Abraham Flexner

Abraham Flexner

Abraham Flexner is best known for the highly influential Flexner Report on the state of medical education in the United States.

Although Abraham Flexner never received a degree from Vanderbilt, or held a professorship at this institution, he exercised a powerful influence over the funding and design of Vanderbilt's new medical school, which opened in September 1925.

Abraham Flexner was a native of Louisville, KY and a member of the talented and brilliant Flexner family. Abraham was an outstanding student, who completed a four- year undergraduate course at Johns Hopkins in two years. After graduating he returned to Louisville and established a very successful private academy. In 1905, at age forty, he sold his academy and enrolled at Harvard to pursue graduate studies in psychology.

His first book, The American College, was published in 1907. This critical appraisal of American higher education caught the attention of Henry S. Pritchett of the Carnegie Foundation. Pritchett hired Flexner to visit and evaluate every medical school in the U.S. and Canada. This study, published in 1910, "Medical Education in the United States and Canada" earned Flexner everlasting fame and a powerful position at the General Education Board. This Board funded by the Rockefeller family, dispensed vast sums for the improvement of medical schools in the United States and abroad. Vanderbilt Medical School received 14 million dollars from the General Education Board. This large gift was encouraged by Abraham Flexner, based on his close friendship and great admiration for Vanderbilt's Chancellor James H. Kirkland. In a report to The General Education Board Flexner wrote, "the Chancellor of Vanderbilt University, Dr. Kirkland, has the vision, energy, and leadership which are required in the launching and development of an enterprise involving the establishment of a modern school of medicine."

The Eskind Library also has a collection of photos, letters, and publications about Abraham Flexner and other members of the Flexner Family. For more information, please consult the Inventory of the Flexner Family Collection.