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The Impact of Leo Loeb and the new guide to the Leo Loeb Papers at the Bernard Becker Medical Library, Washington University School of Medicine.

Fig. 1: Leo Loeb with microscope, circa 1920. E.V. Cowdry Photographs, VC137005.
Fig. 1: Leo Loeb with microscope, circa 1920. E.V. Cowdry Photographs, VC137005

 

A letter to Dr. Leo Loeb from Los Angeles, ca. 1938

 

Fig. 2: Joseph H. Pollack, Year 1 Composite photo of Class of 1938, VC416WUSM-Y1Dear Dr. Leo Loeb:

It is many months since I had the pleasure of talking to you. I had intentions of writing to you sooner. Unfortunately, the months have rolled bye, I can hardly realize that I have been away from St. Louis for nearly 6 months. I do know that 1 am learning a great deal: some good, some bad. I can learn just as much by some one else’s mistakes and watch that I do not repeat them.  Medicine, in Los Angeles seems to be a series of mistakes; if the patient does not expire too soon, the correct treatment eventually follows. The doctors and patients use the trial and error procedure: the doctor tries treatment after treatment until he succeeds; the patient tries doctor after doctor, till he finds one to help him. Quackery is in its prime out here; the difficulty is that of locating a 'doctor! A "doctor" in Los Angeles can treat a cold, take out tonsils, and gallbladders - they do. Surgery, as practiced in this hospital, differs markedly from the surgery that I was taught at Barnes. Technique, procedure of choice, reasons or indications for surgery differ in many respects. All in all, things done here differ in many respects from those that I was taught.

 

How are your experiments progressing? Have you published any more papers on your work? You know, that I would deeply appreciate any reprints of your papers.

 

Have you published or sent for publication our paper on implants of anterior pituitary after the treatment of the gland by various concentrations of formalin? Did you ever write a paper on the atresin mice?

 

The question of interning next year presents a problem. I would like to have your advice, Dr. Loeb, if you would be so kind as to help me. I am anxious to stay in the semi-tropical climate for another 2 years, if possible.  This climate has worked wonders with my chronic cough, so far.  I am interested in Surgery.  I would like to be in a surgical residency next year.  I am interested in the following hospitals in the order of importance, as I see it. (I) Carity Hosp., New Orleans (2) Baylor, Texas (3) Alameda County, Calif. Another choice, about home would be University Hospital Group of Cleveland; Mount Sinai of Baltimore, and in St. Louis. Which would you recommend?  Do you know any of the influential members of any of these institutions to whom you can write for me? I know that this is asking a good deal.

 

If I am unable to secure any of the above appointments, were would you advise me to take six months or a year of pathology?  Dr. Loeb, I would greatly appreciate hearing from you, whether or not you can help me. Hoping to receive an answer soon, and wishing you and your wife a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, I wish to remain,

 

Friendly yours,

[Joseph H. Pollack, M.D. 1938]1

The Joseph H. Pollock Correspondence: sample letters from the Leo Loeb Papers

Fig.3: Letter, JH Pollock to Leo Loeb 22 July 1937Fig.4: Letter, JH Pollock to Leo Loeb 22 July 1937, page 2This unsigned letter and two others from 1937 (Fig. 3-6)  and 1939 (Fig. 7-8) make up the Joseph H. Pollock Correspondence in Leo Loeb papers. These letters are typical of the Leo Loeb correspondence.  Only incoming correspondence survives for the most part, but each letter is still worth reading, a slice of one person’s life.  A folder level guide to Loeb’s unpublished papers is now available in the Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives Database. (http://beckerarchives.wustl.edu/?p=collections/findingaid&id=8484&q= )

FIg. 5: Letter, JH Pollock to Leo Loeb 22 July 1937, page 3FIg. 6: Letter, JH Pollock to Leo Loeb 22 July 1937, page 4Joseph H. Pollock (1913-2013) was born in St. Louis and earned a Bachelor of Science at the Washington University. He completed an M.D. in 1938 from the Washington University Medical School.2 Joe Pollock says in his 1939 letter to Dr. Loeb (Fig. 7-8), that he worked two summers for Dr. Loeb on research concerning the anterior pituitary gland.3 Because Pollock’s 1936 lab note book survives in the Loeb Papers, we know that one of these research summers was in 1936 (http://beckerarchives.wustl.edu/index.php?p=collections/findingaid&id=84... ).4 While Joe Pollock’s other letters are a slice of his own life, his 1937 letter to Loeb (Fig. 3-6) is mostly about Leo Loeb, a testimony to his national and international reputation.  On a month long vacation to Los Angeles and other points west, Pollock met many doctors who knew of Loeb’s reputation. He records here who he met and what they knew about Loeb and Loeb’s work.5 (http://beckerarchives.wustl.edu/index.php?p=core%2Fsearch&flags=192&coll... ).

FIg. 7: Letter, JH Pollock to Leo Loeb 10 April 1939, page 1FIg. 8: Letter, JH Pollock to Leo Loeb 10 April 1939, page 2Dr. Pollock’s internship year after graduation in 1938 was at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles 6 and this letter in Figure 7-8 is on their letterhead.7   He went on to practice surgery for 50 years in Beverly Hills, serving as chief of surgery at several hospitals, including Cedars of Lebanon, and he taught at the University of Southern California Medical School.   Pollock also gained experience in business when he took over his late father-in-law’s company, Triangle Steel and Supply Co. in Vernon California. He ran the family business for three years until it could be sold.8

 

 

The Impact of Leo Loeb

 

Fig. 9: Leo Loeb with a few files in his office, circa 1930, VC023010, MG Smith Leo Loeb (1869-1959) was a pioneer in transplantation research beginning with his thesis required for an M.D. at the University of Zurich awarded in 1897. For his thesis, Loeb conducted skin cell transplantation using guinea pigs and he continued transplantation research until 1941. His older brother Jacques Loeb was teaching at the University of Chicago in 1897.  After graduation, Leo Loeb moved to Chcago where he saw patients for about six months after obtaining an Illinois medical license.  He resumed his studies of cell transplantation, and studied blood clotting and properties of certain cancer cells.  From many of his findings, he realized that cell cultures could be sustained in vitro, a landmark concept.  As he phrased it “Normal adult tissue cells may be potentially immortal.”

 

He was recruited by McGill University in Montreal in 1902 and only stayed a year, moving to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. At Philadelphia he began investigations into connections between cancer and reproductive hormones.  In a 1907, he published observations that mammary gland cancer in mice could be hereditary. 

 

In 1910, Loeb was invited to become research director at Bernard Free Skin and Cancer Hospital in St. Louis.  He was named professor of comparative pathology at the Washington University Medical School in St. Louis in 1915.9  He was also head of the department of pathology from 1924-1937.10  He taught a class in pathology for second year medical students until 1935.11   He was very productive researcher publishing one book and over 400 articles. Many of the articles were done in collaboration with medical students and research associates at Washington University.

 

By the 1930s, Loeb had taught pathology to many generations of second year medical students and as head of a laboratory provided more advanced medical students and research assistants on staff their first experiences with medical research. Tom F. Wayne Sr., who earned an MD at Washington University in 1931, comments on Dr. Loeb’s impact on him in a 1981 oral history interview.  

 

Fig. 10: VC100004  Professional staff of the Pathology Department, 5/24/1932. I think that in Pathology, Dr. Leo Loeb [Fig. 10, Front row center], and his faculty had a tremendous impact on me,  particularly Dr. Ralph [S.] Muckenfuss.  I don’t know whether you are familiar with him; he’s been away from Washington University for many years.  I don’t know whether he is still living or not.  He was in the field of bacteriology and eventually, virology, and was in Dr. Leo Loeb’s department.  Along with Dr. Joseph [E.] Smadel {Fig. 10, 2nd row far right]-- whom I’m sure you do know of -- who was in my class and we were very close friends.  Working with Joe Smadel and more or less under Muckenfuss, I was tremendously impressed with the activities of that department.  I think they gave me a feel for research [even though] I did not go into research like Joe Smadel did.  Joseph Smadel became one of the outstanding virologists, not in just this country but in the world.  Anyway, that’s another group that impressed me.12

 

 Contents of the Leo Loeb Papers and their significance

Last week I loaded the finished inventory or finding aid of the Leo Loeb Paper into the Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives database, a web based database.  Now, any internet user can see and search the finding aid along with finding aids and indexes for many other collections in our archives.

 

There are 11 file series in the Leo Loeb Papers which occupy 43 linear feet of stack space.  The most complete file series are the notebooks (Series 1-3), the lectures on pathology (Series 7) and the publications (Series 11). (http: http://beckerarchives.wustl.edu/?p=collections/findingaid&id=8484&q= ). 

 

We won’t know the significance of the Leo Loeb Papers for many years. For one recent researcher working on the history of transplantation, the most significant file series were the personal correspondence (Series 5), the notebooks (Series 1-3), and the Bibliographical Notes etc. (Series 8), and Leo Loeb Publications (Series 11).

 

The early correspondence before 1924 that she was seeking with C.C. Little was not in the correspondence series. Instead it was in Series 8: Bibliographical notes on the medical literature, manuscripts, research pathology data and occasional related correspondence, Undated & 1921-1958. There I found CC. Little correspondence and Loeb’s draft replies in two folders. One folder was titled: Abstracts and papers on tumors (including analysis of Little and Strong papers).13 Another folder was named: Critique of [C.C.] Little's news including his chapter on genetics of transplantation in Biology of the L. [Laboratory] Mouse.14

 

She was also seeking material on Loeb’s methods as it related to C.C. Little’s criticism of his methods.  Since early Laboratory Notebooks aren’t preserved in our Leo Loeb Papers, she also looked at notebooks of Loeb’s early career in Series 1 and 2. 

 

Unpublished papers are one record of the activities and impact of a person or department that created them. The Leo Loeb’s Papers is an incomplete but highly interesting record of his research and teaching for the pathology department of Washington University.

End Notes

1.  Letter from Joe Pollock to Dr. Leo Loeb, [1938], Series 5, Box 25, Folder 61, Leo Loeb Papers, Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University School of Medicine.

2. “Joseph H. Pollock, M.D.,” Carsey-Wolf Center | 4431 SS&MS, UC Santa Barbara, CA  Accessed 1 June 2015 http://www.carseywolf.ucsb.edu/joseph-h-pollock-md

3. Letter from Joe Pollock to Dr. Leo Loeb, 10 April 1939, Series 5, Box 25, Folder 61, Leo Loeb Papers, Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University School of Medicine.

4. Notebook 28: Book # 106 Joe Pollock, Department of Pathology, Dr. Loeb, 19 June 1936-18 December 1936, Series 3, Box 8, Folder 3, Leo Loeb Papers, Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University School of Medicine.

5. Letter from Joe Pollock to Dr. Leo Loeb, 22 July 1937, Series 5, Box 25, Folder 61, Leo Loeb Papers, Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University School of Medicine.

6. Bulletin of Washington University, Saint Louis, School of Medicine, December 31, 1938, page 110. http://digitalcommons.wustl.edu/med_bulletins/40/

7. Letter from Joe Pollock to Dr. Leo Loeb, 22 July 1937, Series 5, Box 25, Folder 61, Leo Loeb Papers, Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University School of Medicine.

8. “Joseph H. Pollock, M.D.: 1913-2013,” Santa Barbara Independent, June 22, 2013  Accessed 1 June 2015: http://www.independent.com/obituaries/2013/jun/24/joseph-pollock-md/

9. Paul G. Anderson, “Leo Loeb (1869-1959)” in Biographies, Medical Journeys: Transplanting Medical Knowledge Across the World, Washington University, Bernard Becker Medical Library. Accessed May 31, 2015 http://beckerexhibits.wustl.edu/mig/bios/loeb.html

10. Biographical/Historical Note, [Finding aid to the] Leo Loeb Papers, Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University School of Medicine. http://beckerarchives.wustl.edu/index.php?p=collections/findingaid&id=8484#biographical-hist-note

11. Bulletin of Washington University, Saint Louis, School of Medicine, April 10, 1936, page 56. http://digitalcommons.wustl.edu/med_bulletins/38/

12.  Tom F. Whayne Oral History with Paul G. Anderson, May 7, 1981, Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University School of Medicine. http://beckerexhibits.wustl.edu/oral/transcripts/whayne.html

13. Abstracts and papers on tumors (including analysis of Little and Strong papers).Correspondence: 1 outgoing letter from Loeb to C.C. Little, 23-March 1920; 2 incoming letters to Loeb from C.C. Little, 27 February- March 29, 1920.Series 8, Box 66, Folder 4, Leo Loeb Papers, Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University School of Medicine.

14.Critique of [C.C.] Little's news including his chapter on genetics of transplantation in Biology of the L. [Laboratory] Mouse. Includes Loeb's draft "Reply to Little"after Loeb's Survey (summary) of Little' critical paper: C.C. Little, "The genetics of transplantation in mammals," p.74, J. of Cancer Research, Volume 8 (1924)." Series 8, Box 55, Folder 12, Leo Loeb Papers, Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University School of Medicine.

 

 

 

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