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THEOPHIL MITCHELL PRUDDEN (1849-1924) BY I.UDVIG HKKTOKN In 1898 Prudden wrote: "Twenty-five years ago, pathological laboratories were rare in this country, and such as did exist were usually small corners in the dead-house of some hospital which had more enlightened governors or more money than the rest.

In the medical colleges, then largely proprietary, pathology was merged in the chair of the practice of medicine. The student could, if he were enterprising, witness an occasional autopsy, but beyond this his knowledge of this fundamental theme was derived from lectures, charts and books."1 In the United States, teaching and research in pathology by men especially trained for the purpose and devoting themselves exclusively to this kind of work may be said to have begun in New York about 1878. In that year, T. Mitchell Prudden was appointed assistant in pathology and director of the laboratory of the alumni association of the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. The following year, William H. Welch assumed the professorship of pathological anatomy and general pathology in the Bellevue Hospital Medical College. This was the first full-time appointment of its kind in this country, and the fundamental importance of pathological anatomy in the medical curriculum was now established. Prudden and Welch are the American pioneers in renouncing medical practice and devoting themselves wholly to teaching and investigation in pathology. "Finally there appeared on the horizon in this country a few anomalous individuals who cherished the notion that the science of disease, even in its etiological and morphological aspects alone, was broad and deep enough to command the exclusive attention of its devotees" (Prudden). 2 Pathology and the department of pathology. Columbia University Bulletin, No. 19, 1898 (103-119).

Progress and drift in pathology. Med. Record, 57, 1900 (397-405).


It was high time for this departure. After the study of the cell in disease was introduced by Virchow in 1856 (omnis cellula e cellula), pathology had developed rapidly. Due in large measure to German influence and example, the need in the medical course of laboratory work in pathology had become acute. It was recognized too that besides clinical and anatomical observation, experimental methods were necessary to progress in research on fundamental pathological problems. And the epochal discoveries of Pasteur and Koch just at this time were bringing in the microbic era with its wonderful progress in knowledge of infection and of prevention and treatment of infectious disease. It was a glorious period for medical science, and in advancing its revolutionary influences on medical education and medicine in this country the subject of this sketch3 played a leading part.

Theophil Mitchell Prudden was born in the congregational parsonage at Middlebury, Connecticut, July 7, 1849. His mother was Eliza Anne Johnson, 1819-1889, daughter of Kben and Sally Mitchell Johnson at Southbury, Connecticut, and his father was George Peter Prudden, 1819-1872, a congregational clergyman, Yale graduate in arts and divinity, and the direct descendant in the seventh generation of the Reverend Peter Prudden, "among the worthiest of the honored founders of New England," one of the leaders of the New Haven colony in 1638, which he left in 1639 when he established the Milford church. A charming story, privately printed, of the life and work of Peter Prudden in Connecticut has been written by Lillian Eliza Prudden, 4 Dr. Prudden's sister, to whom I am indebted for much information and helpful comment. There were three more sons in the family—Edward Payson, who died in 1843; Henry Johnson, who died in 1890. and Theodore PhiThe sketch follows closely the biographical notice of Dr. Prudden by Simon Flexner (Science, 1924, 60, 415-419; Annual Report of the National Academy of Sciences, Fiscal Year 1923-24, 1925, 101-109). Since the sketch was written there has been published privately Biographical Sketches and Letters of T. Mitchell Prudden. M. D., edited by Lillian E. Prudden, Yale University Press. New Haven. 1927.

Lillian E. Prudden : Peter Prudden, a story of his life at New Haven and Milford, Conn., with the genealogy of some of his descendants a.nd an appendix containing copies of old wills, records, letters and papers, New Haven, 1901.

THEJOPHII, MlTCHIvI.I/ PRUDD^X HEK.TOEN lander, M. A. and B. D., Yale; D. D., Illinois College; author of religious books, who died in 1916.

T. Mitchell Prudden had a healthy and happy childhood in Connecticut parsonages with the best of traditions. The parents were guided by "a sympathetic realization of the youngster's point of view and of the necessity for amusement and initiation into knowledge and familiarity with things worth while." Intellectual ideals were implanted early. In adolescence life became more strenuous. The father openly advocated antislavery principles at a time when it was unpopular and even dangerous to do so, and his house was a station on one of the branches of the "underground railway." Ill health soon compelled his retirement from active.service,.and the later years were spent in New Haven. The eldest son, Henry Johnson, who had literary tastes and eagerly wanted a college education, gave up this wish and entered' business in New Haven, where he later prospered.

In 1866, T. Mitchell, then seventeen, went to work in his brother's establishment, which he swept and dusted and where he could watch the ways of -business, but the duties proved irksome and he gave up the work after about one year. A little later he had a cruising adventure in Long Island Sound in a fishing schooner that ended in mutiny of the crew, landing of the passengers on the rocks of Stratford Light, and his return to New Haven on foot. In the meantime with the aid of his brother, he had made a start toward college and science.

In addition to the schooling he had received in 'various places, he prepared for Yale at Wilbraham Academy in Massachusetts and entered the Sheffield Scientific School in 1869 under a State fellowship with free tuition. At the end of the first year, medicine was settled on as the goal. Here was the chosen field in which he might hope to be able to satisfy his high ideals of life and service. As yet no provision had been made in the Sheffield Scientific School for instruction in zoology, botany, organic and physiological chemistry. Realizing the importance of these subjects for medicine, Prudden and his friend and classmate, Thomas Russell, later professor of surgery in Yale Medical School, appealed to the faculty, and "the biological course in preparation for medicine" was established. There is good reason to believe that this appeal for a biological course was inspired


by the enthusiasm and insistence of Prudden. The Yale College catalogue for 1870-71 contains this statement about the course preparatory to medicine: "During one year the work of this course will be chiefly under the direction of the instructors in chemistry; during the second year, under that of the instructors in zoology and botany. In chemistry, especial attention will be given to the examination of urine and the testing of drugs and poisons; in zoology to comparative anatomy, reproduction, embryology, the laws of hereditary descent and human parasites ; and in botany to a general knowledge of structural and physiological botany, and to medicinal, food-producing, and poisonous plants. The studies of the select course in physical geography, history, English literature, etc., are followed by these students." Prudden and Russell were the first two students in the biological course. They "were invited for special advanced work in botany into Eaton's Herbarium at his house; they were placed in Johnson's private laboratory for physiological chemistry ; they worked rather as assistants than as students under the eye... of Verrill and Sid. Smith in the old bug lab.

(alias zoology laboratory)." It may be recalled here that a laboratory for physiological chemistry was organized as an integral part of the biological course by R. H. Chittenden in 1874.

Beside his association with Thomas Russell, Prudden became allied intimately in scientific interests with James Thacher (1847-1891), tutor in physics and later in zoology at Yale, investigator of vertebrate involution, and from 1879 professor in the medical school, to the development of which he devoted himsel f with marked success. The last two years in Sheffield were full of action—collecting of animals and plants on land and water about New Haven, courses with Whitney, Lounsbury (honorable mention in English composition), and Gilman, membership in Berzelius ("invited earlv to join Berzelius, its associations were throughout among the most salutary of the college influences"), scientific editorship of Yale Lit. He received a prize in mineralogy. In the spring vacation of 1872 Prudden and Russell chartered a yacht and with a few choice spirits made a dredging expedition down the Sound. They brought back much valuable material and established new habiTH^OPHJI, M I T C H I ^ PRUDDIJN HEKTOEN tats for several marine vertebrates. Theirs was the first dredging about Woods Hole.

In 1872, Prudden graduated as A.B. and entered the Yale Medical School without delay. As illustrating the confidence his teachers felt in him, it may be mentioned. that at this time he taught elementary chemistry, and with noteworthy success, during the absence in Europe of Professor Mixter of the Sheffield Scientific School. At the same time he served as secretary of the faculty. He received his medical degree in 1875.

In the spring of that year he spent some time in New York in studying pathology with Dr. Francis Delafield at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, a visit that undoubtedly came to be of great influence in his further career. Companions since Sheffield days, he and Thomas Russell now served together as internes in the New Haven Hospital, six months each on the medical and surgical services. At this time this as well as practically all other hospitals in this country had no facilities for any kind of laboratory work for clinical or other purposes, and it is greatly to the credit of Prudden's interest and vision that he arranged a small laboratory in a basement room of the hospital. His interest in fundamental medical problems had survived the didactic grind and lack of contact with realities of the medical course of that day. On completion of his internship, Prudden at once went to Germany to work in pathology under Professor Julius Arnold at Heidelberg. This step no doubt was planned long in advance and probably had the cordial support of Dr. Delafield and other advisers. In a letter of September 10, 1876, Arnold writes that a place has been reserved and that the only fee required is 10 marks for registration. In the winter of 1876-7 Prudden followed the lectures and laboratory courses of Arnold and his associate Thoma and worked on changes in living cartilage. Later he visted other centers, including Vienna, and worked in other laboratories, returning to New Haven after an absence of two years. He now had mastered German and established friendly relations with several of the leading workers in pathology. "When most of us were serving our novitiate in pathology, the study of inflammation was largely limited to a bare description of visible phenomena and a cataloguing and classification of lesions...


the more inquisitive among us were much exercised to find out whether it was the emigrated leucocytes or the fixed connective tissue cells which were most concerned in the formation of new cells. So earnest were the advocates of each of these views that the social amenities sometimes suffered. Thus it was my hap to be banished from Strieker's laboratory in Vienna when it became known to that champion of the connective-tissue cells that I had been under the baleful influence of Cohnheim and Arnold.""' The result of his research under Arnold was published in Virchow's Archiv in 1879 (see Bibliography). The work deals with changes in living cartilage, a subject of special interest now in the day of vital staining and in vitro study of animal cells. He proves to have been endowed with a high grade of investigative workmanship. An effort was made to follow the effects of harmful agencies on living cells under otherwise normal environment. By a clever device the transparent episternal cartilage of the frog was observed for hours under the microscope while connected with the body. The chromatin of the nucleus was recognized, variations in cell form and content were produced at will, and the important fact was noted that certain dye solutions do not color living cells but do color dead cells. "But it seems to me particularly significant that it is possible to observe under the microscope, on living cartilage tissue, the processes of contraction and the formation, of vacuoles; and that it is possible thus to determine whether and under what conditions such changed cells return to the normal state or whether they undergo degeneration and die. The observations made with reference to the behavior of living and dead cartilage cells in response to dyes also seem to me noteworthy, because we thus learn that only the nuclei of the latter stain homogeneously. We are, therefore, in a position to distinguish whether cells are dead or living, and can thus exclude their participation in regenerative processes." It is a spirited, pioneer study of what actually goes on in living cells as distinguished from inferences drawn from the appearances of cells in dead tissues fixed by chemicals and stained.

'Progress and drift in pathology, Med. Record, 57, 1900 (397-405).

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