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Thomas Morgan Rotch (1849-1914)

Thomas Morgan Rotch (1849-1914)

Dr. Thomas Morgan Rotch, a pioneering American Pediatrician, was born in Philadelphia on December 9, 1949. He graduated from Harvard College in 1870, and received his MD from Harvard Medical School in 1874. Upon completing his medical degree, Rotch went to Europe for two years to complete his medical education, studying in the Universities of Berlin, Vienna, and Heidelberg. After returning to Boston, he began his practice.

From the beginning, he advocated for the specialty that we now think of as pediatrics. At the time, there was no physician in New England whose practice was devoted to children. He was instrumental in the creation of a department of pediatrics at Harvard University, and was named Chair for the diseases of children in 1888. In 1893, he was named Professor of Pediatrics with full faculty status, the first such in America.(1) Partly as a result of his efforts, the Children’s Hospital was founded in Boston and became a model for pediatric hospitals around the world, as it still is today.

Rotch was an active advocate of the care of premature infants in the early years of the 20th century. He invented a unique incubator which is shown below, and described it in the first paper on prematurity ever presented at the American Pediatric Society in 1895.

In addition to his clinical work, Rotch was a prolific writer and educator, publishing numerous articles and books on pediatrics and medical education, including the illustrated books “Pediatrics: The Hygienic and Medical Treatment of Children,” published in 1895 and used as a Harvard textbook, and “The Living Anatomy and Pathology of Early Life as Shown by the Roentgen Method.” He was a founding member of the American Pediatric Society and served as its president in 1890-1891. He also played a significant role in the development of the field of nutrition, recognizing the importance of proper nutrition in the care of children and safe milk supplies for infants, conducting research on the nutritional needs of infants and children, and establishing a scientific basis for infant feedings.

Rotch died at his home in Boston on March 9, 1914.

(1) Followed by Samuel S. Adams of Georgetown University in 1895, and Luther M. Holt Sr., head of the Babies’ Hospital in New York, in 1902.