Fernós Isern, Antonio, 1895-1974

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Dr. Antonio Fernós Isern (May 10, 1895 – January 19, 1974) was a Puerto Rican doctor and politician. He was notably the first Puerto Rican cardiologist and the longest serving Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico in the United States Congress, serving from 1946 to 1965.

Born in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, he attended primary and intermediate schools in Caguas before his family moved to Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. He finished his high school education in the Pennsylvania State Normal School. After completing his pre-medical training, he applied and was accepted to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the University of Maryland and earned his doctor's degree in May 1915. Fernós-Isern completed his residency in cardiology in 1933 at Columbia University.

Fernós-Isern worked as a physician in Caguas, Puerto Rico, northwest of his hometown, before taking on a series of positions in public health. He served as the health officer for San Juan in 1919 and as Puerto Rico’s assistant commissioner of health from 1920 to 1921 and from 1923 to 1931. He became commissioner of health in 1931 but resigned in 1933 when the Coalición (the Coalition) took power, working on the faculty of the School of Public Health School of Tropical Medicine until 1935. As a member of the new Partido Popular Democrático (Popular Democratic Party, or PPD), Fernós-Isern returned to his position as commissioner of health in 1942, serving during a U-boat blockade in World War II that left Puerto Ricans without food imports and close to starvation. From 1943 to 1946, Dr. Fernós Isern was also the acting governor of Puerto Rico during the Governorship of Rexford G. Tugwell, under appointment as Permanent Acting Governor approved by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In 1946, Jesús T. Piñero, the first Puerto Rican to serve as governor of Puerto Rico, appointed Fernós Isern as his replacement in the position of Resident Commissioner to the U.S. Congress after unanimous endorsement from the island legislature. Dr. Fernós Isern was re-elected on six consecutive occasions, serving a total of nineteen years. As Resident Commissioner, Fernós Isern played a very important role in convincing the Government of the United States to give Puerto Ricans the right to govern their island. In 1947, the Crawford Project, allowing Puerto Ricans to elect their governor, was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Harry S Truman. On June 8, 1950, the United States Senate approved Public Law 600, permitting Puerto Rico to establish its own constitutional local autonomous government. Fernós Isern served as president of the Constitutional Convention which drafted the Constitution of the Commonwealth (Estado Libre Asociado).

Dr. Fernós Isern did not seek re-election in 1964. He returned to Puerto Rico and was elected to the Puerto Rican Senate, serving between 1965 and 1969. After he retired from politics, Dr. Fernós Isern returned to the University of Puerto Rico as Resident Scholar. He died in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on January 19, 1974, and was buried with full state honors in the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery located in Old San Juan.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Rayburn, Sam, 1882-1961, Papers, 1822, 1831, 1845, 1903-2007 Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Columbia University corporateBody
memberOf Puerto Rico. Asamblea Legislativa. Senado. corporateBody
associatedWith Rayburn, Sam, 1882-1961 person
memberOf United States. Congress. House person
alumnusOrAlumnaOf University of Maryland, College Park corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Baltimore MD US
Bloomsburg PA US
San Lorenzo 03 PR
Caguas PR PR
New York City NY US
San Juan 127 PR
Representatives, U.S. Congress
Professors (teacher)
State Senator
State Government Official


Birth 1895-05-10

Death 1974-01-19



Puerto Ricans,



Spanish; Castilian


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