This series, Faculty Remembered, features profiles of former faculty members at P&S.
The author of the series is a 1951 P&S graduate and former professor of medicine. He is now special lecturer in medicine and writer-in-residence at P&S.
THIS IS THE SECOND IN A SERIES OF BIOGRAPHIES ON FORMER members of the P&S faculty whose careers took unexpected turns, that is, what happened to them seemed incongruous, not in keeping with "what should have happened" (see P&S Winter 2005, pages 10-11).
The career of Harry Smith seemed conventionally successful but the reality turned out quite otherwise.
The story of his life tells us for the thousandth time how difficult it is to see below the surface of people, even of those we think we know well.
H.P. Smith was born in "Johnson County, Iowa"; no town is named. Johnson County surrounds Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa.
The fact that Smith gave his birthplace as a county suggests that the territory was thinly settled at the end of America's "Belle Epoque," toward the end of the 19th century, a period of jolly times like the 1920s and similarly followed by a big economic Depression.
Smith did not attend the University of Iowa, although Iowa is a much more sophisticated place than we Easterners believe.
Rather, in talking of his youth he often mentioned early times in Enid, Okla., a major center for livestock, meaning not only cattle but vast herds of buffalo that Smith later used as a source of large quantities of blood (carried in 20-gallon milk cans) useful for studies of clotting factors.
Smith was attracted early to the study of blood coagulation, the major focus of his research.
His scientific education appears to have been at the University of California at Berkeley (AB 1916, MS 1918) and UC-San Francisco (MD 1921).
Evidently aiming toward a career in research, Smith underwent no residency or military training.
Starting as soon as he could, he went to Johns Hopkins, becoming an assistant then instructor in pathology for two years.
From here on his progress was rapid.
In 1924 he moved to the University of Rochester, probably attracted there by the famous investigator in blood disorders, George Whipple.
A scant six years later Smith returned to Iowa, as professor and head of the Department of Pathology and Bacteriology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine in Iowa City, where he remained for 15 years until the end of World War II in 1945.
Smith's research career made rapid and notable progress during his years in Iowa City.
Of his first 18 papers (1938-1943), nine were published under his name alone, only three in collaboration with distinguished senior colleagues W.B. Seegers of Wayne State in Detroit and K.M. Brinkhous, later of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Early on, Smith developed a method for purifying thrombin, a major factor in blood clotting.
His patent on the technique was so lucrative that it yielded enough money over the years for Smith to fund the research of pathology fellows who worked in his laboratory.
Many of his papers dealt with methodology, especially with the two-stage prothrombin time, a test widely useful in controlling patients receiving anticoagulation therapy.
An outstanding piece of work in a different area was his early demonstration that the elevated blood volume at high altitude was due to augmented erythropoiesis, not to an increased plasma volume.
This demonstration is widely credited with stimulating the early studies leading to the identification of erythropoietin.
In 1945 Smith was appointed Delafield Professor of Pathology at P&S and pathologist to Presbyterian Hospital (he became chairman of the department in 1946).
To these posts was added the supervision of pathology services at the Delafield Hospital, a New York City municipal hospital designed for the care of patients with cancer.
His major teaching duties included the management of the secondyear course in anatomical and microscopic human pathology.
The major emphasis was placed upon the latter, accompanied by an intensive course of lectures delivered by excellent lecturers in general pathology and in such special fields as neuropathology.
Much time was devoted to microscopic study of slides taken from patients with a wide range of diseases.
In addition, students were expected to master voluminous typewritten notes prepared by members of the department.
It was generally agreed that those notes were superior to the pathology textbooks available then, being more inclusive, better written, and emphasizing mechanisms of disease.
In the 40s and 50s students were required to make careful drawings of "H&E" preparations of tissues illustrating mostly major and some rare diseases, with typed notes appended.
These were graded by the faculty.
Students had no doubt that to be clumsy at drawing would be a great disadvantage. Mostly students liked the course.
Smith retired at the standard age, 65.
At this point in an academic's career the reader senses a downward curve.
That was the case with Smith, although he remained active, even busy.
As implied above, his years had been active, perhaps even hyperactive, and so they continued to be late in his life.
He had enjoyed many rewards and honors: honorific professorships in which he excelled, awards for important work well done, prizes from honorific societies, the presidency of a major association in American pathology.
At age 65 he applied to Columbia for the three-year extension of professorial title and perquisites sometimes accorded to faculty members with appointments in diagnostic services.
This was denied.
In the late 1960s, he was working in Chicago and living there in a hotel when a pathologist friend visited him and noticed that he seemed despondent.
His friends persuaded him to move to Columbia, Mo., where he was given an office and a teaching appointment in the University of Missouri medical school.
There he attempted to teach medical politics to residents and fellows in pathology.
His students listened politely but, in truth, were not interested.
Again, he lived in a hotel, and his despondency abated.
Smith remained in good spirits, often visiting pathologist friends and their families for dinner or social events of many kinds; he enjoyed playing with their children and was good at that.
His record contains a terse notice of his death on April 11, 1972, at age 77, of a self-inflicted stab wound of the heart.
The writer is grateful to many pathologists, who were friends of Harry Smith, or to their widows:
Helen Senhauser, widow of Donald Senhauser'51, of Columbus, Ohio;
Becky Lucas, widow of Dr. Fred Lucas, of Baton Rouge, La.;
Donald A.B. Lindberg'58, chief of the National Library of Medicine of the NIH, and its deputy director, Dr.
Donald West King.