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Walter Putnam Blount

Born 1900
Died 1992

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American orthopaedist, born July 3, 1900, Oak Park, Illinois; died May 16, 1992.

Biography of Walter Putnam Blount

Blount was born into a family of academicians and physicians. His paternal grandfather, Joseph Blount, MD, was a Civil War surgeon, his father a high school teacher and scientific author. His mother, Anna Ellsworth Blount, MD, was a physician and surgeon practicing in Oak Park. She was a member of the AMA and President of the Women’s National Medical Association. His sister, Ruth Bennet, MD, practiced paediatric medicine in Chicago.

Blount achieved academic and sporting distinction at the University of Illinois before qualifying at the Rush Medical College in 1925. He trained in orthopaedic surgery at the Wisconsin General Hospital and then went overseas to obtain additional experience. That included Frances Hoben, the daughter of the president of Kalamazoo College, USA. She was a Phi Beta Kappa doctoral candidate, May Queen, and star hockey and soccer player. The two married in 1929. They had two children, Ralph and Jane, and 5 grandchildren.

During the depression years and the 1940’s, Frances Blount became active with the League of Women voters. That activism led to her appointment to the Milwaukee Housing authority in 1944 and 1947.

Following his European studies Blount was appointed to the staff of Milwaukee Children's Hospital and joined the practice of Dr. Frederick Julius Gaenslen (1877-1937), chairman of the Department of Orthopedics at the Marquette University Medical School. The mentor and student were in practice together for eight years. In 1957 he became professor of orthopaedics at the Marquette Medical School and occupied this post until his retirement, when he was accorded emeritus status.

Blount made a significant contribution to the practice of modern paediatric orthopaedics by virtue of his role in the development of the Milwaukee brace for spinal malalignment. He published a classic work on childhood fractures in 1954 and wrote a second edition in 1977.

The Milwaukee Brace was just one of his significant contributions to medical science. He pioneered tibial stapling to compensate for epiphyses. The February 7, 1949 issue of Time magazine said that Dr. Blount "mesmerized" that years meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Time Magazine said that Dr. Blount’s treatment was for "Lame children with knock knees and bowlegs". Dr. Blount taught the surgeons at that meeting how to use stainless steel staples with 3/4 inch prongs to retard the growth of a leg. He would become the founder of the Wisconsin Orthopedic Society.

Blount became one of the World’s leading experts in bone tuberculosis, acute and chronic osteomyelitis, particularly poliomyelitis. He made a movie on the treatment of poliomyelitis that was widely circulated and added to the library of the American College of Surgeons. As chief of orthopaedic surgery at Milwaukee’s Children’s Hospital, his work on paediatric fractures became medical classics. His study of paediatric forearm fractures showed him that complications did not occur as long as open reductions were avoided. It was this work that led him to the development of the Milwaukee Brace. The list of Dr. Blount’s publications on file at the Medical Society goes on for 9 1/2 typewritten pages.

His achievements were rewarded by election to honorary membership of several international orthopaedic associations, including presidency of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons in 1954 and Vice-Presidency of SICOT in 1966.

After the death of his first wife in 1966, Blount married a neighbour, Jane Dunlok Telander. He enjoyed walking, cycling and gardening, in addition to lecturing and writing. He also maintained contact with the faculty and residents and continued his academic activities and consulting practice for many years.

    "I have been interested in scoliosis since 1928 when I studied various ineffectual methods of treatment in Europe...Most of the therapy was worse than no treatment at all." 1963.

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