Luther Emmett Holt

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Luther Emmett Holt
Dr LEH, Peking, 1923.jpg
Dr. L. E. Holt (center) while lecturing at Peking Union Medical College, 1923.
Born March 4, 1855
Webster, New York
Died January 14, 1924
Peking, China
Fields Pediatrician
Institutions American Pediatric Society, Rockefeller Institute
Alma mater Rochester University, Columbia University, Brown University
Known for The Care and Feeding of Children, The Diseases of Infancy and Childhood, Certified Milk
Notable awards John Howland Award (1966)

Luther Emmett Holt (March 4, 1855 – January 14, 1924) was an American pediatrician and author, noted for writing The Care and Feeding of Children[1] in 1894.

Born near Rochester, New York, Holt graduated from the University of Rochester in 1875. He went to medical school in the University at Buffalo and then the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, earning his M.D. in 1880.[2] He pioneered the science of pediatrics, and became the head physician at New York's Babies Hospital in 1888. Under his leadership it became the leading pediatric hospital of its time.[3]

One of Holt's most notable accomplishments is the introduction of milk certification in New York City. Using a grant he acquired through his connection with the Rockefeller Institute Holt surveyed the quality of milk in the tenement districts and subsequently proved that a large proportion of infant fatalities were due to excessively high bacterial counts. He was instrumental in the creation of milk commissions and advisory boards for the city's Department of Health.[4]

Throughout his lifetime, Dr. Holt became a leader in the field of pediatrics. He was a charter member of the American Pediatric Society and would be elected its president twice, an honor bestowed upon only one other doctor. In 1891 he was appointed to the board of the Rockefeller Institute, under whose auspices he would eventually travel to China. Following his development of a child welfare program adopted at the Red Cross Cannes Conference (1919), he was elected president of the Child Health Organization.[4]

As president of the American Association for the Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality (AASPIM), Holt promoted reproduction control by society as a means of eugenics. In his 1913 presidential address he said:

We must eliminate the unfit by birth not by death. The race is to be most effectively improved by preventing marriage and reproduction by the unfit, among whom we would class the diseased, the degenerate, the defective, and the criminal.[5]

He wrote The Care and Feeding of Children to great acclaim, and the text quickly became a bestseller. He also wrote Diseases of Infancy and Childhood in 1896; the book would go through 11 editions and remain the definitive text on pediatrics until 1940.[6] Editions published after Holt's death were revised and edited by his son, Luther Emmett Holt, Jr., and Rustin McIntosh. In 1967, Holt, Jr., renewed the copyright.[7] In 1980, Appleton/Classics of Medicine Library published a facsimile of the 1897 first edition.

[3] Holt was a professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons from 1901 to 1922. In 1923, despite his old age, the Rockefeller Institute called on him to lecture at Peking Union Medical College for their winter term. Holt accepted, viewing the offer as both an opportunity to observe Chinese children for his own studies, and introduce pediatrics to the Chinese doctors.[8] Days before his return home, Holt suffered a heart attack and died in Peking on January 14, 1924.[3]


  1. ^ See
  2. ^ Peter M Dunn, "Dr Emmett Holt (1855-1924) and the foundation of North American paediatrics", Archives of Disease in Childhood, Child Fetal Neonatal Ed, 2000;83:F221-F223 (November)
  3. ^ a b c L. EMMETT HOLT, 1855-1924. Biographical note., Personal Papers and Manuscripts, Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library, Columbia University.
  4. ^ a b Edwards A. Parks & Howard H. Mason, "Luther Emmett Holt", Pediatric Profiles, Borden Smith Veeder, 1957;35-41
  5. ^ Richard A. Meckel, Save the Babies: American Public Health Reform and the Prevention of Infant Mortality, 1850-1929, Univ. of Michigan Press, 1998, p. 118
  6. ^ Edwin V. Glaser Rare Books: (accessed March 17, 2010).
  7. ^ "U.S. Copyright Renewals, 1967 July - December," available online at (accessed March 17, 2010).
  8. ^ R. L. Duffus & L. Emmett Holt Jr., L. Emmett Holt; Pioneer of a Children's Century (New York: D. Appleton-Century Company, 1940) 268.

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