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Henry E. Sigerist

Correspondences with Welch, Cushing, Garrison, and Ackerknecht

Edited By Marcel H. Bickel

Henry E. Sigerist (1891-1957) is known as the most influential medical historian in the first half of the 20 th century. More than that he was a scholar of an unusually broad spectrum of activities. 50 years after his death he is still the subject of publications. During his active life in Zurich, Leipzig, Baltimore, and again in Switzerland he exchanged letters with some 300 correspondents of all walks of cultural life. The letters to Sigerist as well as the copies of his own letters are preserved in near completeness, a fact that allowed an unabridged and annotated edition. This volume contains Sigerist’s correspondences with the architect of American medicine, William H. Welch, the pioneer brain surgeon, Harvey Cushing, the medical bibliographer, Fielding H. Garrison, and the medical historian, Erwin H. Ackerknecht. The letters allow insight into the correspondents’ biographies and activities, their private lives, and relationships between persons, topics, and books. They also reflect the eventful time of the mid-20 th century. To each of the four correspondences is added an introduction and indices of literary works and of persons mentioned.


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1. Correspondence Henry E. Sigerist – William H. Welch 1927–1933


14 15 1.1. Introduction 1.1.1. William H. Welch (1850–1934) William Henry Welch was born in Norfolk, CT, on 8 April 1850, the son of a physician. He studied at Yale University in New Haven, CT, and at the College of Physicians and Sur- geons in New York, obtaining his M. D. degree in 1875. During an internship at the Bellevue Hospital he developed a keen interest in pa- thology. After one year he started for a training tour in Europe, as did many colleagues interested in scien- tific medicine. For two years he stud- ied research methods in Strasburg, Leipzig, Breslau, and Vienna under medical leaders like Waldeyer, von Recklinghausen, Hoppe-Seyler, Ludwig, Weigert, Cohnheim and others. He returned with a scientific, laboratory-based training in pathology. Back in New York Welch inaugurated the first teaching laboratory in pathology in the U.S., however, with restricted possibilities to do research. The way out of frustration was his being offered the professorship in pathology at the newly founded Johns Hopkins University in 1884. Before moving to Baltimore Welch spent another year in Germany, concentrating on the rapidly emerging fields of bacteriology and public health and studying with Robert Koch in Berlin and Max von Pettenkofer in Munich. In 1885 Welch started work at the Johns Hopkins University where, in collaboration with President Gilman, John S. Billings, and H. Newell Martin he succeeded to recruit the best possible men for the new Hopkins Hospital and Medical School: Osler, Halsted, Kelly, Mall, Abel, Howell, 16...

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