Welch, William Henry

Welch, William Henry,

1850–1934, American pathologist, b. Norfolk, Conn., grad. Yale (B.A., 1870), M.D. College of Physicians and Surgeons (now part of Columbia Univ., 1875). After studying abroad he taught (1879–84) at Bellevue Hospital Medical College, introducing laboratory methods of instruction. He was associated with Johns Hopkins, as professor of pathology (1884–1916), dean of the medical faculty (1893–98), director of the school of hygiene (1916–26), and professor of the history of medicine (1926–30). He was chairman of the board of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (now Rockefeller Univ.) from 1901. His research includes studies of the Welch bacillus of gas gangrene and of embolism, thrombosis, and diphtheria.


See biographies by S. Flexner and J. T. Flexner (1941, repr. 1966) and D. Fleming (1954, repr. 1972).

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Welch, William Henry

(1850–1934) pathologist, medical educator, public health pioneer; born in Norfolk, Conn. After taking his M.D. from the New York College of Physicians (1875), he spent three years studying in Europe with some of the most important medical researchers of the day. Back in New York City, he began work as a pathologist at the Bellevue Hospital and Women's Hospital. Accepting a post as professor of pathology at Johns Hopkins University (1883), he returned to Europe briefly to study bacteriology under Robert Koch, then organized a pathological laboratory at Johns Hopkins; he would eventually serve as first dean of the Johns Hopkins Medical School (1893–98) and was responsible for introducing many of the reforms and individuals who made Johns Hopkins a major medical center. In an advisory capacity, he also implanted his ideas on medical schools, education, and research in the newly founded Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research and the Carnegie Foundation. Meanwhile, he had become increasingly more interested in issues of public health, serving as president of the Maryland Board of Health (1898–1922), advising the surgeon general of the army during World War I, and becoming the first dean of the new School of Hygiene and Public Health at Johns Hopkins (1918–26). Through all these years he also made notable contributions to medical research, including his discovery that cholera and typhoid were spread by microorganisms, not miasmas (1887); his book Thrombosis and Embolism (1899); his discovery of a bacillus (named after him) that produces "gas gangrene" in wounded soldiers; and other work that advanced the fields of pathology and bacteriology in the U.S.A.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.