William Lowell Putnam. The Putnams had five children. Their daughter Harriet died of impure milk at age two, and her death was probably the catalyst for Putnam’s long commitment to infant and maternal health and welfare....

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Rauch, John Henry (04 September 1828–24 March 1894), leader in public health and regulation of medical education and practice, was born in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, the son of Bernhard Rauch, a farmer and wool dyer, and Jane Brown. He obtained his education at the Lebanon Academy and in 1846 began the study of medicine with John W. Gloninger, a local physician. The following year he entered the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania. After writing a thesis on a medicinal plant, ...

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Soper, Fred Lowe (13 December 1893–09 February 1977), medical doctor and public health administrator, was born in Hutchinson, Kansas, the son of Socrates John Soper, a pharmacist, and Mary Ann Jordan, a schoolteacher. He attended the University of Kansas, earning a B.A. in 1914, and an M.S. in embryology one year later. After two years at the University of Illinois Medical School, he transferred to Rush Medical College at the University of Chicago, graduating with his M.D. in 1918. In addition, he earned a certificate in public health from Johns Hopkins University in 1923, eventually completing his doctorate in public health at that same institution in absentia two years later....

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Switzer, Mary Elizabeth (16 February 1900–16 October 1971), administrator and leader in rehabilitation, was born in Upper Newton Falls, Massachusetts, the daughter of Julius Switzer, a machinist and motorman for the Stanley Steamer Company, and Margaret Moore. Her mother died of tuberculosis in 1911, and Julius Switzer left Boston with his son, relinquishing his two daughters to the care of his wife’s family. “Uncle Mike” Moore exposed his niece to the revolutionary forces of the time, including her in his trips to the Gaelic League and to socialist rallies. Switzer entered Newton Classical High School at fourteen and won a scholarship to Radcliffe College. Elizabeth Brandeis, a Radcliffe friend who directed the District of Columbia Minimum Wage Board, led Switzer to Washington and her first job after her 1921 graduation....

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Charles W. Carey Jr.

Todd, Eli (22 July 1769–17 November 1833), physician, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of Michael Todd, a wealthy merchant, and Mary Rowe. When Eli was five years old, his father went insane and died, and he was sent to live with his great-uncle in Guilford, Connecticut. He completed his secondary education under a private tutor, and in 1783 he matriculated at Yale College, where he received his A.B. four years later. In 1787 he took a trip to the West Indies, where his family had business interests; while in Trinidad, he contracted yellow fever and almost died. After a failed shipping venture cost him his inheritance, he studied medicine for two years with a New Haven physician. In 1790 he opened his own medical practice in Farmington, Connecticut....

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Valentine, Lila Hardaway Meade (04 February 1865–14 July 1921), proponent of public schools, public health, and woman suffrage, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the daughter of Richard Hardaway Meade, a businessman, and Kate Fontaine. Largely self-taught, she read widely. She married Benjamin Batchelder Valentine, a poet and businessman, in 1886. Beginning in 1888, with major surgery after the stillbirth of their only child, her physical health remained always precarious....

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Welsh, Lilian (06 March 1858–23 February 1938), physician, educator, and suffragist, was born in Columbia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Major Thomas Welsh and Annie Eunice Young. Her father served in the Mexican War in 1847, returned to civilian life, and then rejoined the military when the Civil War broke out. He had just risen to the rank of brigadier general, commanding a division of 4,500 men, when he took ill and died in 1863. Welsh graduated from Columbia High School at the age of fifteen as one of two young women making up the first graduating class. Between the years 1873 and 1881 she taught at the primary, elementary, and secondary levels and attended Millersville State Normal School in Pennsylvania and taught there. From 1881 to 1886 she served as the principal of Columbia High School. In 1885, finding no opportunities for women to advance their careers as superintendents of schools, she considered the two choices open to her for continuing her education: work for the A.B. at Bryn Mawr College, which had just opened that year, or proceed to the study of medicine for which at the time no college requirement was necessary. Interest in chemistry steered her on the latter course. She earned the M.D. from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1889 and pursued her studies further by working toward a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Zurich in the hopes of becoming a research scientist. While in Zurich, she met Dr. ...