Showalter Hench (1896 - 1965)
extraordinary manuscript collection owes its existence to Dr.
Philip Showalter Hench, who joined the Rheumatology staff of the
Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota in 1921. Hench graduated
from Lafayette College in 1916, and completed his medical degree
at the University of Pittsburgh in 1920, subsequently entering
a residency program at St. Francis Hospital, Pittsburgh. After
pursuing post-graduate study in Germany in 1928-1929, Hench obtained
a Masters of Science in Internal Medicine at the University of
Minnesota in 1931, and a Doctor of Science degree from Layfayette
College in 1940. Hench remained for the duration of his career
at the Mayo Clinic, where his life-long passion for meticulous
research and analysis brought him the Nobel Prize for Physiology
and Medicine in 1950, which he shared with Edward C. Kendall and
Tadeus Reichstein, for the discovery of cortisone.
same persistence and determination present in his professional
life is also evident in Hench's research on the U.
S. Army Yellow Fever Commission's famous experiments. "As
a physician particularly interested in medical history,"
he stated to experiment volunteer John J. Moran in 1937, "I
have been long interested in the story of the yellow fever work
 So began a remarkable odyssey. At the request of his
friend Ralph Cooper Hutchison, then president of Washington and
Jefferson College, Hench had written Moran to gather information
for the dedication of the College's new chemistry building, named
for Commission member and former Washington and Jefferson student
Jesse W. Lazear. Hench also began a
correspondence with another of the yellow fever experiment's original
volunteers, John R. Kissinger. Moran's and Kissinger's recollections
proved so intriguing that Hench initially offered to edit and
publish them. However, in the course of his research Hench discovered
that much general information on the topic was inaccurate. Conflicting
assertions concerning the participants and unverified claims by
medical and governmental authorities in the United States and
Cuba -- often politically motivated -- clouded interpretation
of the facts. "May I suggest," Moran consequently urged
in 1938, "that a clearing up of the REED-FINLAY-CONQUEST-OF-YELLOW-FEVER,
or an effort to do so, on your part, is a task far more pressing
than publishing the Kissinger-Moran stories or memoirs."  Hench resolved to document every aspect of the "Conquest
of Yellow-Fever" and to write a much needed accurate and
the next two decades, Hench tirelessly combed through public archive
collections and personal papers in the United States and Cuba.
He met and interviewed surviving participants of the experiments
and others associated with the project, as well as family members
of the Yellow Fever Commission. He sought out physicians and
scientists who had worked with the principal players or who had
applied the results in the campaign to eradicate yellow fever.
He identified and photographed sites associated with the yellow
fever story, and he successfully petitioned politicians in the
United States and Cuba to commemorate the work. In the process,
Hench became the trusted friend and advisor of many of these same
individuals, and they, in turn, presented him with much of the
surviving original material for safekeeping.
short, Hench came to be the world's expert on the yellow fever
story and the steward of thousands of original letters and documents.
His premature death at age 69 found him still hoping to uncover
important missing evidence, his book unwritten. Hench's widow
Mary Kahler Hench gave his yellow fever collection to the University
of Virginia, Walter Reed's alma mater, and this extensive personal
archive forms the most detailed and accurate record available
on the Conquest of Yellow Fever.
 Letter from Philip S. Hench to John J. Moran, 6
July 1937, Philip S. Hench Walter Reed Yellow Fever Collection,
Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, Department of Historical
Collections and Services, accession number: 03419001.
 Letter from John J. Moran to Philip S. Hench, 30
October 1938, Hench Reed Yellow Fever Collection, accession