Fishbein, Morris, 1889-1976

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Physician, editor, and writer. B.S., University of Chicago, 1910. M.D., Rush Medical College, 1912. Editor, The Journal of the American Medical Association, 1924-1949. Died 1976.

From the description of Papers, 1912-1976 (inclusive). (University of Chicago Library). WorldCat record id: 52246170

Dr. Fishbein was editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association from 1913 to 1949 and of Hygeia from 1924 to 1947.

From the description of Morris Fishbein : transcript of an interview / interviewed by Charles O. Jackson, Mar. 12, 1968. (National Library of Medicine). WorldCat record id: 14329448

The papers of Morris Fishbein—medical editor, writer, lecturer, and prodigious fund-raiser—span the long and active career he himself described near the age of 80 in Morris Fishbein, M. D.: An Autobiography (New York: Doubleday, 1969). They incorporate the papers of his wife, Anna Mantel Fishbein.

Morris Fishbein’s career as an educator divides naturally into two parts. Between 1912 and 1948 he was associated with the American Medical Association. After early retirement in 1949, until his death in 1976, he expanded the range of his activities as free-lance lecturer, editor, author and philanthropist. The organization of his papers reflects this division of his career. The first section of the Correspondence series (Boxes 109) dates to the AMA period as do many of the folders in Series II: General Files (Boxes 41-111) and most of the Scrapbooks (Series III: Memorabilia). The remainder of Box 125 dates to the later, post-retirement period.

Born to Eastern European immigrant parents in St. Louis on 22 July 1889, Morris Fishbein grew up in Indianapolis. Graduating from Shortridge High School after three and one-half years, he entered the University of Chicago in 1906, completed his B. S. in 1910, and was awarded his medical degree from Rush Medical College in 1912. A few months later he was invited to assist the editor of The Journal of the American Medical Association, and in 1924, with the retirement of Dr. George Simmons, he assumed its editorship. He held this position until 1949.

As editor of JAMA Fishbein became the AMA’s spokesman during a period of great growth and change in American medicine, and under his editorship JAMA became the most influential and affluent periodical in the history of medical journalism. He read the 3000 manuscripts submitted each year, paying physicians for the 500 articles that he selected for publication. He set the standards and screened advertising from the burgeoning pharmaceuticals industry. Although an employee of the AMA’s Board of Trustees, it was Fishbein’s editorials, and his editorial work, which articulated and shaped the AMA’s policies. He exercised his power to print or not to print with a consistency of viewpoint which the Board of Trustees, whose members were elected for brief terms, could not match.

Continuing the AMA’s long-standing interest in advancing medical education and in eliminating charlatans from the medical professions, Fishbein used JAMA to pursue quacks relentlessly. He, as a consequence, was sued more than 30 times, for a total of $40 million, but never lost a suit. These attacks on quackery attracted wide public interest and moved Fishbein and the AMA to a closer relationship with the lay public. Fishbein created an AMA public relations office which issued press releases and responded to the inquiries of newspaper reporters. In 1924 he added Hygeia, a magazine for lay readers, to the list of AMA publications and encouraged physicians to write for it. He himself contributed frequent articles and columns to newspapers and popular magazines, and from these grew a number of his more than 40 books, many of them popular best-sellers. His Modern Home Medical Advisor, first published in 1935 and revised several times, sold four million copies and was translated into nine languages.

Gifted as a writer—he regularly produced 15,000 words a week for publication—he was also gifted as a platform speaker. For years he delivered as many as 300 speeches and lectures every year, keynoting conferences, introducing programs, speaking to medical professionals and lay audiences in every part of the country, and frequently abroad, on behalf of the AMA and other medical organizations. His irrepressible wit, his energy, and his instant quotability led to frequent requests that he appear on radio broadcasts, and he became increasingly identified in the public mind as the “voice” of American medicine. Time Magazine characterized him as “the nation’s most ubiquitous, most widely maligned, and perhaps most influential medico.”

Although he had the confidence of the Board of Trustees, and their support for his activities, his prominence in the media made some members of the AMA uneasy. Some disagreed with the AMA policies which Fishbein so forcefully expressed. Some disliked his style or thought it inappropriate to his position as editor of a scientific journal. In the 1940’s Fishbein was three times required to defend his activities in the AMA’s House of Delegates. They became a central issue for the contenders to the AMA presidency in 1949, however. Fishbein declined a political fight and the Board of Trustees, fearing a contest intense enough to disrupt the AMA, reached agreement with him on the conditions of his retirement.

Leaving the Atlantic City convention at which the decision was announced Fishbein was offered five jobs, and, he said, accepted them all. He stayed on a few months to train a successor and left the AMA at the end of 1949. Many physicians—he was said to have formed personal relationships with more than 8000—men of literature and public affairs, and leaders in business and entertainment wrote to praise his work on behalf of the AMA; these letter and a large number of newspaper clippings are found in Box 43:1-4 and Box 68: 7-10.

Within a few months after “retirement,” Fishbein was writing, editing, and lecturing as widely as before his departure from the AMA. He increasingly involved himself in medical philanthropy, lecturing for Dr. Charles A. Haney & Associates (Box 15:1-2) to build new hospitals throughout the United States and accepting invitations to the boards of numerous Chicago and many national organizations and institutions. He was involved immediately in the publication of Postgraduate Medicine, lectured at the University of Chicago, and from 1953 to 1957 produced an annual series, Medical Progress. The first edition of his Illustrated Medical and Health Encyclopedia appeared in 1957, and in 1960, at the age of seventy, Fishbein published Medical World News.

Although Fishbien’s activities were slowed by an operation, illness, and the effects of advancing age, Morris Fishbein never retired. He continued to work with humor and vigor until shortly before his death, on 27 September 1976, at the age of 87. He was survived only briefly by his wife of sixty-two years, Anna Mantel Fishbein, who died on 23 December 1976.

From the guide to the Fishbein, Morris. Papers, 1912-1976, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Fishbein, Morris, 1889-1976. A collection of miscellaneous biobibliographical material on this person, together with abstracts, résumés, etc. of his works, may be found on the shelves under the above call number. National Library of Medicine
referencedIn Elmer Louis Severinghaus letters, 1920-1945, 1920-1945 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Friedman, Philip Allan. Correspondence to Philip Allan Friedman, 1952-1953. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Lear, Walter J. (Walter Jay), 1923-. Walter Lear lecture notes, 1943. University of Pennsylvania Library
creatorOf Fishbein, Morris, 1889-1976. Correspondence file, 1928-1930 : from Horace Liveright, Inc. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Fulton, John F. (John Farquhar), 1899-1960. John Farquhar Fulton papers, 1892-1988 (inclusive), 1920-1960 (bulk). Yale University Library
referencedIn Weinerman, E. Richard (Edwin Richard), 1917-1970. Edwin Richard Weinerman papers, 1908-1970 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn American Medical Association. Dept. of Investigation. Records. Pittsburgh Research Laboratory-Plain Talk (inclusive), 1925-1982. American Medical Association,James S. Todd Memorial Library
creatorOf American Medical Association. Dept. of Investigation. Records. National Congress on Medical Quackery, 1960-1969. American Medical Association,James S. Todd Memorial Library
referencedIn Hench, Philip S., 1896-1965. Philip S. Hench Walter Reed Yellow Fever Collection, 1806-1995, bulk 1863-1974 Historical Collections, Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, University of Virginia
creatorOf [Morris Fishbein, biographical materials]. University of Wisconsin - Madison, General Library System
referencedIn Severinghaus, Elmer Louis, 1894-1980. Letters, 1920-1945. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn John Farquhar Fulton papers, 1892-1988, 1920-1960 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Cushing, Harvey, 1869-1939. Harvey Williams Cushing papers, 1745-1965 (inclusive), 1887-1939 (bulk). Yale University Library
creatorOf Fishbein, Morris, 1889-1976. Papers, 1912-1976 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
referencedIn American Medical Association. Dept. of Investigation. Records. Campho-Phenique-Cancer Specific Remedy (inclusive), 1906-1959. American Medical Association,James S. Todd Memorial Library
referencedIn American Medical Association. Dept. of Investigation. Records. Brinkley, John R., 1909-1974 (bulk 1920-1942). American Medical Association,James S. Todd Memorial Library
creatorOf Fishbein, Morris, 1889-1976. Morris Fishbein : transcript of an interview / interviewed by Charles O. Jackson, Mar. 12, 1968. National Library of Medicine
referencedIn Cushing, Harvey, 1869-1939. Harvey Williams Cushing papers, 1745-1965 (inclusive), 1887-1939 (bulk). Yale University Library
creatorOf Cabell, James Branch, 1879-1958. Scrapbooks of James Branch Cabell [manuscript], 1886-1958 (bulk 1904-1926). University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Fishbein, Morris. Papers, 1912-1976 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
creatorOf Mount Zion Hebrew Congregation (Saint Paul, Minn.). Mount Zion Hebrew Congregation records, 1853-1958. Minnesota Historical Society Library
creatorOf Fishbein, Morris, 1889-1976. [Letter] 1967 April 7, Chicago, Ill. [to] Roy Jansen, Harrisburg, Pa. / Morris Fishbein. Office of Commonwealth Libraries, Pennsylvania State Library
referencedIn Edwin Richard Weinerman papers, 1908-1970 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn American Medical Association. Dept. of Investigation. Records. Hoxsey, Harry M., 1909-1990 (bulk 1924-1972). American Medical Association,James S. Todd Memorial Library
creatorOf Fishbein, Morris, 1889-1976. Index medicus publication correspondence, 1925-1933. National Library of Medicine
referencedIn Fielding Hudson Garrison Papers, 1910-1957 History of Medicine Division. National Library of Medicine
referencedIn American Medical Association. Dept. of Investigation. Records. Neoplasms, 1899-1983. American Medical Association,James S. Todd Memorial Library
referencedIn Solon J. Buck Papers, 1778-1962, (bulk 1934-1957) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Medical Association. corporateBody
associatedWith American Medical Association. Dept. of Investigation. corporateBody
associatedWith American Medical Association. Dept. of Investigation. corporateBody
associatedWith American Medical Association. Dept. of Investigation. corporateBody
associatedWith American Medical Association. Dept. of Investigation. corporateBody
associatedWith American Medical Association. Dept. of Investigation. corporateBody
associatedWith American Medical Association. Dept. of Investigation. corporateBody
associatedWith Armed Forces Medical Library (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Buck, Solon J. (Solon Justus), 1884-1962 person
associatedWith Cabell, James Branch, 1879-1958. person
associatedWith Carter, Henry Rose, 1852-1925 person
associatedWith Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry (American Medical Association) corporateBody
associatedWith Cushing, Harvey, 1869-1939. person
associatedWith De Kruif, Paul Henry, 1890- person
associatedWith Fishbein, Anna Mantel. person
associatedWith Friedman, Philip Allan. person
associatedWith Fulton, John Farquhar, 1856-1932 person
associatedWith Fulton, John F. (John Farquhar), 1899-1960. person
associatedWith Garrison, Fielding H. (Fielding Hudson), 1870-1935 person
associatedWith Hench, Philip S. (Philip Showalter), 1896-1965 person
associatedWith Jackson, Charles O. (Charles Oliver), 1934- person
associatedWith Jansen, Roy. person
associatedWith Journal of the American Medical Association corporateBody
associatedWith Kean, Jefferson Randolph, 1860-1950 person
associatedWith Lazear, Jesse William, 1866-1900 person
associatedWith Lear, Walter J. (Walter Jay), 1923- person
associatedWith Mencken, H. L. (Henry Lewis), 1880-1956. person
associatedWith Mount Zion Hebrew Congregation (Saint Paul, Minn.) corporateBody
associatedWith Reed, Walter, 1851-1902 person
associatedWith Severinghaus, Elmer Louis, 1894-1980. person
associatedWith Simmons, G. H. (George Henry), 1852-1937. person
associatedWith United States. Army corporateBody
associatedWith Weinerman, E. Richard (Edwin Richard), 1917-1970. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Subject
Quackery--Autobiography
Public Health--Autobiography
Medicine
Physicians
Abstracting and Indexing as Topic
Physicians as authors
Quackery--Interview
Physicians, American--Biography
Public Health--Interview
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1889-07-22

Death 1976-09-27

Americans

English

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