THE YALE JOURNAL OF BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE 50 (1977), 537-542
George Rosen, M.D., Ph.D. (June 23, 1910-July 27, 1977) ARTHUR J. VISELTEAR Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut Received August 12, 1977
George Rosen M.D., Ph.D. (1910-1977) Professor of the History of Medicine and Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University School of Medicine
On July 27, 1977, George Rosen died suddenly in Oxford, England. He and Mrs. Rosen had planned to travel leisurely through the English countryside, enjoying themselves as they had so often in the past, and ultimately to arrive in Scotland in time for Professor Rosen to deliver a keynote address and participate in a symposium on "Medicine and Industrialization in History" . Professor of the History of Medicine and Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale since 1969, he was regarded, nationally and internationally, as one of the elder statesmen and preeminent scholars
537 An abridged version of this paper will appear in the American Journal of Public Health, October 1977. Please address reprint requests to: Arthur J. Viseltear, Ph.D., Dept. of Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University School of Medicine, 60 College Street, New Haven, CT 06510 Copyright ° 1977 by The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, Inc. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.
ARTHUR J. VISELTEAR
of the history of medicine, a distinction earned through some forty years of unremitting research in archives and libraries in the United States and abroad. To those who knew him, Professor Rosen was the quintessential academic scholar. He was a man of immense learning, originality, certainty, and order. Author of ten books and over two hundred articles, his life's work extends over and into every branch of the history of medicine. Known primarily as a social historian of medicine and public health, his career also embraced clinical medicine and public health practice. George Rosen was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 23, 1910. He was educated in local schools and at the College of the City of New York where he was graduated B.S. in 1930. At a time when gaining entrance into medical school was dependent upon criteria other than ability alone, he of necessity sought his medical training abroad, receiving the M.D. degree in 1935 from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Berlin. In fulfilling the requirements for the M.D. degree, Rosen studied for a time with Paul Diepgen, Director of the Institute of the History of Medicine in Berlin, and ultimately submitted his doctoral thesis on the European reception of William Beaumont's physiological studies of digestion . In Berlin, Rosen was introduced to a fellow medical student named Beate Caspari, an uncommonly gifted and gracious young woman who was the daughter of an active and well respected Berlin physician. They shared an immediate and profound affection for each other, nurtured by common interests in the theatre, art, music, ballet, nature, and Weltanschauung. They were married on July 6, 1933, and, after graduation, with Nazism spreading irresistibly, were encouraged by family and friends to depart immediately for America. For over forty years, Professor and Mrs. Rosen were inseparable companions, travelers, and co-workers. During the war they were co-editors of Ciba Symposia (1938-1944), and, shortly thereafter, co-authors of the widely read and popular anthology, 400 Years of a Doctor's Life (1947). Dr. CaspariRosen pursued her own active career as an ophthalmologist and was most recently associated with the Yale Health Plan. Professor Rosen is also survived by a son, Dr. Peter Rosen, Associate Professor of Pathology, Cornell University School of Medicine, and a daughter, Dr. Susan Koslow, Assistant Professor of Art History, Brooklyn College, and four grandchildren. Upon returning to the United States in 1935, Professor Rosen interned at Beth El Hospital in Brooklyn (1935-1937) and entered the private practice of medicine (1937-1942). He began his public health work in the early 1940s as Clinic Physician, Bureau of Tuberculosis, and Junior Health Officer in the New York City Department of Health (1941-1943). During the war he served in the Medical Intelligence Division of the Army Medical Corps and also in the Preventive Medicine Service, the Surgeon General's Office, and the European Theatre of Operation. He returned to the health department in 1946, serving as Health Officer (1946), District Health Officer (1947-1949), and Director of its Bureau of Health Education (1949-1950). He had been awarded a Ph.D. in sociology by Columbia in 1944 and received the M.P.H. degree in 1947. In 1950, he was appointed Director of the Division of Health Education and Preventive Services of the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York (1950-1957) and concurrently held the position of Professor of Public Health Education at the School of Public Health and Administrative Medicine, Columbia University (1951-1969). Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Professor Rosen's publications were in the history of medicine, he surprisingly did not dedicate himself full time to teaching and research in the history of medicine until 1969, when he was called to Yale to head the program in the History of Medicine in its Department of History of
GEORGE ROSEN, M.D., Ph.D.
Science and Medicine. Here he offered courses in the Graduate School and in Yale College, as well as in the School of Medicine. At the time of his death, Professor Rosen was responsible for survey courses and seminars in the history of medicine, public health, and endocrinology and an undergraduate (College) survey course in the history of medicine (which was immensely popular, attracting an average of 125 students each year that he taught the course). Building upon new research, Professor Rosen, despite the imposition of a mandatory retirement in June, 1978, was planning a graduate seminar on "The Structure of Medical Practice from 1700 to the Present." Another popular seminar, "Health and the City from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century," was offered jointly by the School of Medicine and Yale's Institution for Social and Policy Studies. In all that he did, he was the ideal and consummate teacher-scholarly, demanding, concerned, humane. He expected a great deal from his students and, in turn, they responded with a distinctive productivity, enthusiasm, and excellence manifested in only the best courses offered by an academic institution. A writer of force and clarity, who possessed sound editorial judgment and an ability to separate effortlessly documented fact from opinion proffered as fact, Professor Rosen also exerted a wide influence through his editorship of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences (1946-1952) and the American Journal of Public Health (1957-1973). Throughout his career, he refereed countless manuscripts and authors benefitted greatly from his editorial comments and annotations, which were gems of erudition and restraint. Next year would have marked his third decade of continuing association with the American Journal of Public Health. In 1948 he joined the editorial board and became chairman of the board in 1956 and editor one year later. After retiring as editor, he continued as contributing editor of the Journal's "Public Health: Then and Now" department. His sixteen-year tenure was longer than that of any of the Journal's preceding eight editors, except Mazgck Ravenel, who also served sixteen years. During Dr. Rosen's editorship, the Journal's circulation doubled, from 15,000 to 30,000, and it achieved an international reputation. Professor Rosen's writings reflect the influence of Henry E. Sigerist (1891-1957), formerly Director (1932-1947) of the Johns Hopkins Institute of the History of Medicine. He was a frequent visitor to the Institute and there exists in the Sigerist Papers evidence of a cordial and deep friendship. Sigerist's conception of medicine was the study and application of biology in an historical matrix which encompassed social, political, and cultural phenomena. Medical practice was an integral component of sociology and an outgrowth of sociological factors. Medical history, then, was a tool for analyzing the past in order to orient to the present and help to foresee the future . Professor Rosen's research and teaching, in many ways, began where Sigerist's had left off. Professor Rosen shared Sigerist's belief in the utility and social efficacy of the history of medicine. As he wrote in the Preface to his History of Public Health (1958): History performs a social task. It may be regarded as the collective memory of the human group and for good or evil helps to mold its collective consciousness. It creates an awareness of oneself in relation to the world around one, including both our yesterdays and our tomorrows. A meaningful understanding of the present requires that it be seen in the light of the past from which it has emerged and of the future which it is bringing forth. Every situation that man has faced and every problem that he has had to solve have been the product of historical developments. Furthermore, the way in which we act in a given situation is, in large measure, determined by the mental image of the past that we have. To understand the problems of our own society and to be
ARTHUR J. VISELTEAR
capable of playing an intelligent role in shaping our civilization, we must have a sense of continuity in time, an awareness that one cannot advance intelligently into the future without a willingness to look attentively at the past, we must have knowledge of the past and how it brought the present into being . In other writings, Professor Rosen made the case that medical students had to be exposed to an external view of what they were doing to counteract a curriculum that pressed them increasingly inward. He applauded the growth of programs in medical history throughout the country as evidence of the "recognition of the need for broadening the social and scientific horizon of the medical student" . And, in 1968, he outlined the objectives of a teaching program in the history of medicine which he believed would assist medical students in learning how medicine arrived at its present state, orient them to the historical problems and forces of the present, and enable them to face the future more resolutely . These were: 1. To show the development of medicine as a whole by emphasizing its continuity in time and in terms of the recurrent elements which characterize it. 2. To deal with the problem of change in medicine. By analyzing changes in the past, the student may be helped to recognize the forces that have shaped medicine (political, economic, social, religious, philosophical, and cultural) and that may reach into the future, so that he may in some degree be prepared for changes which will continue to occur. 3. To lay bare the origins of medical ideals and values, to explain their role and significance, and to show how the translation of medical and other values into policy is historically conditioned. 4. To show how medical and scientific knowledge has evolved, so as to make possible a more correct exposition and understanding of medical theories, doctrines, discoveries, and practices. By showing students that knowledge in one medical discipline is of value in comprehending apparently unrelated developments in other branches, one may also tend to counteract somewhat the extreme effects of specialization. 5. To develop a sense of historical perspective, and thus a salutary, critical point of view toward fads and modish trends in medicine . Professor Rosen's books, The History of Miners' Diseases (1943), the now classic A History of Public Health (1958) , Madness in Society (1968), and Preventive Medicine in the U.S.A., 1900-1975 (1975), and his many articles, a few of which are listed below , are indications of the wide range of his interests. For these and other works he received the Grant Squires Award of Columbia University (1943), the William H. Welch Medal of the American Association for the History of Medicine (1961), the Elizabeth S. Prestiss Award in Health Education of the Cleveland Health Museum (1964), the Edgar C. Hayhow Award of the American College of Hospital Administrators (1965), and the Hafner Award of the Medical Library Association (1966). In addition, he was Fielding H. Garrison Lecturer, American Association for the History of Medicine (1961), Benjamin Rush Lecturer, American Psychiatric Association (1967), and Richard H. Shryock Lecturer, University of Pennsylvania (1975). He served as president of the American Association for the History of Medicine (1964-1966), the Society for the Social History of Medicine (1975), and the International Academy of the History of Medicine (1973-1976). In November, 1977, during the annual meeting in Washington, D.C., Professor Rosen was to have been honored at a special session, entitled "An Evening With George Rosen," sponsored by the Conference on Social Sciences in Health, American Public Health Association.
GEORGE ROSEN, M.D., Ph.D.
As Professor Rosen approached both retirement and emeritus status, there was no discernible change in life style. Both he and Mrs. Rosen continued to work diligently and productively throughout the academic year and reserve summers for European holidays to Greece, Italy, Scandinavia, or Great Britain. During the academic year they entertained often, were inveterate readers of "good" fiction, and frequented movie houses more than they cared to admit. Both enjoyed the company of old friends and new acquaintances, of students and contemporaries. And, in turn, they have been admired and loved by those whose lives came within their ken. Professor Rosen especially loved to take problems to bits-to seek a fundamental understanding of the why of things. He grasped facts with remarkable ease, played with them until he recognized their part in the world order, and then proceeded to other problems, other challenges. His interest in why events happened and their social significance is reminiscent of a passage written by the historian Arnold Klebs to Harvey Cushing (October 14, 1934): My confessio fidei: I don't think it pays to study the old books in detail, philogically, text-critically, one only squabbles with words and gets nowhere. I don't believe in looking for predecessors, precursors, and anticipators, believing "que plus cela change plus c'est la meme chose." I believe in loving the old authors when they have something loveable, but I don't believe in their apotheosis merely because they have a reputation . .. To love books merely because they are old or rare or expensive seems to me primitive sentimentality ... On the other hand I want to ponder the very existence of any book, why was it writ, why was it thought, why was it print, why was it sold, why was it bought? It's only the metaphysician that asks "why" and he stands in bad odor with physicians, but then is it not better to have some odor than none?  In the following passage which concludes the History of Public Health we have at once Professor Rosen's appreciation of the significance of the past, recognition of the present, and hope for the future: Many health problems have been solved in theory, and this knowledge awaits application in practice. This is true of much preventable ill health in all countries and particularly in underdeveloped lands. In all countries there are problems of community health that require social and political action guided by available knowledge. This is true of such matters as the provision of public health services or the organization of medical care. Furthermore, the horizon of health workers today can no longer be limited to the local or even the national community but must extend to the international community. Today, we are all members one of another; and so each in our own community, we must strive toward a goal of freedom from disease, want, and fear. We must strive to enhance and hand on the noble legacy that has come down to us. And may the outcome be a happy one![l 1] At this time when our loss weighs heavily upon us, we can remember with gratitude all that George Rosen was and accomplished. We can take comfort in the knowledge that he instilled in others, simply by being himself, standards of excellence and high principle and that his wisdom, enthusiasm, and vitality influenced and enriched many lives.
REFERENCES 1. Sponsored by the XVth International Congress of the History of Science, Edinburgh, August 15, 1977, Rosen's address was entitled "Urbanization, Occupation, and Disease in the United States, 1870-1920; the Case of New York City."
ARTHUR J. VISELTEAR
2. Die Aufnahme der Entdeckung William Beaumont's durch die europaische Medizin: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Physiologie in 19. Jahrhundert (Abhandlungen zur Geschichte der Medizin und der Naturwissenchaften, Heft 8) (Berlin, E. Ebering, 1935). 3. See Henry E. Sigerist, A History of Medicine, Volume I (New York, Oxford Univ. Press, 1955), pp. 3-37 and his Medicine and Human Welfare (New Haven, Yale Univ. Press, 1941). See also Milton I. Roemer (ed.), Henry E. Sigerist on the Sociology of Medicine (New York, MD Publications, 1960), pp. xi-xiii. 4. George Rosen, A History of Public Health (New York, MD Publications, 1958), p. 17. See also his "What is past, is prologue," Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 1946, 1: 3-5. 5. George Rosen, "What medical history should be taught to medical students," in John B. Blake (ed.), Education in the History of Medicine (New York, Hafner, 1968), p. 21. 6. Ibid., p. 27. See also Rosen's From Medical Police to Social Medicine: Essays on the History of Health Care (New York, Science History Publications, 1974), pp. 1-2. 7. Rosen, op. cit., n. 5, pp. 21-22. 8. A History of Public Health was translated into Japanese in 1974. 9. For example, see "Carl Ludwig and his American students," Bull. Inst. Hist. Med., 1936, 4: 609-650; "Social aspects of Jacob Henle's medical thought," ibid., 1937, 5: 509-537; "Negative factors in medical history ..., " ibid., 1938, 6: 1015-1019; "Disease and social criticism . . . , " Bull. Hist. Med., 1941, 10: 5-15; "The medical aspects of the controversy over factory conditions in New England, 1840-1850," ibid., 1944, 15: 483-497; "Medicine in Utopia from the 18th Century to the present," Ciba Symposia, 1945, 7: 188-200; "The philosophy of ideology and the emergence of modern medicine," Bull. Hist. Med., 1946, 20: 328-339; "Mesmerism and surgery: a strange chapter in the history of anesthesia," Jour. Hist. Med., 1946, 1: 527-550; "The place of history in medical education," Bull. Hist. Med., 1948, 22: 594-627; "Politics and public health in New York City (1828-1842)," ibid., 1950, 24: 444-461; "The fate of the concept of medical police," Centaurus, 1957, 5: 97-113; "Mercantilism and health policy in Eighteenth Century French thought," Med. Hist., 1959, 3: 259-275; "People, disease, and emotion: some newer problems for research in medical history," Bull. Hist. Med., 1967, 41: 5-23; "The first neighborhood health center movement..., "American Journal of Public Health, 1971, 61: 1620-1637; "Health in the city: a comparative approach," Ethics in Science and Medicine, 1975, 2: 89-95. 10. The Making of a Library: Extracts of Letters (1934-1941) of Harvey Cushing, Arnold C. Klebs, John F. Fulton (New Haven, Yale Univ. Press, 1959), p. 15. 11. Rosen, History of Public Health, n. 4, p. 495.
Arthur J. Viseltear, Ph.D., M.P.H. Associate Professor of Public Health and Research Associate in the History of Medicine Yale University School of Medicine New Haven, Connecticut 06510