James B. Herrick's 1910 article presenting the case of an anemic West Indian student with peculiar-shaped red blood cells was the first description of sickle cell anemia in Western medical literature. However, he told only part of the story. Records in Chicago, Washington, DC, and Grenada, West Indies, reveal more information about the events surrounding Herrick's discovery and help put them in historical perspective. Herrick's intern, Ernest E. Irons, abreast of the latest developments in medicine, actually performed the blood work and alerted Herrick about the odd-looking cells. Changing patterns in American race relations allowed the patient, Walter Clement Noel, to study dentistry in Chicago. He continued to receive care from Irons for 2 1/2 years, then returned to Grenada to practice dentistry. Noel died nine years after his return to Grenada, at age 32.
Savitt TL, Goldberg MF. Herrick's 1910 Case Report of Sickle Cell AnemiaThe Rest of the Story. JAMA. 1989;261(2):266–271. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420020120042
Customize your JAMA Network experience by selecting one or more topics from the list below.
Create a personal account or sign in to: