Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ernest William Goodpasture

Ernest William Goodpasture was born on a farm near Clarksville, Tennessee on October 17, 1886. His father, Albert Goodpasture, was a lawyer and a farmer, who served in the Tennessee state government and ran a publishing business. It was said by his family that he took after his maternal grandfather, Dr. Stephen L. Dawson, who went to California during the gold rush, and then returned to Tennessee for a long medical practice.

Goodpasture's early education was at public schools in Nashville, Tennessee starting in 1893. Later he attended Bowen's Preparatory Academy. He went to Vanderbilt University in 1903 and graduated in 1907. After a period in which he taught elementary school in order to secure funds for his further education he started at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1908, finishing his M.D. in 1912. After graduation, with the help of a Rockefeller Fellowship he stayed at Johns Hopkins working in the school of pathology. He remained at Johns Hopkins three years after graduation, first as a fellow, then an instructor and in his third year as a resident.

In 1915 Goodpasture took a position as a pathology resident at Brigham Hospital and as an instructor in pathology at Harvard Medical School. After a two year absence, in which he served as a naval medical officer during World War I, publishing papers on the pathology of influenzal pneumonia, Goodpasture returned to Harvard where he was made assistant professor. In 1921 eager to study tropical diseases, Goodpasture took a assistant professor position at the University of the Philippines in Manila. After a year in the Philippines, Goodpasture took a position as the director of William H. Singer laboratories in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1924 Goodpasture accepted a position at Vanderbilt University and was able to return to his native state, where he remained until 1955, serving as dean of the school of medicine from 1945 to 1950.

Goodpasture's research mostly delt with viral diseases. His early work was to study the route of spread of herpes virus in neural tissue. In 1931 Goodpasture, with the help of his colleague Alice Woodruff was investigating fowl-pox and needed means to grow large numbers of viruses. Viruses, unlike bacteria, are unable to reproduce on their own. Viruses must infect cells and use their genetic machinery to reproduce themselves. Using the tissue of chicken embryos, they were able to effectively grow viruses. This discovery made it easier for researchers to grow viruses and was a huge advance in virology. Vaccines against viral diseases, today, are grown from eggs in this manner. In 1934, working with Claud D. Johnson, Goodpasture was the first to isolate the virus that causes mumps.

In 1955 Goodpasture retired from Vanderbilt University and took a position as director of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and with his wife he moved to Washington D.C. He served as director until 1959, after which he returned to Nashville. He died in Nashville on September 20, 1960.


Long, Esmond R.; "Ernest William Goodpasture 1886-1960"; Biographical Memoirs; National Academy Press

Ernest William Goodpasture Wikipedia Entry