Neonatology on the Web

William A. Silverman (1917-2004)

William A. Silverman (1917-2004)

Dr. William A. Silverman was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1917. His mother’s health was poor, so he was raised mostly by his grandparents. He received his undergraduate degree from UCLA and graduated from the University of California San Francisco Medical School in 1942. He trained as an intern and resident in pediatrics at UC Hospital in San Francisco during 1942-44, and was a resident at The Babies Hospital in New York City during 1944-45. He met Ruth Hirsch, then a nursing student at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, in 1944; they were married in 1945, and had three children: Dan, Jen and David.

Dr. Silverman remained on the staff at Columbia-Presbyterian after his residency, and later became the director of the neonatal intensive care unit. After many years at Columbia-Presbyterian, he moved back to California and became the director of the neonatal intensive care unit at San Francisco Children’s Hospital.

Among Dr. Silverman’s many important works were the importance of thermoregulation in survival of premature infants and the association between retinopathy of prematurity (then called retrolental fibroplasia) and high concentrations of oxygen administered to premature infants. He is regarded as a pioneer in evidence-based medicine in neonatology and one of the leading neonatologists of the 1950s.

William Silverman in 1959. Source: Modern Hospital.
William A. Silverman and colleagues investigating an ISC incubator with IR heating. Source: Modern Hospital, 1959.

Dr. Silverman was elected to the Society for Pediatric Research, the American Pediatric Society, and an Honorary Founder Fellow of Britain’s Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. He was the author of Dunham’s Premature Infants. Third Edition. Hoeber, 1961; Retrolental Fibroplasia: A Modern Parable, Grune & Stratton, 1980; Human Experimentation: A Guided Step Into the Unknown, Oxford University Press, 1985; Where’s the Evidence? Oxford University Press, 1998; he headed the editorial board of Pediatrics from 1962 to 1968; and he wrote the column “From our correspondent” in Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology since that journal’s inception in 1987.

The Cochrane Collaboration awards the Bill Silverman Prize to a researcher who evaluates and improves the presentation, maintenance or dissemination of the collaboration’s materials. In 2003, the American Foundation for the Blind awarded its highest honor, the Migel Medal, to Silverman. The American Academy of Pediatrics honored him in 2006 with the creation of the William A. Silverman Lectureship.

Dr. Silverman died in his home in Greenbrae, California on December 16, 2004 at the age of 87. The cause was renal failure.

We are fortunate to have several of Dr. Silverman’s articles and his book Retrolental Fibroplasia: A Modern Parable posted on this web site, with his permission. You can find them in the “Classic Books and Articles On-Line” section.