For a search problem like this, I usually try to eliminate as much as possible as quickly as possible. So I began with a search for physicians who were ALSO Legion of Honor winners.
(I was thinking “how of those could there be”? And yes, I had implicitly scoped it to US physicians, I will be more explicit in the future!)
A search for [legion of honor winners] reveals a link to the Wikipedia page listing the recipients.
Once I started scanning that list, I realized that not all doctors on the list had either the “MD” tag or the “Dr” tag associated with their names. Luckily, it’s a short list. I found there were only three docs to consider: Ralph Bourgeois, Alexander Rice and Thomas Benton Cooley.
At this point, I just start working through the possibilities.
The first doctor was pretty easy to eliminate.
Dr. Bouregeois served in the WW2 working at the front lines (a novel idea at the time), serving with distinction at Normandy. After the war, he returned to Lafayette, LA and became a family doctor for the rest of his life.
Similarly, Alexander Rice is another amazing fellow (founder Institute of Geographical Exploration at Harvard, professor at Harvard, best known for his adventures and exploration in the Amazon) where he was a pioneer in aerial surveys. A fascinating guy, but not really a medical doctor after his service, he really seems more like Indiana Jones than anything else. (Really, go check him out!)
That leaves Thomas Benton Cooley, and it’s pretty easy to find the Wikipedia page on him.
Following up on those links shows that although listed as a pediatrician in the roll of the Legion of Honor, he actually was also a hematologist, and well-known as a professor in the Department of Hygiene at the University of Michigan. He was especially interested in the anaemias of childhood.
I did a quick search on [ Cooley disease ] and found a page about Cooley anemia, a disease he characterized first, and his name got stuck on it.
It all makes sense: he was interested in anemias, which led to him finding a new, usually fatal kind of anemia, which resulted in the term Cooley anemia, a term he apparently heartily disliked.
(To amplify a bit: Cooley’s anemia results from inheriting of a recessive trait that interferes with the rate of hemoglobin synthesis. The affected infants are normal at first but, by the age of 6 to 9 months, they develop a kind of pallor, retarded growth, fever, inadequate food intake, numbness and tingling of the extremities. This is usually fatal before puberty. Countries like Italy, Greece and Cyprus have the highest frequency of this disease in the world, with around 10 percent of the Mediterranean population carrying this gene. Cooley first noted this disease in the children of Mediterranean heritage in the clinics of Ann Arbor, Michigan.)
So… the mystery doctor is:
Thomas Benton Cooley, Professor of Hygiene and Medicine at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University.
(Image linked from Wikimedia)
And the vanished department is: Department of Hygiene
Reader Christopher Eagle points out a great resource on thehistory of the “Department of Hygiene” at the University of Michigan. This page shows that “hygiene” as a department was founded in 1887, which morphed into the Division of Hygiene in 1927, then morphing again into the Department of Public Health in 1941.
Academics really DO change over time. And while “hygiene” as a department has been absorbed into the more general area of public health, the University of Michigan has an *industrial hygiene* program in place to this day. http://www.sph.umich.edu/ehs/ih/ (which is highly regarded). But the modern focus in IH is workplace hazards management (e.g., reducing or eliminating toxic chemicals or any agent, physical, biological or radiological, in the workplace). You can even get a PhD in the area.
But in Cooley’s day, “hygiene” specifically meant improving sanitation. His work was seminal in improving the lives of children by educating mothers in keeping living conditions clean and protecting the milk supply from adulterations and infection. This sounds obvious now, but it was a marvel of science in Cooley’s day.
Sometimes those meek, mild, professors really do change the world.