Dr. Ernest Goodpasture


Ernest Goodpasture

Dr. Ernest Goodpasture (1886-1960) was a Vanderbilt pathologist, best known for his method of growing uncontaminated viruses in chick embryos. Dr. Goodpasture was Chair of Pathology at Vanderbilt from 1924-1955 and Dean of the School of Medicine from 1945-1949.

Ernest Goodpasture in lab

Dr. Goodpasture was born October 17, 1886, at Walnuthurst Farm, about seven miles from Clarksville, Tennessee. His summers were spent on his grandparent's farm. During the remainder of the year he attended public school and the Bowen Preparatory School for boys in Nashville. His reminiscences about farm life, and a stock of rural anecdotes attest to his love for country life.

Following graduation from Vanderbilt University in 1907, Dr. Goodpasture taught for a year at Allegheny Collegiate Institute in Alderson, West Virginia. In the fall of 1908 Goodpasture entered the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. At that time Johns Hopkins was in its hey-day, with the now legendary faculty composed of William H. Welch, William S. Halsted, Howard A. Kelly, Francis Mall, William H. Howell, John J. Abel, and others. The School was at the apex of its influence in medical education and research. It is small wonder that Dr. Goodpasture accepted the opportunity as a Rockefeller Fellow in Pathology with Dr. William H. Welch, nor is it surprising that thirty-eight years later he was selected to deliver the address "The Influence of Pathology" at the centenary celebration of Dr. Welch's birth.

From 1913 to 1915 Dr. Goodpasture was a member of the resident staff in Pathology at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Instructor in Pathology at the Johns Hopkins Medical School. From 1915 to 1918, he was on the resident staff of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital with an appointment as Instructor in Pathology at the Harvard Medical School. His appointment as Assistant Professor of Pathology at Harvard in 1918 concluded in 1922 after concurrent service in the United States Navy Medical Service and a faculty position at the University of the Phillipines.

Dr. Goodpasture was director of the William H. Singer Research Laboratory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from 1922 to 1924. He resigned from the post to become Professor and Head of the Department of Pathology at the reorganized Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. The year 1924-25 was spent as a Rockefeller Scholar at the Institute for General and Experimental Pathology at the University of Vienna. On returning to Vanderbilt in 1925, Dr. Goodpasture assumed the duties of Professor and Head of the Department of Pathology. He held this appointment until his retirement in 1955. The early years of his tenure were of the greatest significance. It was then that Dr. Goodpasture and his associates carried out studies that laid the groundwork for subsequent explosive developments in virology and the development of vaccines.

From 1942 to 1950, Dr. Goodpasture, in addition to his departmental activities, served first as Associate Dean and later as Dean of the Medical School. Administration held little attraction for him, but with characteristic devotion to duty, he led the Medical School through the war and post-war time period of difficult adjustments and changes. Certain Hospital-Medical School relationships initiated by him have become permanently established. In 1950, he resigned the Deanship and thereafter devoted himself to his chosen field of Pathology.

In 1955 Dr. Goodpasture retired from the active faculty and become Professor of Pathology, Emeritus. In this same year, at the age of 69, he became Scientific Director of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, DC. After four productive years, Dr. Goodpasture resigned to return to Tennessee and to Vanderbilt. He had resumed his research in the spring of 1960 when he died at home of a heart attack on September 20, 1960.

Dr. Robert D. Collins, Professor of Pathology here at Vanderbilt, published in 2002 a thorough biography of this fascinating man entitled: Ernest William Goodpasture, Scientist, Scholar, Gentleman.

The Eskind Library also has a collection of Dr. Goodpasture's personal papers. For more information, please consult the Inventory of the Ernest W. Goodpasture Papers.