He wrote the book

In 1899, John Whitridge Williams, whose name lives on in the definitive textbook on pregnancy and childbirth, succeeded Howard Kelly as the head of obstetrics at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Kelly had split off baby-catching from the more interesting (to him) department of gynecology, which he continued to head up.

John Whitridge Williams
John Whitridge Williams

Williams, a Baltimore native, came from a medical family -- his mother's forebears had been doctors for 160 years. He trained at the University of Maryland, and then in Vienna, Berlin, and other European cities, which exposed him to a different way of looking at medicine.

Williams' Obstetrics, first published in 1903, and still in print today, came out of Williams' desire to render everything about pregnancy and birth in scientific terms. The first edition contained more than 1,000 references to other medical publications.

Williams wrote five additional editions of the book before he died in 1931, of complications from abdominal surgery.

The departments of obstetrics and gynecology were finally reunited at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1960.

The 23rd edition of Williams' Obstetrics was published in 2009.

The “Big Four”

The founding faculty of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine comprised some of the most respected medical men of their era. All were innovators with rigorous standards of practice, research and training.

They set the bar high for other medical schools, and many of their graduates went on to establish or transform other programs around the country.

The Big FourWilliam Welch, who helped the university's president, Daniel Coit Gilman, assemble the team, was a pathologist;  William Osler, the internist who oversaw the department of medicine, was a Canadian considered the finest doctor practicing in the United States; William Stewart Halsted headed up surgery; and Howard Kelly, gynecology and obstetrics.

The original "Big Four" are depicted here in John Singer Sargent's "The Four Doctors," which hangs in the medical library on the Johns Hopkins campus.

At a time when individual doctors could be institutions unto themselves, Osler introduced the concept of the medical residency, and Welch a training program in advanced techniques for full-fledged doctors that resembled a modern post-doctoral course. Welch also founded the country's first school of public health. Kelly established his own cancer clinic.

Halsted taught his students to operate at a new level of skill and care, and was responsible for introducing the use of surgical gloves, which in beginning were meant merely to protect doctors' and nurses' hands.