An American Saga: The Story of Helen Thomas and Simon Flexner

By James Thomas Flexner | Go to book overview

39
A Lion in Philadelphia

HALF a world away when preparations should have been made, Flexner had been forced to meet the problems of his initial academic year in Philadelphia by operating hand to mouth. It was during his second year, 1900–1901, that he began to demonstrate the gifts at administering and fostering advanced medical research that were, with the passage of time, to overshadow his personal experimentation and discovery. Not that he had any premonition of what lay before him. His whole desire was still to be “a competent, respected pathologist” pursuing an “academic career.”1

At the time Flexner regarded as a handicap the deep-seated indifference or opposition to what he wished to achieve. He wondered to Barker whether it was possible to move so large and deeply inert a mass. Only in looking back did he realize that it had been to his advantage that the facilities automatically offered to him were “meager,” and that “no one was doing original work.” Those “tepid surroundings,” he wrote, had enabled him to rise quickly. It was his fortunate lot to hurry the august and obsolete Philadelphia medical institutions along what was a predestined road to modern science.2

The barricade at Blockley, the municipal hospital and almshouse, came down during the summer of 1900 with such a crash that Flexner, no longer deprived of pathological material, was almost inundated. His appointment to the position he wanted as one of the hospital pathologists coincided with a ruling by the new president of the city Department of Charities and Corrections that the staff of the hospital was empowered to order autopsies on any deceased patient “for examination of disease or teaching purposes.” This meant that no permission had to

-361-

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An American Saga: The Story of Helen Thomas and Simon Flexner
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations (between Pages 238–239) xi
  • Prologue xiii
  • I - New Americans 1
  • 1 - Bohemia — Strasbourg — Kentucky 3
  • 2 - Germany — Paris — Kentucky 11
  • 3 - Simon Flexner, Delinquent 21
  • 4 - Hard Times 32
  • 5 - Simon Flexner, Unemployable 39
  • 6 - New Departures 44
  • II - Old Americans 51
  • 7 - Puritan to Quaker 53
  • 8 - Manumission and Aftermath 60
  • 9 - The Midnight Cry 70
  • 10 - Testimony against War 77
  • 11 - Private Intercourse with God 84
  • 12 - A Young Marriage 93
  • III - The Long Road Upward 101
  • 13 - The Gate Opens 103
  • 14 - Jacob’s Drugstore 108
  • 15 - Microscope with Wings 114
  • 16 - An Unprepared Student and a New University 120
  • 17 - Pathways for Escape 131
  • IV - Privileges and Traumas 141
  • 18 - Helen’s Childhood 143
  • 19 - Evangelists 156
  • 20 - Helen Growing 166
  • 21 - Sexual Divisions 174
  • 22 - Sexual Revulsion 181
  • 23 - Catastrophe 188
  • V - Miraculous Destiny 197
  • 24 - A New Life Starts 199
  • 25 - Settling in at the Hopkins 210
  • 26 - Breaking Trail 218
  • 27 - Rising 225
  • 28 - Danger at the Crossroads 236
  • 29 - Mission to the Philippines 276
  • 30 - The Further Adventures of Abraham 286
  • VI - Chiaroscuro 295
  • 31 - Seesaw 297
  • 32 - Entrapments and Escapes 308
  • 33 - Exploding Horizons 316
  • 34 - Friday’s Hill 326
  • 35 - Death of a Father 336
  • 36 - The Vellum Sanctuary 339
  • VII - Approaching Lives 347
  • 37 - Settling in at Philadelphia 349
  • 38 - Helen Thomas and Bertrand Russell 356
  • 39 - A Lion in Philadelphia 361
  • 40 - The Black Death 366
  • 41 - The Valley of Despair 373
  • 42 - Enter the Rockefeller Institute 382
  • 43 - An Offer and a Refusal 393
  • 44 - Abraham and Anne 403
  • VIII - Joining Together 415
  • 45 - Consummations 417
  • 46 - Great Changes 427
  • 47 - Lucy and Other Troubles 438
  • 48 - A Hectic Departure 448
  • 49 - The Mildness of a Strong Love 457
  • IX - Conclusion 463
  • 50 - The Later Years 465
  • Acknowledgments Acknowledgments for the Use of Photographs Cast of Family Characters Bibliography Abbreviations Used in the Source References Source References 479
  • Acknowledgments 481
  • Acknowledgments for the Use of Photographs 483
  • Cast of Family Characters 485
  • Bibliography 489
  • Abbreviations Used in the Source References 501
  • Source References 503
  • Index 517
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