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Paul Dudley White

Paul Dudley White

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Paul Dudley White American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 physician and cardiologist, was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts
Roxbury, Massachusetts
Roxbury is a dissolved municipality and current neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, United States. It was one of the first towns founded in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, and became a city in 1846 until annexed to Boston on January 5, 1868...

, the son of Herbert Warren White and Elizabeth Abigail Dudley. White's interest in medicine was sparked early in life, when he accompanied his father, a family practitioner, on rounds and house calls in a horse and buggy. A 1903 graduate of the Roxbury Latin School
Roxbury Latin School
The Roxbury Latin School is the oldest school in continuous operation in North America. The school was founded in Roxbury, Massachusetts by the Rev. John Eliot under a charter received from King Charles I of England. Since its founding in 1645, it has educated boys on a continuous basis.Located...

, his undergraduate education at Harvard College
Harvard College
Harvard College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of two schools within Harvard University granting undergraduate degrees...

 encompassed history and forestry as well as pre-medical courses. He graduated with a B.A.
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 with honors in 1908 and went on to Harvard Medical School
Harvard Medical School
Harvard Medical School is the graduate medical school of Harvard University. It is located in the Longwood Medical Area of the Mission Hill neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts....

, from which he received his M.D.
Doctor of Medicine
Doctor of Medicine is a doctoral degree for physicians. The degree is granted by medical schools...

 in 1911. He then began his long association with the Massachusetts General Hospital
Massachusetts General Hospital
Massachusetts General Hospital is a teaching hospital and biomedical research facility in the West End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts...

 through an internship in pediatrics and internal medicine. During that time he co-authored, with Dr. Roger I. Lee, his first scientific paper, on the coagulation of blood. The Lee-White coagulation time is still used today as a method of measuring the speed of blood coagulation. In 1913, White was offered a Harvard traveling fellowship to study cardiovascular physiology with Dr. Thomas Lewis in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. This experience, perhaps coupled with the earlier death of his sister from rheumatic heart disease and his father's death from coronary artery disease at age seventy-one, was to shape the rest of his medical career.

In World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, White served as a medical officer with the British Expeditionary Force in 1916 and the American Expeditionary Force
American Expeditionary Force
The American Expeditionary Forces or AEF were the United States Armed Forces sent to Europe in World War I. During the United States campaigns in World War I the AEF fought in France alongside British and French allied forces in the last year of the war, against Imperial German forces...

 from 1917 to 1919. He returned to the Massachusetts General Hospital and worked as a resident in 1919, and a year later became Chief of the Medical Out-Patient Department. He also was appointed to the Harvard faculty as a clinical instructor in 1921 and quickly rose through the academic ranks to become assistant professor in 1933, clinical professor in 1946, and emeritus professor in 1949. He continued on the faculty of Harvard until 1956, although he had resigned his position as Chief of the Cardiac Service at the Massachusetts General Hospital in 1948 to devote time to the development of the National Heart Institute
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute is a division of the National Institutes of Health, located in Bethesda, Maryland...

, following adoption of the National Heart Act, which was signed into law by President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

 in 1948.

White was recognized as a superb teacher and compassionate bedside physician. He published twelve books and more than 700 scientific articles. His most noted textbook, Heart Disease, was first published in 1931 and became a classic in the field. His interest in the electrophysiology of the heart would eventually pair him with Drs. Louis Wolff
Louis Wolff
Louis Wolff was an American cardiologist.Louis Wolff married Alice Muscanto, a flute player born in Vilnius who played with her sisters and brothers in a touring musical ensemble. Louis was a concert-quality violinist who enjoyed accompanying his wife and her siblings in their apartment in...

 and John Parkinson
John Parkinson (physician)
Sir John Parkinson was an English cardiologist remembered for describing Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.- Biography :...

, who together described the Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome
Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome
Wolff–Parkinson–White syndrome is a disorder of the heart in which the ventricles of the heart contract prematurely due to an accessory pathway known as the bundle of Kent. This accessory pathway is an abnormal electrical communication from the atria to the ventricles...

, a condition of uncontrolled rapid heartbeat. In 1935 he described the electrocardiographic changes of pulmonary embolism
Pulmonary embolism
Pulmonary embolism is a blockage of the main artery of the lung or one of its branches by a substance that has travelled from elsewhere in the body through the bloodstream . Usually this is due to embolism of a thrombus from the deep veins in the legs, a process termed venous thromboembolism...


On June 28, 1924, White married Ina Helen Reid, a social worker whom he met while giving a lecture at the Smith College
Smith College
Smith College is a private, independent women's liberal arts college located in Northampton, Massachusetts. It is the largest member of the Seven Sisters...

 Training School for Social Work. They later adopted two children.

Paul Dudley White is viewed by most medical authorities as the founder of preventive cardiology. Appointed as President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

's physician following his heart attack
Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction , commonly known as a heart attack, results from the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing heart cells to die...

 in 1955, White was a pioneer in the use of the electrocardiogram and a staunch advocate of exercise, diet, and weight control in the prevention of heart disease. In 1924, he was one of the founders of the American Heart Association
American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a non-profit organization in the United States that fosters appropriate cardiac care in an effort to reduce disability and deaths caused by cardiovascular disease and stroke. It is headquartered in Dallas, Texas...

 and became the organization's president in 1941. He was a moving force in the creation of the International Association of Cardiology, and later the International Cardiology Foundation. In 1949, he was named executive director of the National Advisory Heart Council. He was the chief consultant to the National Heart Institute from 1948 to 1955 and was a major impetus in the Framingham Heart Study
Framingham Heart Study
The Framingham Heart Study is a long-term, ongoing cardiovascular study on residents of the town of Framingham, Massachusetts. The study began in 1948 with 5,209 adult subjects from Framingham, and is now on its third generation of participants...

, which was the first major epidemiologic work to identify risk factors in coronary artery disease. He was also influential in the American Red Cross
American Red Cross
The American Red Cross , also known as the American National Red Cross, is a volunteer-led, humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance, disaster relief and education inside the United States. It is the designated U.S...

 and in establishing the National Institutes of Health
National Institutes of Health
The National Institutes of Health are an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services and are the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and health-related research. Its science and engineering counterpart is the National Science Foundation...


White received many international honors and was instrumental in establishing cardiology organizations throughout the world, even in the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

, which he was one of the first American physicians to visit. He also established a connection with Alexander Filipovich Samoilov, a Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 physiologist who shared White's interest in the electrophysiology of the heart. White was one of the founders of the International Society of Cardiology in 1946, helped to organize its first World Congress of Cardiology
World Congress of Cardiology
The World Congress of Cardiology is a regular meeting of cardiologists from across the world for the purpose of promoting research, training, and treatment of diseases of the heart.-History:...

 four years later in Paris, and presided over the second World Congress in Washington in 1954.

White was a staunch advocate of the belief that lifestyle affected coronary artery disease. He was one of the first authorities to recognize that coronary artery disease could occur in young men, writing several papers on the subject. In keeping with his beliefs, he was a vigorous walker and bicycle rider and walked, on one occasion, from Washington National Airport
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is a public airport located south of downtown Washington, D.C., in Arlington County, Virginia. It is the commercial airport nearest to Washington, D.C. For many decades, it was called Washington National Airport, but this airport was renamed in 1998 to...

 to the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 to consult with President Eisenhower. Reportedly, his positive approach inspired Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson , often referred to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States after his service as the 37th Vice President of the United States...

 to return to the Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 in 1955 after his heart attack and later to become Vice President
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...


On September 14, 1964, President Johnson presented Dr. White with the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Presidential Medal of Freedom
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the President of the United States and is—along with thecomparable Congressional Gold Medal bestowed by an act of U.S. Congress—the highest civilian award in the United States...


In his later years, White continued to travel and to speak about heart disease and, increasingly, about his concern for world peace.

White died in Boston following a second stroke
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident , is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia caused by blockage , or a hemorrhage...

. He was to have received the Herrick Award from the American Heart Association, but died before that honor could be bestowed. A memorial service was held in the Harvard Memorial Church
Memorial Church of Harvard University
The Memorial Church of Harvard University, more commonly known as the Harvard Memorial Church is a building on the campus of Harvard University.-Predecessors:...

 the next month; there, J. Willis Hurst, M.D., a former student of White's, delivered a eulogy entitled "I'm Not Through Yet."

The United States Postal Service
United States Postal Service
The United States Postal Service is an independent agency of the United States government responsible for providing postal service in the United States...

 honored White with a 3¢ Great Americans series
Great Americans series
The Great Americans series is a set of definitive stamps issued by the United States Postal Service, starting on December 27, 1980 with the 19¢ stamp depicting Sequoyah, and continuing through 2002, the final stamp being the 78¢ Alice Paul self-adhesive stamp. The series, noted for its simplicity...

 postage stamp
Postage stamp
A postage stamp is a small piece of paper that is purchased and displayed on an item of mail as evidence of payment of postage. Typically, stamps are made from special paper, with a national designation and denomination on the face, and a gum adhesive on the reverse side...

 in 1986, still on sale today. The 17-mile bike path around the Charles
Charles is a given name for males and is borrowed from the French form of the Latin Carolus Charles is a given name for males and is borrowed from the French form of the Latin Carolus...

River in Boston bears his name.

External links