Crosby, Elizabeth Caroline, 1888-....Alternative names
Professor of neuroanatomy at the University of Michigan.
From the description of Elizabeth Caroline Crosby papers, 1918-1983 (bulk 1935-1980). (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34423338
Elizabeth C. Crosby, 1888-1982, professor of anatomy at the University of Michigan, 1920-1958, and the University of Alabama Birmingham was best known for her work in the field of neuroanaotmy. Educated at Adrian College and the University of Chicago, Crosby was the first woman to be named a full professor in the University of Michigan Medical School in 1936. Recipient of the National Medal of Science in 1980.
Elizabeth C. Crosby was born in Petersburg, Michigan in 1888. Crosby received an undergraduate in mathematics from Adrian College and a M.S. in biology from Chicago in 1912. Crosby accepted a position under Dr. G. Carl Huber as in instructor in the department of anatomy at the University of Michigan in 1920. She taught a course in histology in the medical school and assisted Dr. Huber in the medical and graduate school course in neuroanatomy. In addition to teaching, Crosby contributed significantly to the two volume text, The Comparative Anatomy of the Nervous System of Vertebrates published in 1936, which is still considered the standard reference work in comparative neuroanatomy for the period prior to 1936. Dr. Crosby continued her progress through the academic ranks of the University of Michigan and in 1936 she was appointed a full professorship in the department of anatomy, becoming the first woman in the medical school to achieve this status. Crosby's excellence in teaching was officially recognized in 1957 when the Galens Society of the University of Michigan Medical School established the Elizabeth C. Crosby annual award for the best preclinical teaching in the school. Her significant accomplishments in research and the quality of her scientific publications were recognized by colleagues all over the world and in 1980 President Carter presented Crosby with the National Medal of Science. Crosby continued as a consultant to the neuroanatomy department after her retirement in 1958, dividing her time between the University of Michigan and the University of Alabama at Birmingham until her death in 1982.
Elizabeth C. Crosby was the only child of Lewis Frederick and Francis Kreps Crosby. A precocious child, Elizabeth had the full attention and love of her middle-aged parents and learned to read early, mastering many adult books before she entered school. She excelled in the elementary and secondary schools of Petersburg, and as a high school graduation present, her father promised her four years of college. She then enrolled in nearby Adrian College and completed her undergraduate degree in three years. Although she had majored in mathematics, Crosby was most fascinated with a single zoology course she had taken, and she thus decided to pursue a graduate degree in biology. Having just one year left on her father's promise, she applied to study under Dr. C. Judson Herrick at the University of Chicago, insisting that she enter the full anatomy program, though she had little preparation in this area as an undergraduate. Displaying the intense drive and dedication which would characterize her entire career, Crosby quickly caught up with her classmates, completing gross anatomy and neuroanatomy with distinction. She received her M.S. degree from Chicago in 1912 and was then granted a fellowship in the anatomy department. The next three years were spent in thesis research and preparation and the University of Chicago awarded her the Ph.D. degree in 1915. Her thesis, "The Forebrain of Alligator Mississippiensis" was a creative, searching and through analysis which became an acknowledged classic.
In 1916, Crosby returned home to Petersburg to be near her ailing mother, and taught Latin, mathematics and zoology at the local high school. She was appointed its Principal in 1916 and Superintendent of Schools in 1918. She introduced an effective course in zoology, and, taking on whatever needed to be done, also served as coach of the basketball team.
After the death of her mother, Crosby resumed her career as a neuroanatomist, accepting a position under Dr. G.Carl Huber as in instructor in the department of anatomy at the University of Michigan in 1920. She taught in the medical school course in histology and assisted Dr. Huber in the medical and graduate school course in neuroanatomy. After the death of her father in 1923, Crosby took a sabbatical to work with the renowned scientist C.U. Ariens Kappers at the Central Institute for Brain Research in Amsterdam. Dr Kappers, the author of a small but well-accepted text in comparative neuroanatomy, subsequently invited Huber and Crosby to join him in its revision. The death of Huber in 1934 placed the burden of this assignment squarely upon the shoulders of Crosby. However, because so much new work of a comparative nature had accumulated internationally no revision could really be adequate and, in her thorough way, Crosby produced The Comparative Anatomy of the Nervous System of Vertebrates, including Man in two volumes, published in 1936. So masterly and comprehensive was its coverage and so correct its interpretations that this work remains today the standard reference work in comparative neuroanatomy for the period prior to 1936. Although Crosby's name is last on the list of authors, it is properly known as her accomplishment.
Dr. Crosby completed her progress through the academic ranks in 1936 when she was appointed full professor in the department of anatomy, becoming the first woman in the medical school to achieve this status. Her career as a professor of neuroanatomy spanned twenty-two years, until 1958, when she retired, becoming professor emeritus. During this tenure she had guided thirty-eight students to the Ph.D. degree (including many female students who were drawn to her as a pioneer in this male-dominated field), and several established scientists had spent residencies of varying duration in Ann Arbor under her tutelage. During this period, her publications continued to be fundamental and comparative and were largely issued jointly with former graduate students, and her teaching became more clinically oriented. She also published two significant and highly acclaimed texts, Correlative Neurosurgery (1955) and Correlative Anatomy of the Nervous System (1962).
Upon her retirement, because her contributions to the local neurosurgical department were so significant and appreciated, she was asked to continue as a consultant in neurosurgery. For some years she conducted night classes in neuroanatomy for interns and residents in neurosurgery, neurology, and psychiatry. She attended conferences and ward rounds, aiding in the interpretation of symptoms and in the location of lesions. She conducted research with the permanent staff, particularly Dr. Edgar Kahn and Dr. Richard C. Schneider, and continued her program of publication. Correlative Neurosurgery continued to be brought up to date and its expanded third edition appeared shortly before her death (1982).
In 1963, Crosby began a close professional association with the department of anatomy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Crosby's frequent visits to this warmer climate eventually matured into a formal appointment as Professor Emeritus of Anatomy at U.A.B. During her appointment, Crosby was involved in the graduate degree programs of sixteen graduate students in that department as well as with the ongoing research interests of the faculty. These activities were carried on concurrently with her consultantship in neurosurgery at the University of Michigan in a remarkable eighteen year long commutership by air between the two schools. For all the later years, confined to crutches and wheelchairs, she determinedly continued her contributions to beloved students and colleagues.
Dr. Crosby was recognized by all associated with her as a superb teacher. Her lectures were well organized and clear, and although she always arrived to class with copious handwritten notes, she rarely, if ever, consulted them during her presentations. After lecture she always stayed and answered questions until all were satisfied. Few students failed her courses, mainly because she was so diligent in offering help both in and outside of class. Crosby's courses were far from easy, however, as she believed in programs which stretched the mind of even the best students. Her ability to nurture graduate students and encourage them to realize their individual potentials was undoubtedly responsible for the large number of now prominent scientists (including many other female "pioneers" in the field) who have emerged from her tutelage. Crosby's excellence in teaching was officially recognized in 1957 when the Galens Society of the University of Michigan Medical School established the Elizabeth C. Crosby annual award for the best preclinical teaching in the school.
Her significant accomplishments in research and the quality of her scientific publications were also recognized by colleagues all over the world with awards and honors. As early as 1950 she received the Achievement Award of the American Association of University Women and as late as 1972 the Henry Gray Award of the American Association of Anatomists, its most prestigious honor. Invitations to lecture came in numbers to which she could barely respond. She was awarded ten Honorary Doctorates by universities both in the United States and abroad. Her own university honored her with the Solis Award (1926), the Henry Russell Lectureship (1946), the Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award (1956), and the Honorary Doctorate of Sciences (1970). Her honors were culminated with the National Medal of Science presented by President Carter in 1980.
From the guide to the Elizabeth Caroline Crosby Papers, 1888-1983, 1935-1980, (Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan)
- Medical education
- Physicians--Michigan--Ann Arbor
- Teachers--Michigan--Ann Arbor
- Petersburg (Mich.) (as recorded)