Thomas Benton Cooley

Born 1871
Died 1945

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American paediatrician, born 1871, Ann Arbor, Michigan; died 1945.

Biography of Thomas Benton Cooley

Thomas Benton Cooley's father was a justice of the Supreme Court and dean of the faculty of the law school at the University of Michigan. He graduated M.D. from the University of Michigan in 1895 and then interned at the Boston City Hospital following which he returned to work and teach at the medical school in Michigan.

In 1900 he went abroad for a year and returned to spend a further year as a resident physician at the Boston City Hospital. In 1903 he was appointed assistant professor of hygiene at the University of Michigan and remained there until 1905 when he moved to Detroit, where he was the first established paediatrician.

Cooley was active in community paediatrics as medical director of the Babies Milk Fund and collaborated with like-minded colleagues in the Association for the Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality. This group had considerable success in reducing infant mortality diarrhoeal disease. During the 1st World War he was assistant chief of the Children’s Bureau of the American Red Cross in France and the French Government awarded him a cross of the Legion of Honour in 1924 for this work.

He returned after the war to Detroit and became head of the paediatric service at the Children’s Hospital, Michigan, from 1921 to 1941 and professor of paediatrics at Wayne University from 1936 to 1941. His sub-speciality in paediatrics was haematology and he was especially interested in the anaemias of childhood which resulted in the term «Cooley anaemia», an eponym he heartily disliked. A man of thoughts rather than action, he published little.

Cooley was a tall man with an austere aristocratic bearing and exquisite manners, He was well versed in the visual arts and music, and enjoyed fishing and golf. Upon his retirement in 1941, Coley received emeritus status and honorary doctorate of science. He died of hypertensive heart disease after being ill for some years.

    "Though an extremely able clinician and astute observer, he was more interested in the theoretical ramifications of the case at hand than in the individual patient. Rounds in his service at the Children's Hospital were occasions for brilliant and stimulating dissertations on a few cases selected for the challenge they offered to an analytical mind, or else for a review of urgent decisions which simply could not be put off any longer. The systematic coverage of the service, the detailed instruction of his resident staff failed to interest him."
    Wolf W. Zuelzer (1909-1987), 1957.

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