Prudden, T. Mitchell (Theophil Mitchell), 1849-1924

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Pathologist and bacteriologist; from 1880-1886, lecturer at Yale Medical School; first professor of pathology at Columbia University, 1892; had an important role in planning the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research.

From the description of Theophil Mitchell Prudden papers, 1872-1925 (inclusive), 1896-1925 (bulk). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702166912

From the description of Theophil Mitchell Prudden papers, 1872-1925 (inclusive), 1896-1925 (bulk) (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 145078716

Pathologist and bacteriologist; from 1880-1886, lecturer at Yale Medical School; first professor of pathology at Columbia University, 1892; had an important role in planning the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research.

Theophil Mitchell Prudden, pioneering American pathologist and bacteriologist, was born on July 7, 1849, in Middlebury, Connecticut. He was the fourth son of George Peter and Eliza (Johnson) Prudden. His father, a Congregational minister, was a descendant of the Reverend Peter Prudden, one of the original settlers of the New Haven Colony and the founder, in 1639, of Milford, Connecticut.

After preparation at the Wilbraham (Massachusetts) Academy, Prudden attended Yale's Sheffield Scientific School, receiving the Ph.B. degree in 1872. The school's premedical program, which included instruction in chemistry, zoology, and botany, was initiated for him and another student. Prudden's thesis for graduation was on the fiddler crab. He did more work on marine crustaceans in the summer of 1872 as a member of a dredging party in Eastport, Maine led by A.E. Verrill, professor of zoology at Yale, and Spencer F. Baird of the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. In June, 1873, he joined Professor O.C. Marsh's fourth student expedition to the West in search of vertebrate fossils. He wrote about their adventure for the New York Tribune .

From 1872 to 1874 Prudden taught chemistry at the Sheffield Scientific School while attending Yale's medical school (M.D., 1875). After further medical study in New York and a year's internship in the New Haven Hospital, Prudden studied for nearly two years more in Heidelberg, Vienna, and Berlin. In 1878 he was appointed assistant to Dr. Francis Delafield, director of the new Laboratory of the Alumni Association of the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. Prudden himself became director in 1882. From 1880 to 1886 he was also a lecturer at Yale's medical school. In 1885, at the request of the Connecticut State Board of Health, he returned to Germany to study the new science of bacteriology with Robert Koch. After the College of Physicians and Surgeons was turned over to Columbia, Prudden was appointed first professor of pathology in the Columbia University Medical College in 1892. In 1897 he received the honorary degree of LL.D. from Yale University for his services to the cause of medical science. He had an important role in planning the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, and after his retirement from Columbia in 1909 he continued to work until his death as a member of the Institute's Board of Scientific Directors.

Prudden never married. He died of heart disease in New York City on April 10, 1924. A younger sister, Lillian E. Prudden of New Haven, survived him.

"Prudden was a splendid teacher, a lucid speaker, for a long time the central figure in the scientific medical life of New York City." (Francis Carter Wood, "Prudden, Theophil Mitchell," in Dictionary of American Biography) . He was a member of numerous medical and public health organizations and committees, and was responsible for much of the development of municipal and state public health service in New York. He wrote newspaper editorials and drafted bills for state and national legislation on public health matters. His pathology and histology textbooks, which went through many editions, were standard texts in medical schools. His popularly written and widely-read books like Dust and its Dangers (1890) urged improved sanitation as a means of combatting the bacterially-caused diseases such as tuberculosis which were then major public health problems.

Prudden's summers for many years were spent in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona, where he explored and mapped ancient Indian dwellings. His guides were the Wetherill brothers-Richard, Alfred, John, Clayton, and Winslow-who were ranchers, traders, and serious amateur archaeologists. (Richard Wetherill was the discoverer of the Mesa Verde ruins in Colorado, and he named the "basket-maker" culture.) Prudden published several papers and a book on the ruins of the Southwest. He gave to Yale's Peabody Museum his own collection of Indian antiquities (1906) and a collection of photographs (1912).

Biographical accounts of Prudden agree that he was reserved and hard to get to know well and that he had few close friends. His best friend for a decade was George W. Hawes (1848-1882)-classmate, roommate, and fellow instructor at the Sheffield Scientific School. Hawes was one of the earliest petrographers in this country. Not long after becoming Director of the Geological Department of the U.S. National Museum, he died of tuberculosis. Prudden, as his only beneficiary, was bequeathed Hawes' books and personal effects.

From the guide to the Theophil Mitchell Prudden papers, 1872-1925, (Manuscripts and Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Prudden, T. Mitchell (Theophil Mitchell), 1849-1924. Theophil Mitchell Prudden papers, 1872-1925 (inclusive), 1896-1925 (bulk). Yale University Library
referencedIn William B. Provine collection of evolutionary biology reprints, 20th century. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
creatorOf Theophil Mitchell Prudden papers, 1872-1925 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn American Philosophical Society Archives. Record Group IIh, 1892-1896 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Prudden, T. Mitchell (Theophil Mitchell), 1849-1924. Theophil Mitchell Prudden papers, 1872-1925 (inclusive), 1896-1925 (bulk) Yale University Library
referencedIn Century Company records, 1870-1924 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Prudden, T. Mitchell Chaco Research Archive
Relation Name
associatedWith American Philosophical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Arnold, Julius, 1835-1915. person
associatedWith Biggs, Hermann Michael, 1859-1923. person
correspondedWith Century Company corporateBody
associatedWith Dellenbaugh, Frederick Samuel, 1853-1935. person
associatedWith Derby, Richard H. person
associatedWith Derby, Richard H. person
associatedWith Doty, Alvah Hunt, 1854- person
associatedWith Hodge, Frederick Webb, 1864-1956. person
associatedWith Hun, Henry, 1854- person
associatedWith Hun, Henry, 1854- person
associatedWith Jacobi, Abraham, 1830-1919. person
associatedWith Koch, Robert, 1843-1910. person
associatedWith Low, Seth, 1850-1916. person
associatedWith Lummis, Charles Fletcher, 1859-1928. person
associatedWith MacCurdy, George Grant, 1863- person
associatedWith Marsh, Othniel Charles, 1831-1899. person
associatedWith McBurney, Charles, 1845-1913. person
associatedWith Merriam, Clinton Hart, 1855-1942. person
associatedWith Northrup, William Perry. person
associatedWith Pepper, George Hubbard, 1873-1924. person
correspondedWith Provine, William B. person
associatedWith Trudeau, Edward Livingston, 1848-1915. person
associatedWith Van Gieson, Ira, 1866-1913. person
associatedWith Van Gieson, Ira, 1866?-1913. person
associatedWith Virchow, Rudolf Ludwig Karl, 1821-1902. person
associatedWith Welch, William Henry, 1850-1934. person
associatedWith Wetherill, Richard, 1858-1910. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
United States
West (U.S.)
Chaco Canyon (N.M.)
Southwest, New
Southwest, New
West (U.S.)
West (U.S.)
Subject
Indians of North America
Indians of North America--Southwest, New
Excavations (Archeology)
Medicine
Archaeology
Public health
Medicine--United States
Occupation
Bacteriologists
Pathologists
Function

Person

Birth 1849

Death 1924

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