Behind the Name

Louis K. Diamond: 1902-1999

This pioneer trained an entire generation of American pediatric hematologists.

Louis K. Diamond, MD, can indeed be called the father of pediatric hematology. By establishing one of the world’s first pediatric hematology research laboratories and training fellows, he directly influenced an entire generation of pediatric hematologists.

Diamond was born on May 11, 1902, in Ukraine. He moved to the United States with his parents when he was 2-years-old and was raised in New York City. He later moved to Boston to attend Harvard College from 1919 to 1923. He graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1927.

After working with Florence Sabin at the Rockefeller Institute for a time, Diamond returned to Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston to complete his pediatric internship and residency.

He married Flora Kaplan in 1929, and they had two children.

Shortly after his return to Boston, he established one of the first pediatric hematology laboratories in the United States at Children’s Hospital in Boston. Overall, Diamond personally trained many future hematologists — about 75 in all — in a vigorous program. Many of his trainees achieved their own eminence in the field, and they have in turn trained many more pediatric hematologists.

Significant contribution

His most significant contribution to medicine came in 1932, when Diamond, along with his mentor Kenneth Blackfan, MD, recognized that several different newborn diseases — including fetal hydrops, severe neonatal jaundice and kernicterus — were, in fact, one disorder called erythroblastosis fetalis. Although the disease is uncommon today, at that time it caused a significant number of neonatal deaths and complications.

Diamond, Blackfan and J.M. Baty, MD, published their landmark paper in 1932 in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Nine years later, an investigator named Philip Levine, MD, discovered that a negative reaction between the mother’s Rh-negative blood and the newborn’s Rh-positive blood caused erythroblastosis fetalis. Levine’s research prompted Diamond to help found the Blood Grouping Laboratory, which would provide laboratory support to continue researching these findings.

At the Blood Grouping Laboratory, now known as the Center for Blood Research, Diamond continued studying the disorder. Along with his colleagues, Diamond devised a method for titrating the immunoglobulin G antibody that produced the disease as separate from the IgM antibody, which does not cross the placenta.

Transfusion the best treatment

As he continued to study the disease, it became obvious that the most effective treatment for erythroblastosis was transfusion. Diamond recognized that the umbilical vein was the best access point.

In October 1946, Diamond and Fred Allen, MD, used plastic tubing that neurosurgeons typically employed to treat hydrocephalus, to treat a baby with erythroblastosis. The transfusion took place during several days.

Diamond’s work at the Blood Grouping Laboratory yielded other results. He estimated the true frequency of illegitimate births in the United States. In addition, he made a joint discovery with Ernst Mayr, a Harvard biologist. Previously, scientists thought that blood groups were neutral evolutionary markers. Diamond and Mayr found that specific blood groups either predispose people to or protect against certain diseases.

The Blood Grouping Laboratory also made blood typing during pregnancy routine.

From 1948 to 1950, Diamond spent time away from the hospital and laboratory. He spent those two years directing the American Red Cross’s National Blood Program. He established procedures and high standards for the program, and he coordinated the efforts of the regional blood banks. His work changed a wartime effort into a peacetime one.

This hematology pioneer won many awards throughout his career, including the 1946 Mead Johnson Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the 1964 Theodore Roosevelt Medal for Distinguished Public Service in Science, the 1966 Award for Scientific Research in Mental Retardation, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., International Foundation, and the 1973 Howland Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics. In addition, Diamond was awarded several awards for his work on blood banking and safe transfusions.

Diamond remained in Boston for 41 years, eventually becoming the associate physician-in-chief at the Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He was a member of the pediatric faculty of Harvard Medical School from 1933 to 1968. In 1968, at the age of 65, he retired from Harvard.

In 1968, Diamond moved west, becoming a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. He established a pediatric hematology laboratory at the university. He enjoyed a nearly 20-year career there, retiring at the age of 85. From there, he moved to the University of California, Los Angeles, where he worked until his 90s.

Diamond died at his home in Los Angeles on June 14, 1999. He was 97 years old.

Discovered three blood diseases

The three blood diseases most commonly associated with Diamond are:

  • Diamond-Blackfan syndrome (formerly erythroblastosis fetalis), an inherited anemia characterized by red cell precursors in otherwise normal bone marrow.
  • Gardner-Diamond syndrome, a painful bruising disorder.
  • Schwachman-Diamond syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects many different organs. Symptoms vary from patient to patient. Patients have complications such as severe infections, acute myelogenous leukemia and bone marrow failure. – by Colleen Owens
For more information:
  • Alper CA, Kevy SV, Konugres A. Obituary: Louis K. Diamond. Transfusion. 2002;42:1381-1382.
  • Alter B. Modern review of congenital hypoplastic anemia. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2001;23:383-384.
  • Diamond LK. Replacement transfusion as a treatment for erythroblastosis fetalis. Pedatrics. 1948;2:520-524.
  • Janeway CA. Presentation of the Howland Award to Louis K. Diamond. Pediatr Res. 1973;7:853-857.
  • Lipton JM, de Alarcon PA. Tribute — Louis K. Diamond: An incomparable legacy. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2001;23:371-372.
  • Naiman JL, de Alarcon PA. On Dr. Louis K. Diamond’s 1932 article and subsequent contributions to erythroblastosis fetalis. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2001;23:373-376.

Louis K. Diamond, MD, can indeed be called the father of pediatric hematology. By establishing one of the world’s first pediatric hematology research laboratories and training fellows, he directly influenced an entire generation of pediatric hematologists.

Diamond was born on May 11, 1902, in Ukraine. He moved to the United States with his parents when he was 2-years-old and was raised in New York City. He later moved to Boston to attend Harvard College from 1919 to 1923. He graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1927.

After working with Florence Sabin at the Rockefeller Institute for a time, Diamond returned to Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston to complete his pediatric internship and residency.

He married Flora Kaplan in 1929, and they had two children.

Shortly after his return to Boston, he established one of the first pediatric hematology laboratories in the United States at Children’s Hospital in Boston. Overall, Diamond personally trained many future hematologists — about 75 in all — in a vigorous program. Many of his trainees achieved their own eminence in the field, and they have in turn trained many more pediatric hematologists.

Significant contribution

His most significant contribution to medicine came in 1932, when Diamond, along with his mentor Kenneth Blackfan, MD, recognized that several different newborn diseases — including fetal hydrops, severe neonatal jaundice and kernicterus — were, in fact, one disorder called erythroblastosis fetalis. Although the disease is uncommon today, at that time it caused a significant number of neonatal deaths and complications.

Diamond, Blackfan and J.M. Baty, MD, published their landmark paper in 1932 in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Nine years later, an investigator named Philip Levine, MD, discovered that a negative reaction between the mother’s Rh-negative blood and the newborn’s Rh-positive blood caused erythroblastosis fetalis. Levine’s research prompted Diamond to help found the Blood Grouping Laboratory, which would provide laboratory support to continue researching these findings.

At the Blood Grouping Laboratory, now known as the Center for Blood Research, Diamond continued studying the disorder. Along with his colleagues, Diamond devised a method for titrating the immunoglobulin G antibody that produced the disease as separate from the IgM antibody, which does not cross the placenta.

Transfusion the best treatment

As he continued to study the disease, it became obvious that the most effective treatment for erythroblastosis was transfusion. Diamond recognized that the umbilical vein was the best access point.

In October 1946, Diamond and Fred Allen, MD, used plastic tubing that neurosurgeons typically employed to treat hydrocephalus, to treat a baby with erythroblastosis. The transfusion took place during several days.

Diamond’s work at the Blood Grouping Laboratory yielded other results. He estimated the true frequency of illegitimate births in the United States. In addition, he made a joint discovery with Ernst Mayr, a Harvard biologist. Previously, scientists thought that blood groups were neutral evolutionary markers. Diamond and Mayr found that specific blood groups either predispose people to or protect against certain diseases.

The Blood Grouping Laboratory also made blood typing during pregnancy routine.

From 1948 to 1950, Diamond spent time away from the hospital and laboratory. He spent those two years directing the American Red Cross’s National Blood Program. He established procedures and high standards for the program, and he coordinated the efforts of the regional blood banks. His work changed a wartime effort into a peacetime one.

This hematology pioneer won many awards throughout his career, including the 1946 Mead Johnson Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the 1964 Theodore Roosevelt Medal for Distinguished Public Service in Science, the 1966 Award for Scientific Research in Mental Retardation, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., International Foundation, and the 1973 Howland Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics. In addition, Diamond was awarded several awards for his work on blood banking and safe transfusions.

Diamond remained in Boston for 41 years, eventually becoming the associate physician-in-chief at the Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He was a member of the pediatric faculty of Harvard Medical School from 1933 to 1968. In 1968, at the age of 65, he retired from Harvard.

In 1968, Diamond moved west, becoming a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. He established a pediatric hematology laboratory at the university. He enjoyed a nearly 20-year career there, retiring at the age of 85. From there, he moved to the University of California, Los Angeles, where he worked until his 90s.

Diamond died at his home in Los Angeles on June 14, 1999. He was 97 years old.

Discovered three blood diseases

The three blood diseases most commonly associated with Diamond are:

  • Diamond-Blackfan syndrome (formerly erythroblastosis fetalis), an inherited anemia characterized by red cell precursors in otherwise normal bone marrow.
  • Gardner-Diamond syndrome, a painful bruising disorder.
  • Schwachman-Diamond syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects many different organs. Symptoms vary from patient to patient. Patients have complications such as severe infections, acute myelogenous leukemia and bone marrow failure. – by Colleen Owens
For more information:
  • Alper CA, Kevy SV, Konugres A. Obituary: Louis K. Diamond. Transfusion. 2002;42:1381-1382.
  • Alter B. Modern review of congenital hypoplastic anemia. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2001;23:383-384.
  • Diamond LK. Replacement transfusion as a treatment for erythroblastosis fetalis. Pedatrics. 1948;2:520-524.
  • Janeway CA. Presentation of the Howland Award to Louis K. Diamond. Pediatr Res. 1973;7:853-857.
  • Lipton JM, de Alarcon PA. Tribute — Louis K. Diamond: An incomparable legacy. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2001;23:371-372.
  • Naiman JL, de Alarcon PA. On Dr. Louis K. Diamond’s 1932 article and subsequent contributions to erythroblastosis fetalis. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2001;23:373-376.