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February 16, 1994

William Henry Welch and the Heroic Age of American Medicine

Author Affiliations

Massachusetts General Hospital Harvard Medical School Boston


by Simon Flexner and James Thomas Flexner, 539 pp, $29.95, ISBN 0-8018-4501-7, Baltimore, Md, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1941, 1968, 1993.

JAMA. 1994;271(7):558-559. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03510310090052

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Johns Hopkins, a rich Baltimore merchant, left the largest philanthropic gift in the history of the United States when he died in 1873. Nearly $7 million were divided equally between the prospective Johns Hopkins University and The Johns Hopkins Hospital; the Medical School was linked to both of them. He thereby initiated a revolution in American medical education and medical care.

A few individuals were responsible for these rapid developments. President Gilman, the first president of the Hopkins, and William Henry Welch, a young pathologist and dean of the medical school, were scientists. Sir William Osler was a great humanist and clinician. William S. Halsted developed meticulous surgical techniques in the laboratory as well as the operating theater. Howard A. Kelly was a dextrous, capable surgeon. The last major architect was Abraham Flexner, who, in 1910, delivered his kiss of death to half of the medical schools in the country

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