Clement Finch

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Clement Alfred Finch
BornJuly 4, 1915
Broadalbin, New York
DiedJune 28, 2010
La Jolla, San Diego, California
Alma materUnion College
University of Rochester
Known forFirst chief of hematology at University of Washington
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Washington
Notable studentsEloise Giblett

Clement Alfred Finch (July 4, 1915 – June 28, 2010), often deemed "The Iron Man", was a Physician specializing in Hematology whose research on iron metabolization in the bloodstream at the University of Washington led to significant advancements in accurately diagnosing and treating anemia during a time period in which little was known about this aspect of the body. Finch was distinctively noted for using himself as a test subject by taking blood and bone marrow from his own bones before conducting similar tests on patients.[1] He graduated in 1941 from the University of Rochester Medical School and a year later was married to the first of three wives.[2] He experienced a 60-year tenure at the University of Washington, and has published many scholarly articles pertaining to iron in the bloodstream and is the author of three books entitled: Iron Metabolism (1962) Red Cell Manual (1969) and Fulfilling the Dream: A History of the University of Washington School of Medicine 1946 to 1988 (1990). Clement Finch was elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences in 1974, and elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1976.

Finch's studies are importantly recognized as significant in helping the World Health Organization make dietary recommendations for developing countries to aid in preventing anemia and poor development.[3] He passed on June 28 at his home in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego at the age of 94 and is survived by his wife Genia Finch, two children from his first marriage, Clifton Finch and Carin Finch Barber, two children from his third marriage, Lisa Finch and Darel Finch, and three grandchildren.[1]

Early life[edit]

Clement Finch was born in Upstate New York on July 4, 1915 into a lineage of Physicians which included both his father and grandfather.[2] Having accompanied his father on many occasions to house calls, he decided to follow in his father and grandfather's footsteps. Finch graduated from Union College in 1936 and enrolled at the University of Rochester Medical School in the late 1930s, from which he worked with Nobel Prize-winner George Whipple and published his first paper on hemoglobin regeneration in dogs in the Journal of Experimental Medicine as a second-year student.[2] He had become a third generation physician in his family. Finch, who was known for believing that the most important thing in his life was being a good clinician, went through two divorces and three marriages thereafter.[2] After the University of Rochester Medical School, Finch accepted a fellowship with Joe Ross at Boston University. Ross is responsible for introducing Finch to academic medicine, collaborating on work on iron metabolism and blood preservation which was relevant to the political setting of the time with the nation at war. Finch conducted post-graduate work at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, working with acclaimed physicians such as Soma Weiss, Eugene A. Stead and Charles Janeway.[2] In 1948 after not being able to join the military due to pneumonia, Finch (after turning down numerous job offerings of recruitment) started his career at the University of Washington, which he preferred for the landscape and surrounding environment which offered him access to his favorite hobbies such as mountain climbing. One year later in 1949, he became University of Washington's first Chief of Hematology.[2]


Finch's research on how iron metabolizes in the blood helped with blood disorders characterized by either an excess or inadequate supply of iron in the blood stream, such as anemia and hemochromatosis, and also focused his work on further understanding Erythropoiesis, a process by which red blood cells are produced. During a period in which little was known about iron-deficiency anemia, how often it occurred or the principles of iron metabolism, Finch made significant findings in his research at the University of Washington throughout his 60-year tenure using radioisotopes to measure the body's production of red cells and their life span.[1] He was able to discover how iron is incorporated in hemoglobin, and was able to aid doctors in expanding their abilities from simply detecting iron-deficiency anemia to detecting different types of anemia in an increasingly accurate manner.[1] Finch has published Scientific Journal articles specifically pertaining to Erythropoiesis and anemia such as Erythropoiesisin Pernicious Anemia (1953), Treatment of Iron Deficiency Anemia in the Adult (1957), The Diagnosing of Iron deficiency Anemia (1964), Pathophysiologic Aspects of Sickle Cell Anemia (1972), and Erythroid Marrow Function in Anemic Patients (1987). Additional articles included: The Effect of Erythroid Hyperplasia on iron balance (1988), and Intact Transferrin Receptors in Human Plasma and Their Relation to Erythropoisis in blood (1990). Transferrin, a blood plasma protein for iron ion delivery, was additionally a huge topic for Finch in the 1980s as seen in his publications from that time period.[4] He researched and published studies on transferrin in the blood such as intact transferrin receptors in human plasma, human deferric transferrin's interaction with reticulocytes, the uptake and release of iron in human transferrin, rat transferrin and gene expression, the iron binding sites of human transferrin, its saturation, and clinical implications.

Other studies conducted by Finch showed how iron is used in the blood to manufacture hemoglobin. He additionally showed that hemochromatosis which causes the body to absorb too much iron from food consumption could be treated through periodic bleeding.[5] Also he was able to describe how during menstruation when significant bleeding occurs depleting iron stores, the body tries to maintain adequate stores, but did recommend that most women take supplements to prevent them from suffering signs of iron deficiency such as fatigue.[6] He can also be acclaimed for dedicating his time and resources towards extending the life of blood stored to transfuse injured soldiers, work inspired by his desire to help serve his country in his own way, after being unable to serve in the military, due to being previously deemed as unfit due to pneumonia.

Research in the early 1960s by Finch showed that most women were not getting enough iron in their diet and suggested that supplements be taken by women to avoid problems such as fatigue caused by iron deficiency.


The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 45, Issue 3, September 1968, Pages 336-353
Ralph Green, Robert Charlton, Harold Seftel, Thomas Bothwell, Fatima Mayet, Barry Adams, Clement Finch, Miguel Layrisse
  • Evaluation of storage iron by chelates
The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 45, Issue 1, July 1968, Pages 105-115
Laurence A. Harker, Donald D. Funk, Clement A. Finch
  • Iron stores in man
The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 11, Issue 5, November 1951, Page 629
Alexander R. Stevens Jr., Clement A. Finch
  • Iron storage disease
Journal of Chronic Diseases, Volume 2, Issue 2, August 1955, Pages 232-233
Clement A. Finch
  • Clinical syndrome of potassium intoxication
The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 1, Issue 4, October 1946, Pages 337-352
Clement A. Finch, C.Glenn Sawyer, John M. Flynn
  • Pathophysiologic aspects of sickle cell anemia
The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 53, Issue 1, July 1972, Pages 1-6
Clement A. Finch
  • Effects of iron status on δ-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase activity
Biochemical Medicine, Volume 18, Issue 3, December 1977, Pages 323-329
Robert F. Labbé, Clement A. Finch
  • Intact transferrin receptors in human plasma and their relation to erythropoiesis
Blood, Jan 1990; 75: 102 – 107. HA Huebers, Y Beguin, P Pootrakul, D Einspahr, and CA Finch
  • Quantitation of ferritin iron in plasma, an explanation for non- transferrin iron
Blood, Apr 1988; 71: 1120 - 1123. P Pootrakul, B Josephson, HA Huebers, and CA Finch
  • The effect of erythroid hyperplasia on iron balance
Blood, Apr 1988; 71: 1124 - 1129. P Pootrakul, K Kitcharoen, P Yansukon, P Wasi, S Fucharoen, P Charoenlarp, G Brittenham, MJ Pippard, and CA Finch
  • Erythroid marrow function in anemic patients
Blood, Jan 1987; 69: 296 – 301. M Cazzola, P Pootrakul, HA Huebers, M Eng, J Eschbach, and CA Finch
  • Transferrin saturation, plasma iron turnover, and transferrin uptake in normal humans
Blood, Oct 1985; 66: 935 - 939. M Cazzola, HA Huebers, MH Sayers, AP MacPhail, M Eng, and CA Finch
  • A mono-sited transferrin from a representative deuterostome: the ascidian Pyura stolonifera (subphylum Urochordata)
AW Martin, E Huebers, H Huebers, J Webb, and CA Finch
Blood, Nov 1984; 64: 1047 - 1052.
  • Transferrin: physiologic behavior and clinical implications
HA Huebers and CA Finch
Blood, Oct 1984; 64: 763 - 767.
  • The significance of transferrin for intestinal iron absorption
HA Huebers, E Huebers, E Csiba, W Rummel, and CA Finch
Blood, Feb 1983; 61: 283 - 290.
  • Ferrioxamine excretion in iron-loaded man
MJ Pippard, ST Callender, and CA Finch
Blood, Aug 1982; 60: 288 - 294.


  1. ^ a b c d Altman, Lawrence K. "Clement Finch, a Pioneer in Hematology, Dies at 94", The New York Times, July 5, 2010. Accessed July 26, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Adamson, John W. MD "Clement Finch: A Unique Man at a Unique Time", American Society of Hematology, November 1, 2008. Accessed July 26, 2010.
  3. ^ Maugh, Thomas H., II. "Clement A. Finch dies at 94; pioneering hematologist", Los Angeles Times, July 14, 2010. Accessed on July 26, 2010.
  4. ^ See List of Publications, above.
  5. ^ Marie Warder - The Bronze Killer
  6. ^ Nelson, Harry. "Most Women Need An Iron Supplement", St. Petersburg Times, February 23, 1960. Accessed July 26, 2010.