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Surgical Reminiscence
September 1999

John Homans, MD, 1877-1954

Arch Surg. 1999;134(9):1019-1020. doi:10.1001/archsurg.134.9.1019

JOHN HOMANS' name is still occasionally remembered because of the eponymic sign of pain in the calf on active or passive dorsiflexion of the foot in patients with deep venous thrombosis of the calf. Homans himself, although it bears his name, decried that sign. "If they had to name a sign after me," he would say with his slight lisp, "why didn't they pick one that was any damn good?"

Homans was born in Boston, Mass, educated at Harvard and Harvard Medical School, and his initial residency training was at Massachusetts General Hospital. This preliminary career in Boston was followed by further experience in Baltimore, Md, and London, England, before his return to Boston to join Harvey Cushing at the new Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in 1912. Nearing retirement, he spent a year in New Haven, Conn, as the Carmalt Visiting Professor at Yale University. When World War II depleted the ranks of the Brigham teaching staff, he returned to help out those who were left. It was during those years that I knew him (1943-1949).