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Victor C. Vaughan
The Michigan Alumnus

Victor C. Vaughan is Dead

Michigan Alumnus and Former Dean of School of Medicine Passes Away Suddenly 
at Richmond, Va., of Heart Attack

By Dr. Frederick G. Novy, ’86, M.S.’87, Sc.D. ’90, M.D.’91
Professor of Bacteriology and Director of Hygienic Laboratory

It has been my privilege to have 
known Dr. Vaughan since the 
early eighties, first as a student
 and later as a co-worker and associate. The contact thus early begun
 ripened into a warm friendship, which continued unin
terruptedly through the years that followed. It is be
cause of this close association that I feel impelled to 
present an all too brief account of his life work. 

Dr. Vaughan came to the University in 1874 after 
having taught Latin for two years at Mt. Pleasant
 College, Mo., where he graduated in 1872. At Michigan 
he received four degrees: M. S. in 1875; Ph. D. in 
1876: M. D. in 1878, and the honorary degree of LL.D.
 in 1900. Later, other institutions honored themselves 
by conferring upon him the honorary degrees of LL. 
D, Sc.D. and M.D.

Dr. Vaughan began his teaching connection with the 
University in 1875, as assistant in the chemical labora
tory. In 1879 he became Lecturer, and in 1880 Assistant Professor of Medical Chemistry and in 1883 he
 was advanced to the Professorship. In 1887 he became 
Professor of Hygiene and Physiological Chemistry and 
Director of the newly established Hygienic Laboratory. 
 To these duties he added, in 1891, that of 
Dean of the Medical School. He held this 
chair and the Deanship until 1921 when he
 retired as Emeritus Professor.

Retirement from the University did not 
close his activities. For several years, as 
Chairman of the Medical Division of the 
National Research Council, he resided in
 Washington. It was there he wrote his splendid work, in two volumes, on "Epidemiology
 and Public Health" and in 1926 he produced 
his living autobiography "A Doctor's Memo
ries." In the fall of that year, with Mrs.
 Vaughan, he went as delegate to the Medical
 Congress in the Orient, visiting 
China, Japan and the Philippines. 
 On his return in the spring of 1927 
he suffered an attack from which he 
 never recovered.

For twenty years following his graduation in medi
cine Dr. Vaughan was engaged in active medical prac
tice. Nevertheless his interest always centered in labor
atory work. From the beginning he was attracted to
 chemistry and the chemical viewpoint appeared promi
nently throughout his subsequent work. His first modest
 contribution on the separation of arsenic from other 
metals appeared in 1875. The action of poisons and 
their detection fascinated him to such an extent that 
before long his services were in demand as a medical 
expert and he became a recognized authority in Toxi

IT was but a step further to become interested in
 sanitary matters. The question of the pollution of
 wells and of larger water supplies arose and a chemical
 examination at that early period was the only means of 
arriving at a decision. At this time Dr. Vaughan was
 called upon to investigate the not infrequent poisonings 
from cheese and other milk products. Though 
bacteriology was then in its infancy he soon 
realized that the poisonous products were in
 some way the result of bacterial action. He
 was among the first to teach that similar 
products could be the cause of cholera infan
tum, and that this disease was therefore due to 
the contamination of milk. Without fully 
realizing it at the time the sanitary chemical 
work was leading him into the new and 
broader field of modern bacteriology.

It was soon apparent that the old chemical 
laboratory was inadequate for pursuing problems pertaining to health and disease. His broad vision indicated the need of a separate institution. 
 Accordingly, with the co-operation of the State Board
 of Health, the Legislature of 1877 was memoralized to 
establish a State Hygienic Laboratory at the University. 
 The object of this laboratory, as stated at the time, was, 
 first, to study the causation of disease, second, to make 
analyses of food and drinking water, and, third, teach
ing of the causes of disease. The request was granted
 and an appropriation of $40,000 was made for the
 erection of a building to be used jointly by the Depart
ment of Physics and the Hygienic Laboratory. At this 
time some attempts were made in the old laboratory to
 apply the new science of bacteriology to the, solution of
 problems arising in connection with the examination
 of waters but it was seen that a thorough 
training in the new discipline was necessary. 
 At that early period this could only be ob
tained in Germany. Accordingly, Dr. Vaughan
 and the writer spent the summer of 1888 in
 Koch's laboratory in Berlin, where under the 
direction of Carl Fraenkel a first hand knowl
edge of the new methods was acquired. 

The Hygienic Laboratory at the Univer
sity was completed in the fall of that year 
and it was opened for work in January 1889. 
It was the first laboratory in this country, 
 that offered systematic teaching of bacteri
ology to physicians and students. Before long 
the laboratory outgrew its quarters and in
 1903 it was moved to the new, the present
 West Medical building. Since 1926 it occu
pies a wing in the East Medical Building. For 
twenty years after the opening of the labora
tory Dr. Vaughan was active as its Director, 
 and it was during this period that a further 
and important step in extending its service to 
the State took place. In 1903, on the occasion
 of the first serious outbreak of rabies in the state, Dr.
 Vaughan obtained from the Board of Regents authorization to establish a Pasteur Institute as a part of 
the Hygienic Laboratory. At that time the anti-rabic
 treatment was not given except in 2 or 3 places in this 
country. Undoubtedly many lives have been saved
 through his wise foresight.

Dr. Vaughan's investigations in the new laboratory
 covered many fields. At first, the examination of water 
supplies claimed much attention and in this connection
 he devised what he termed "the Michigan method" of
 analysis, which made use of the experimental animal as 
a means of detecting harmful bacteria. His studies on 
food poisonings were likewise extensive and thorough he sought the explanation of the germicidal action of
 normal serum and found it in the complex chemical
 constituent nuclein. Even more important were his
 studies upon the nature of the bacterial poisons or 
toxins. He devised an ingenuous "tank" method for 
growing pathogenic organisms in mass quantities in
 order to obtain a sufficient amount of the cells for the
 purpose of studying the bacterial proteins. By this
 means he was able to break up the proteins into two
portions, one toxic and the other non-toxic. He utilized 
these results in formulating a valuable theory bearing 
upon the nature of hypersensitiveness and of fevers. 
 As an earnest and enthusiastic investigator Dr. Vaughan 
had few equals. His extraordinary capacity for writ
ing found expression in more than 200 publications, 
 not including his more pretentious works, on Physio
logical Chemistry, on Ptomaines and Leucomaines, or
 Cellular Toxins, on Protein Split Products, on Infec
tion and Immunity and on Epidemiology. As an editor 
he founded the "Physician and Surgeon," the "Journal
 of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine," and served as 
the first editor of "Hygeia." During his 30 years of 
service on the Michigan State Board of Health he did
 much to spread the growing knowledge of
 sanitation and public health. 

No mention of Dr. Vaughan's activities
 would be complete without reference to
 his services in the Army. Intensely patriotic, 
 at the outbreak of the Spanish War he volun
teered his services and saw active service at
 Santiago where he contracted yellow fever. 
 the most deplorable fact in connection with 
that war was the outbreak of serious disease
 among the troops in the different concentra
tion camps. Laboratory methods were non-
existent in the camps and the prevailing dis
ease was called indigestion, malaria, or typho-
malaria, rarely by its true name — typhoid 
fever. At the close of the war a commission, 
 consisting of Majors Walter Reed, V. C. 
 Vaughan and E. O. Shakespeare, was ap
pointed to investigate the outbreak. The final
 report of that commission was prepared by 
Dr. Vaughan, as the only surviving member. 
 It showed the noteworthy fact that 86.24 per
cent of the total deaths were due to typhoid
 fever. This report forcibly attracted attention to the
 necessity of conducting future military campaigns under 
strict hygienic conditions. In the interval between this
 and the World War improved diagnosis and immuniza
tion made it possible to avoid this terrible scourge. 

Upon our entry into the war, Dr. Vaughan was 
again called upon to give his services. As one of 
the Board in charge of the communicable diseases in 
our camps, he served with ability and distinction, re
ceiving the rank of Colonel, the Distinguished Service 
Medal, and the decoration of the French Legion of 
Honor. His work during the two wars brought him full 
recognition as a leading epidemiologist. 

As a member of the National Research Council which
 came into being at the request of President Wilson, Dr.
 Vaughan participated in the work of that body by his
 wise counsel and his vast experience. 

It is as an instructive and inspiring teacher that Dr.
Vaughan will be remembered by the thousands of stu
dents. He freely drew upon his experiences in life and 
made the lectures interesting and forcible by his mas
terly presentation.

Unquestionably the greatest service which he rend
ered to the University and to the cause of medical edu
cation came during his tenure of the deanship. At the 
time that he entered this office the new laboratory
 methods of instruction were just coming into their own. 
 With his clear foresight he recognized the importance
 of having productive scientific men upon the faculty 
and it was this fact which enabled him to get together
 men of outstanding ability, thus placing the Medical
 School of the University in the front rank of the schools 
in the country. 

Always an enthusiastic supporter of the University
 Hospital he had the unalloyed pleasure of witnessing 
its remarkable expansion. 

Dr. Vaughan's interest in the investigations of his 
colleagues was not less than that in his own researches. 
 He lived, so to speak, in the laboratory and was never
 so happy as when a new fact or result rewarded his 
work. As a scientist and educator he was among the 
first. He has left an enduring impress in both fields. 
 As he would have wished, his work lives after him. 


Special memorial services to honor Dr. Vaughan will
 be conducted under the auspices of the University at 
the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre at 4 o'clock on the 
afternoon of Tuesday, December 3. 

President Alexander G. Ruthven will represent the
 University and will speak. Dr. Walter H. Sawyer, '84h, 
 will speak on behalf of the Regents providing that his 
present illness does not prevent. There will be a representative of the State of Michigan among the speakers 
also. Dr. Novy will appear for the faculty of the
 School of Medicine and Professor Moses Gomberg
 will be on the list of speakers on behalf of the Depart
ment of Chemistry. Professor William H. Hobbs will
 speak as a colleague of Dr. Vaughan. 

An Appreciation

By Dr. G. Carl Huber, '87m

Professor of Anatomy, Director of Anatomical Laboratories 
and Dean of the Graduate School

The passing of Victor Clarence Vaughan leaves
 for me a void that cannot be filled. I came under 
his influence in the fall of 1885 while a student in his 
class in physiological chemistry, and through this association of teacher and student I learned much more
 than certain chemical formulae. At that time he worked
 often in a small private laboratory, which opened from 
the main students' laboratory, and I soon learned that
 he there carried on original investigations. The few 
kindly answers to timid inquiries gave me an ever 
compelling impetus. During the latter half of the 
nineties and the first decade of the present century I
 became closely associated with him in the administra
tive work of the Medical School—he as Dean, and I
 as Secretary. It was during this period that the medical faculty was reconstructed, the standards of admission very materially advanced, laboratory instruction
 greatly expanded, and the curriculum developed and 
improved, so that it became the pattern for other 
medical schools. Through long affiliation with the
 Council on Medical Education Dr. Vaughn not only
 left an indelible imprint on medical education in the
 University of Michigan, but also on other medical
 schools throughout the United States. Contact with 
him was a real stimulus. His interest in research, in 
medical education, in the teaching of undergraduate
 and graduate students, and in the welfare of individual students was evidenced by his daily acts
 throughout the decades and decades of his active life 
at the University of Michigan. Justly honored, as he
 was, at home and abroad by universities, learned soci
eties, and governments, we who were privileged to
 work with him will cherish and revere his memory, 
 and will ever strive to emulate his example.