Apgar, Virginia, 1909-1974

Dates:
Birth 1909-06-07
Death 1974-08-07
Americans

Biographical notes:

Virginia Apgar was born in Westfield, New Jersey on June 7, 1909 to Charles E. Apgar, a businessman and insurance executive, and Helen May Clarke Apgar. After graduating from high school in Westfield she entered Mount Holyoke College in 1925. She majored in zoology, wrote articles for the student newspaper, participated in campus athletics and dramatics, and played violin in the College orchestra. After receiving a B.A. in 1929 she became one of the first women to study at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She received her M.D. in 1933 and began an internship in surgery at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. After two years of work Apgar became convinced that a woman could not support herself as a surgeon and decided to enter the newly-emerging field of anesthesiology. She trained at the University of Wisconsin and Bellvue Hospital and became a board-certified anesthesiologist in 1937; she began teaching anesthesiology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center before she had completed her training. She was appointed Director of the Center's Division of Anesthesiology in 1938. When she became a full professor in 1949 she relinquished her other duties and devoted herself to studying the use of anesthesia during childbirth. In 1952 she presented her system for evaluating the health of infants immediately after birth which became known as the Apgar Score. In 1959 Apgar received a master's degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University and joined the staff of the National Foundation (later the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation). She devoted much of the rest of her life to increasing public support for research about the causes, prevention, and treatment of birth defects. In 1972 she wrote "Is My Baby All Right?" with Joan Beck, a book aimed at helping parents understand birth defects. While continuing to work for the National Foundation she also was a lecturer in the Department of Genetics at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health and lecturer and clinical professor of pediatrics at Cornell University Medical College in New York City. From 1966-1971 Apgar was an alumna trustee of Mount Holyoke College. She received many honorary degrees and awards during her lifetime, for example, becoming the first woman to receive the Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Medicine from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1973. She died in New York City on August 7, 1974 at the age of sixty-five. Posthumous honors for Apgar include a commemorative postage stamp issued in 1994 and induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1995.

From the guide to the Virginia Apgar papers MS 0504., 1880-1975, 1925-1974, (Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections)

Virginia Apgar was born in Westfield, New Jersey on June 7, 1909 to Charles E. Apgar, a businessman and insurance executive, and Helen May Clarke Apgar. After graduating from high school in Westfield she entered Mount Holyoke College in 1925. She majored in zoology, wrote articles for the student newspaper, participated in campus athletics and dramatics, and played violin in the College orchestra. After receiving a B.A. in 1929 she became one of the first women to study at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She received her M.D. in 1933 and began an internship in surgery at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. After two years of work Apgar became convinced that a woman could not support herself as a surgeon and decided to enter the newly-emerging field of anesthesiology. She trained at the University of Wisconsin and Bellevue Hospital and became a board-certified anesthesiologist in 1937; she began teaching anesthesiology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center before she completed her training. She was appointed Director of the Center's Division of Anesthesiology in 1938. When she became a full professor in 1949 she relinquished her other duties and devoted herself to studying the use of anesthesia during childbirth. In 1952 she presented her system for evaluating the health of infants immediately after birth which became known as the Apgar Score. In 1959 Apgar received a master's degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University and joined the staff of the National Foundation (later the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation). She devoted much of the rest of her life to increasing public support for research about the causes, prevention, and treatment of birth defects. In 1972 she wrote "Is My Baby All Right?" with Joan Beck, a book aimed at helping parents understand birth defects. While continuing to work for the National Foundation she also was a lecturer in the Department of Genetics at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health and a lecturer and clinical professor of pediatrics at Cornell University Medical Center in New York City. From 1966-1971 Apgar was an alumna trustee of Mount Holyoke College. She received many honorary degrees and awards during her lifetime, for example, becoming the first woman to receive the Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Medicine from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1973. She died in New York City on August 7, 1974 at the age of sixty-five. Posthumous honors for Apgar include a commemorative postage stamp issued in 1994 and induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1995.

From the guide to the Virginia Apgar Collection MS 0816., 1962-present, (Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections)

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Subjects:

  • College students--Massachusetts
  • Physicians--United States--Biography
  • Anesthesiologists--United States--Biography
  • Women anesthesiologists--United States
  • Mount Holyoke College--Student life - 1925-1929
  • Women college students--Massachusetts
  • Student activities--New Jersey--Hackettstown
  • College students--New Jersey
  • Prenatal care
  • Women physicians--United States
  • Women physicians--United States--Biography
  • Anesthesiologists--United States
  • Apgar score
  • Abnormalities, Human
  • Student activities--Massachusetts--South Hadley
  • Suburban homes--New Jersey--Westfield
  • Physicians--United States
  • Women--United States--Economic conditions
  • Commemorative postage stamps--United States
  • Interns (Medicine) - New York (State) - New York
  • Infants (Newborn) - Medical care
  • Women anesthesiologists--United States--Biography
  • Hospitals--New York--Medical staff--New York (State)

Occupations:

  • Physicians
  • Anesthesiologists

Places:

  • Westfield, NJ, US
  • Manhattan, NY, US