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History Note: Boston Honors Native Chicagoan Dr. William Augustus Hinton

October 31, 2007

From an October 29, Boston Globe article titled “Overdue kudos for medical innovator” and written by Ami Albernaz:

– “Forty-eight years after Hinton’s death, the Boston History & Innovation Collaborative will honor [Dr. William Augustus] Hinton’s contributions to healthcare during its eighth annual History & Innovation Awards at the InterContinental Boston hotel on Nov. 13. With the award, the Collaborative hopes to introduce Hinton’s work to the many Bostonians who have never heard of him.”

Here is why:

– “When [Dr. Hinton, 1883-1959] developed his test for syphilis in 1927, the disease was on the rise in the United States. Much like AIDS in the 1980s, it was a scourge to be feared, sometimes resulting in blindness, heart disease, paralysis, and madness. Poor, black communities were struck particularly hard.”
– “The Hinton test was more accurate and less expensive than its predecessors, and it spared untold numbers from long, painful, and risky courses of treatment. The test was endorsed by the US Public Health Service and adopted by hospitals around the country. Yet Hinton kept a low profile, refusing an award on at least one occasion and opting not to attend meetings of the American Microbiological Association, of which he was a member.”

And here is my link to Chicago history (as well as the Midwest):

– “Born to former slaves in Chicago in 1883, Hinton would early on show an exceptional academic aptitude and a keen ability to turn obstacles into opportunity. He entered the premedical program at the University of Kansas when he was 16, and went on to receive a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College in 1905.

What follows is more on why he is a representative type in the annals of history generally:

– “Four years later [after graduated Harvard College] when he entered Harvard Medical School, he was offered a scholarship for black students. He turned it down in order to compete for one open to all – and won it two years in a row. Hinton finished medical school with honors after just three years.”
– ” ‘His message was one of what could be accomplished through opportunity, perseverance, and having mentors,’ said Dr. Joan Reede, dean for diversity and community partnership at Harvard Medical School and member of a Collaborative committee established to promote the award among Boston’s medical community. ‘He broke through barriers and said, ‘I can excel as an African-American and as a physician.’ ‘ “

The rest of the article covers Dr. Hinton’s relevance to Boston. Check it out.

Hinton’s Wikipedia entry forwards this additional tidbit about his Chicago connections:

– “Following his graduation [from Harvard College], he taught in Tennessee and Oklahoma. During the summers he continued his studies in bacteriology and physiology at the University of Chicago.”

This occurred before his return to Harvard Medical School in 1909. – TL

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