- A dictionary of medical eponyms

John Farquhar Fulton

Born  1899
Died  1960

Related eponyms

American physiologist, born November 1, 1899, St. Paul, Minnesota; died 1960.

Biography of John Farquhar Fulton

John Farquhar Fulton was the son of Edith (Wheaton) Fulton and John Farquhar, a practicing physician who was instrumental in establishing the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis. A street on the university campus is named for him. The Fultons belonged to the same family as Robert Fulton, artist, engineer, and inventor of the steamboat. After graduating from St. Paul High School at 16, Fulton worked for some time with a surveying team on the west coast, before he entered the University of Minnesota in 1917. During World War I he served with the United States Army. During World War I, John Fulton enlisted in. Coming out a veteran he applied to Harvard and was admitted, graduating magna cum laude in 1921. While still an undergraduate he published five papers. The first appeared in Acta Zoologica in 1920 , based on work done at the Bermuda Biological Station, dealt with the living blood of Ascidia, the origin of pigment cells, phagocytosis, and the permeability of the corpuscle membrane. The last of his papers he published as an undergraduate dealt with neuromuscular transmission.

In 1921 Fulton came to Magdalen College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar. Shortly after he was sent to Cambridge to aid Sir Arthur Shipley in the preparation of the latter's elementary biology classic Life. Fulton graduated as a B.A. from Oxford with first-class honours in physiology in 1923. His subsequent appointment as a university demonstrator in physiology permitted him to work in Sir Charles Scott Sherrington's (1857-1952) laboratory. To Fulton, and avid reader and already interested in medical history, the ancient libraries about Oxford were an inspiration.

Fulton was conferred Ph.D. in 1925 with a thesis containing 700 pages and over a thousand references. This unusually large doctoral work was published in 1927. The following year he graduated in medicine magna cum laude from Harvard University. He then worked for a period on the neurosurgical service of Harvey Williams Cushing (1869-1939), before returning Oxford to reassume a fellowship at Magdalen College. While there, he was called to Yale University as a Sterling Professor of Physiology.

After the outbreak of World War II, Fulton became chairman of the Sub-Committee on Decompression Sickness. His Yale laboratory was given over to research in aviation medicine; and to meet the needs of the burgeoning literature in that field, Fulton edited a bibliography of aviation medicine. However, the tremendous pressure of work during the war took its toll on Fulton's health. In 1951 he resigned as Sterling Professor of Physiology to take up the newly created post of Sterling Professor of the History of Medicine. This may have been the fulfilment of a wish dating back to his student time, when he had been strongly influenced by professor Wallace Notestein (1878-1969), a specialist in English history, and worked part-time as a stack boy in the St. Paul Public Library

Fulton participated in the first clinical trials of penicillin in the United States. In 1939 Howard Florey (1898-1968) and Ernest Chain (1906-1979) had succeeded in the extracting and purifying penicillin, and demonstrated its therapeutic properties. In 1941 Florey and his associate Dr. Norman Heatley, came to the United States to explore the possibility of mass production of penicillin in the United States, then still not engaged in the war. When Florey returned to Oxford in September 1941, he turned over the clinical testing to Dr. Lewis Weed (1886-1952).

Sir Alexander Fleming (1881-1955), Sir Ernest Boris Chain and Lord Howard Walter Florey shared the 1945 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine "for the discovery of penicillin and its curative effects in various infectious diseases."

The first patient to be treated was Mrs. Ogden Miller, the 33-year old wife of Yale's athletic director. Having developed a streptococcal septicaemia after a miscarriage, she was a patient in Yale Medical Center where John Fulton was also a patient, having contracted coccidiomycosis while visiting military installations in the San Joaquin Valley as a member of the Committee on Aviation Medicine. Her physician, Dr. John Bumstead, was also Fulton's physician. He prevailed upon Fulton to obtain some of the new drug for Mrs. Miller. On Saturday, March 14, 1942, after four weeks of 103º to 106º temperatures, she received her first dose of penicillin.

In his diary Fulton noted the change on the patient's course after administration of penicillin:

It arrived air-mail Saturday morning and a small trial dose was given at 3:30 Saturday afternoon. This was tolerated well so they gave larger doses every four hours. By 9 A.M. Sunday her temperature was normal for the first time in four weeks and has stayed normal until this writing (noon Monday). She has eaten several enormous meals – also for the first time in four weeks. It really looks as though Florey had made a ten-strike of the first water, and I am glad that we have had opportunity to make the first clinical trial of the American extract here.

The production of penicillin was so successful in the United States that, by D-Day in Normandy, June 6, 1944, there was sufficient penicillin to treat all severe casualties, both British and American.

Just as was the case with physiology, he immediately attracted students from all over the world. As a result of his work, the Yale Historical Library was established to house the hitherto separate collections of Harvey Cushing, John Fulton, and Arnold Carl Klebs (1870-1943)

In all, some 36 decorations and honorary degrees were awarded him by governments and universities of many countries. He received an Honorary O.B.E. conferred to services to Britain during World War II, and the Oxford D. Litt. was conferred upon him in 1957.

On John Farquhar Fulton:
Virtue went out of him to help others, not only in the study of neurophysiology and of medical history, but also in the perplexities and vicissitudes of life. That is why his students loved and revered him, and why he had countless friends and correspondents on both sides of the Atlantic. The love of mankind and books was with him to the end.
Concluding paragraph in his obituary in the British Medical Journal.


  • John F. Fulton:
    Muscular contraction and the reflex control of movement.
    Doctorate thesis. Baltimore, Williams & Wilkins, 1926.
  • John F. Fulton:
    Selected Reading in the History of Physiology.
    Edited by John Farquhar Fulton.
    Springfield, Illinois, Baltimore, Maryland, C. C. Thomas, 1930.
  • John F. Fulton:
    A Bibliography of the Honourable Robert Boyle, Fellow of the Royal Society.
    Oxford: University Press, 1932.
    2nd edition, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961.
  • Leona Baumgartner and John F. Fulton:
    A bibliography of the poem "Syphilis/ sive, Morbis gallicus", by Girolomo Fracastoro, of Verona. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1935.
  • John F. Fulton:
    A bibliography of two Oxford physiologists; Richard Lower, 1631-1691; John Mayow, 1643-1679.
    Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1935.
  • John F. Fulton and Harvey Cushing:
    A bibliographical study of the Galvani and the Aldini writings on animal electricity.
    Annals of Science, July 1936, 1(3): 239-268 plus 9 plates.
  • John F. Fulton and Charlotte H. Peters:
    Works of Joseph Priestly, 1733-1804. Preliminary short title list.
    New Haven: Laboratory of Physiology, Yale University School of Medicine, 1937.
  • John F. Fulton:
    Physiology of the Nervous System. Textbook. 1938.
    This went through several editions, and was translated into many languages.
  • John Fulton and Ralph W. Gerard:
    J.G. Dusser de Barenne, 1885-1940.
    Journal of Neurophysiology, July 1940, 3: 283-292.
    Includes bibliography of Dusser de Barenne's works.
  • A bibliography of visual literature, 1939-1944, compiled by John F. Fulton, Phebe M. Hoff and Henrietta T. Perkins. Prepared by the committee on aviation medicine, Division of medical sciences, National research council.
    Washington, D.C: 1945.
  • John F. Fulton:
    Harvey Cushing, a biography.
    Springfield, Illinois, C. C. Thomas, 1946.
  • John F. Fulton and Madeline Earl Stanton:
    The centennial of surgical anesthesia; an annotated catalogue of books and pamphlets bearing on the early history of surgical anesthesia, exhibited at the Yale medical library, October 1946. Compiled by John F. Fulton, M.D., and Madeline E. Stanton, A. B.
    New York, H. Schuman, 1946.
  • John F. Fulton:
    On being a literary executor.
    Journal of Neurosurgery, 1947, 4: 1-6.
    [on being Harvey Cushing's literary executor]
  • John F. Fulton:
    Edward Clark Streeter, 1874-1947. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, December 1947, 20(2): 203-211.
  • John F. Fulton:
    Edward Clark Streeter, 1874-1947: A biographical appreciation for his friends and classmates including the text of his paper on Leoniceno.
    New Haven: The Historical Library, Yale University School of Medicine, 1948.
  • John F. Fulton:
    The great medical bibliographers, a study in humanism.
    Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1951.
  • John Fulton:
    The Library of Jonathan Knight, 1789-1864. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, June 1953, 25(6): 468-476.
  • John F. Fulton and Madeline Earl Stanton:
    Michael Servetus, humanist and martyr; with a bibliography of his works and census of known copies, by Madeline E. Stanton. New York, H. Reichner, 1953 [c1954].
  • John F. Fulton:
    A unique copy of the Fabrica of Vesalius'[1943 edition]
    Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 1953, 8: 219-220.
  • John F. Fulton and Madeleine E. Stanton:
    Bibliography of Galvani's writings on animal electricity. In Luigi Galvani, Commentary on the effects of electricity on muscular motion...together with a facsimile of Galvani's De viribus electricitatis in motu musculari commentarius (1791), and a bibliography of the editions and translations of Galvani's book...
    Norwalk, CT: Burndy Library, 1954, pp. 159-171.
  • John F. Fulton:
    Selected reading in the history of physiology, comp. by John F. Fulton, completed by Leonard G. Wilson.
    Springfield, Illinois, Thomas [c 1966].
  • John F. Fulton:
    The Making of a Library: Extracts from Letters, 1934-1941, of Harvey Cushing, Arnold C. Klebs, John F. Fulton, Presented to John Fulton by His Friends on His Sixtieth Birthday, 1 November 1959.
    New Haven: Yale University, 1959.
  • John Fulton, Frederick G. Kilgour and Madeleine E. Stanton:
    Yale Medical Library: the formation and growth of its Historical Library. New Haven, 1962.
  • John Fulton:
    Dusser de Barenne, Joannes Gregorius.
    Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 2.: 161-162.
    Joannes Gregorius Dusser de Barenne (1885-1940) of Dutch descent was a pioneer on demonstrating the major functional subdivisions of the sensory cortex. He joined the Yale School of Medicine in 1930.
  • Elizabeth H. Thomson:
    Early Manifestations of Bibliomania in Three Collectors: Harvey Cushing, Arnold Klebs, and John Fulton. Journal of the Albert Einstein Medical Center, July 1962, 10: 98-107.
  • D. Denny-Brown:
    Obituary: John Farquhar Fulton 1899-1960.
    Transactions of the American Neurological Association, 1960: 262-263.
  • Thomas P. Gariepy:
    John Farquhar Fulton (1899-1960).
    In: Doctors, Nurses, and Medical Practitioners. A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook. Edited by Lois N. Magner. Greenwood Press. Westport, Conn. 1997. 384 pages.

What is an eponym?

An eponym is a word derived from the name of a person, whether real or fictional. A medical eponym is thus any word related to medicine, whose name is derived from a person.

What is Whonamedit?

Whonamedit.com is a biographical dictionary of medical eponyms. It is our ambition to present a complete survey of all medical phenomena named for a person, with a biography of that person.


Whonamedit? does not give medical advice.
This survey of medical eponyms and the persons behind them is meant as a general interest site only. No information found here must under any circumstances be used for medical purposes, diagnostically, therapeutically or otherwise. If you, or anybody close to you, is affected, or believe to be affected, by any condition mentioned here: see a doctor.