To the editor:
It was with some amusement that I read the following comment you made in the August issue of Pediatrie Annals, "Modem anesthesia was born in the United States in 1 846 as one of the few contributions our county gave to medical science during the 19th century."
This is an ironic statement to be made by a pediatrician. After all, the start of pediatrics (as a specialty separate from obstetrics and gynecology) is usually credited to Dr. Lewis Smith, a physician at Belleview Hospital and Medical School in New York City in the 186Os. In addition, his textbook, A Treatise on Diseases of infancy and Childhood, published in 1869, is generally considered the first modem textbook in pediatrics.
Jonathan Dr. Reich, MD
Emory University School of Medicine
Dr. Altemeier responds:
Dr. Reich is correct in that America had her leaders in pediatrics, and Dr. J Lewis Smith was among them.1 Dr. Smith published at least 20 works on child health near the end of the 19th century, and the best know of these was A Treatise on the Diseases of Infancy and Childhood. The first editiong was printed in 1869 and was followed by six upgrades. The seventh came out in 1890 and was 900 pages. Dr. Smith was not the only prominant physician for children in the United States. Abraham Jacobi fled to the United States from Germany in 1848, establidhed the first pediatrie clinic i this country, and was a prolific sriter about disaeses of childhood. He has been called the "first in the United States to specialize in paediatrics.
But the world history of pediatrics begins in Europe well before the time of Jacobi and Smith. The first printed book exclusively about diseases of children was written in Latin by Paolo Bagellardo in 1472. The first French work was published in 1537, whereas the first American textbook, Treatise on the Medical and Physical Treatment of Children, by William Potts Dewees, was printed in 1825. And the British were leaders in pediatrics (or "paediatrics") a century before the time of these two American physicians. George Armstrong founded the Dispensary for Sick Children in London in 1769. And Michael Underwood "laid the foundation for modern paediatrics" when he published A Treatise on Diseases of Children in 1784·2 This was said to be superior to anything before or after until Charles West, a founder of the Hospital for Sick Children on Great Ormond Street in 1852 London, published Lectures on the Diseases of Infancy and Childhood in 1848. Morton and Moor describe this as the best English work on pediatrics for its day.2
Expect more on the history of pediatrics and children's hospitals in future issues.
1. Cadasco, F. American Mediad imprints. 1820-1910. Totawa NJi Roman and Litdefield; 1985.
2. Motion LT, Moore RJ. A Chronology of Medicine ima Related Sciences. Hants, England: Scalar; 1997.