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November 24, 1989

Reminiscences of a Perinatologist

JAMA. 1989;262(20):2891-2893. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430200135040

IN 1952, Dr Nickolson J. Eastman, head of the Department of Obstetrics at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Md, said in discussing a paper I had just presented:

I think Dr Potter and Dr Davis both perhaps should be congratulated on having coined the word perinatal. I am sorry I did not think of it. You see, heretofore we said stillbirth and neonatal pathology, stillbirth and neonatal death. Well, that is a long and cumbersome phrase and perinatal death covers the whole thing. With your permission I am going to start using it myself.

Although this may have been the first time the word was used publicly, the fetus and newborn had been subjects of investigation for more than 100 years—now this period of life has become a medical specialty of its own.

My interest in perinatal pathology began in medical school in the early 1920s, when