Kenneth Blackfan

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Kenneth Blackfan
Born September 9, 1883
Cambridge, New York
Died November 29, 1941(1941-11-29) (aged 58)
Education Albany Medical School
Medical career
Profession Medicine
Field Pediatrics
Institutions Cincinnati Children's Hospital
Children's Hospital Boston
Specialism Hematology

Kenneth Blackfan (September 9, 1883 – November 29, 1941) was an American pediatrician. He took particular interest in nutrition and hematology. A childhood blood disorder, Diamond–Blackfan anemia, is partly named after him. Early in his career, Blackfan did work that identified the origin of cerebrospinal fluid.


Blackfan was born on September 9, 1883 in Cambridge, New York. He began his medical studies at the Albany Medical School of Union University, New York, graduating at the age of only 22. Initially, he returned home to join his father in general practice. He became bored with this, however, and four years later in 1909 he returned to Albany seeking fresh challenges. Encouraged by Richard Pearse, he decided to do some pediatric training in the Founding Hospital in Philadelphia.

He did a residency under John Howland starting in 1911 at Washington University in St. Louis, and in 1913 Blackfan followed Howland to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Here he worked with Walter Dandy (described of the Dandy-Walker syndrome) on internal hydrocephalus. Walker and Blackfan discovered where cerebrospinal fluid originated by tracking dye injected into the cerebral ventricle of a dog.

Blackfan eventually became an associate professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1918, then moved to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and finally to Harvard University where he became director of clinical services at Children's Hospital and professor of pediatrics. He occupied this position until his death in 1941.

At Harvard, his main interests were nutrition and hematology. He was Louis K Diamond’s mentor, and together they wrote the first collection of photographs of microscopic appearances of the Blood in Childhood disease. In 1938, they described Diamond-Blackfan syndrome. He also mentored Sidney Farber, the father of modern cancer chemotherapy. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, next door to Children's Hospital in Boston, is partially named after Sidney Farber.

Blackfan died of lung cancer in 1941 at the height of his career.[1] Children's Hospital in Boston is on Blackfan Street which is named after Blackfan.


  • Inherited bone marrow failure: the men behind the empty space. Owen P. Smith & John Cox, British Journal of Haematology, Volume 107 Page 242 - November 1999