George Huntington Family Papers Donated to Archives & Special Collections

by Stephen E. Novak
Head, Archives & Special Collections
Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library


George HuntingtonPapers of the family of George Huntington (1850-1916), an 1871 graduate of P&S, were donated by his great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Lominska Johnson, to the Columbia University Health Sciences Library’s Archives & Special Collections in a ceremony at the Library on June 21, 2010.

In 1872 Dr. Huntington, at age 22, published a paper describing a degenerative nervous disease prevalent in one family in his hometown of East Hampton, N.Y. Drawing on the casebooks of his father and grandfather, both physicians in East Hampton, and his own observations, Dr. Huntington correctly deduced the hereditary nature of the disease. Although others had described the disease before him, Dr. Huntington’s clinical description of it was so clear, accurate, and concise that the disease soon became known as “Huntington’s chorea” and later “Huntington’s disease.”

Largely because of chronic ill health, Dr. Huntington spent most of his career as a country physician in Dutchess County, N.Y., but he lived to see his article regarded as a medical classic. Sir William Osler commented that “in the history of medicine, there are few instances in which a disease has been more accurately, more graphically, or more briefly described.”

The Huntington Family papers include photographs, correspondence, biographical materials, and books of George Huntington, his parents, children, and other relatives. Of particular interest are several drawings done by Dr. Huntington, a talented amateur artist and caricaturist. In one example, he is surrounded by five of his children who are busily distracting him as he vainly tries to read.

The papers were preserved and organized by Dr. Huntington’s granddaughter, Jean Ketcham Lominska, who died earlier in 2010 at age 96. The papers will be known as the Jean Ketcham Lominska Collection of George Huntington Family Papers. 

More information about the collection is available from Archives & Special Collections at hslarchives@columbia.edu.

Huntington donation

In the Photo: Looking over part of the Huntington Papers donation are, from left, Michael Koehn, interim director of the Health Sciences Library; Stephen Novak, head of Archives & Special Collections; Elizabeth Lominska Johnson, great-granddaughter of George Huntington; and Alice Wexler, Ph.D., research scholar at the Center for the Study of Women at UCLA and author of a book about her family’s experience with Huntington’s disease. Dr. Wexler’s sister is Nancy Wexler, Ph.D., the Higgins Professor of Neuropsychology in neurology and psychiatry departments at P&S and a pioneering researcher in Huntington’s disease.

See related article here.