C. Henry Kempe

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C. Henry Kempe
BornApril 6, 1922
Breslau, Germany
DiedMarch 8, 1984 (1984-03-09) (aged 61)
Hanauma Bay, HI
Other namesKarl Heinz Kempe
OccupationPediatrician and virologist
Known forWrote The Battered Child Syndrome in 1962. Founded The Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect.

C. Henry Kempe (birth name Karl Heinz Kempe; April 26, 1922 in Breslau, Germany (now Wrocław, Poland) – March 8, 1984 in Hanauma Bay, Hawaii) was a pediatrician and the first in the medical community to identify and recognize child abuse.

In 1962, Kempe and Brandt F. Steele published the paper, "The Battered Child Syndrome."[1][2] Publishing this paper led to the identification and recognition by the medical community of child abuse.

Kempe received two nominations for the Nobel Prize. The first nomination was for his work in developing a safer smallpox vaccine. The second nomination was recognition for his contribution to the prevention and treatment of child abuse. Due to the efforts of Kempe, abuse reporting laws exist in all 50 states. His efforts also led to the passage of the 1972 Colorado law requiring legal counsel for the child in all cases of suspected abuse.[3]

Early life[edit]

Born into a Jewish family in Germany during the rise of the Nazi party, Kempe fled Germany as a teenager and came to the United States of America. He learned a new language, completed high school and college, and eventually became a physician. Specializing in the study of virology, he helped developed Vaccinia immune globulin to counter the adverse effects of the smallpox vaccine.

Kempe became the youngest chairman of the pediatrics department at the University of Colorado. During his tenure, he began to recognize the prevalence of non-accidental injuries to children. He demanded a better diagnostic investigation of the unexplained and life-threatening injuries observed in children at four different hospital emergency rooms: shattered bones, inflicted burns, and brain damage.

His research led to the publication of "The Battered Child Syndrome."[3]


Kempe Center[edit]

Kempe, his colleagues[4] and wife Ruth Kempe founded The Kempe Center, originally the National Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect,[5] in 1972 to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect.[6]

In 1976, The Kempe Foundation was established to spearhead fundraising, awareness and advocacy efforts for children.

The Kempe Center and The Kempe Foundation are currently located at The Gary Pavilion at Children's Hospital (Aurora, Colorado).

The C. Henry Kempe Award[edit]

First awarded in 1985, The Kempe Award is presented to professionals and philanthropists who have contributed substantially to the community on behalf of children and who have creatively fought the war against child abuse. The award is given every two years by ISPCAN, The International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect,[7] to an outstanding young professional or organization working in any discipline in the field of child abuse and neglect.


Kempe met his future wife Ruth Svibergson while they were both in residency at Yale and they married in 1948. Ruth, who was also later a professor at CU, and Henry had five daughters. Ruth and Henry were co-authors of several books including Healthy Babies; Happy Parents.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ C. Henry Kempe and Ray E. Helfer, editors: The Battered Child. 1st edition, 1968. 2nd edition, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1974. 3rd edition, 1980. 5th edition by M. E. Helfer, R. Kempe, and R. Krugman, 1997.
  2. ^ C. H. Kempe, Frederic N. Silverman, Brandt F. Steele, William Droegemuller, Henry K. Silver: "The Battered Child Syndrome." Journal of the American Medical Association, 1962, 181: 17-24. Tardieu's syndrome. Also called Caffey-Kempe syndrome.
  3. ^ a b A Good Knight for Children: C. Henry Kempe's Quest to Protect The Abused Child by Annie Kempe. Booklocker.com, Inc. 2007.
  4. ^ Mission; History Archived 2012-06-06 at the Wayback Machine, Kempe.org, Retrieved 2012-08-01.
  5. ^ a b Culver, Virginia, "Ruth Kempe healed child-abuse victims", obituary, The Denver Post, 08/02/2009. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
  6. ^ The Kempe Center
  7. ^ ISPCAN

External links[edit]