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A COMMENT ON HISTORICAL "TRUTH" ALLAN C. BARNES* This essay flies in the face of an accepted "truth" of medical history. It is rendered in the first person to indicate that the writer is personally responsible, sometimes castigated, and often lonely in his beliefs. Those who are made uncomfortable by such assaults on tradition are warned to read no further. The story has as its protagonist a distinguished gynecologist of the early decades of this century, Dr. H. Hunter Robb. I first became interested in Robb because of a curious parallel between his career and mine. Both of us were educated in schools in the suburbs of Philadelphia that belong to the so-called Inter-Academic League (although the school he chose and the school I chose were actually bitter rivals in that league). We both graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, both of us taught at Johns Hopkins, and each was the Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Western Reserve, although Robb was first at Hopkins and later in Cleveland , whereas I reversed this sequence. I cite this parallel not because I seek to gain stature by associating myself with his career but rather to indicate what first led me to examine his life and contributions. Having once had this interest aroused, however , I became involved in a mystery of great interest and have subsequently spent many happy hours playing the role ofthe historical sleuth. I have not solved this mystery in any final objective way but have persuaded myself as to its outcome and hope that I may be able to persuade at least some of my readers. Hunter Robb was born in Burlington, New Jersey, September 30, 1863. He died in that same city on May 15, 1940. In the course of these 77 years he had a busy and active life in gynecology at a time when the specialty was just identifying itself and becoming established. After graduation from medical school in 1 884, he took internships first at the Presbyterian Hospital and subsequently at the Episcopal Hospital in Philadelphia. During this time he met Howard A. Kelly, who had just established a small (seven-bed) hospital in the mill district of Kensington, Philadelphia. Kelly persuaded him tojoin that hospital staff and initially those two men were the entire gynecologic staff for what was later to become the Kensington Hospital for Women. *The Rockefeller Foundation, 1133 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10036. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine ¦ Autumn 1977 131 In 1889, before the Johns Hopkins Medical School opened, William Osier came to Philadelphia from Baltimore to find out if Kelly would accept the professorship of obstetrics-gynecology (ob-gyn) at Hopkins. Kelly invited Osier to have dinner with him and asked Robb to join them. During the course of the evening Kelly told Osier that, should he accept the Hopkins offer, he would like to bring Robb with him. Osier said, "I'll see if it can be done," and subsequently arranged for both men tojoin the new faculty that was being assembled in Baltimore. Parenthetically , Robb's initial salary at Johns Hopkins was $500 a year! Robb remained with Kelly, whom he worshiped, for 5 years and then accepted the professorship at Western Reserve in Cleveland. In 1894 he married Isabel Adams Hampton, who was the superintendent of the nursing school atJohns Hopkins and one of the great leaders in nursing education. The nurses' residence at Johns Hopkins is named Hampton House in her honor, and at Case Western Reserve it is Robb House. In 1914 Robb resigned his Western Reserve professorship and retired from active practice. He cited ill health as one ofthe reasons, but it is also highly probable that he was influenced by the fact that his wife had been killed in a peculiarly unpleasant accident and he had no stomach for staying in Cleveland. Despite his having left practice, he did serve as a major in the Medical Corps during the war, being stationed among other places at the Rockefeller Institute in New York. On May 22, 1929, he married Marianne Wilson of New York, whom I subsequently made it my business...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 131-138
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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