Morris Fishbein

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Morris Fishbein
Fishbein in 1935
Born(1889-07-22)July 22, 1889
DiedSeptember 27, 1976(1976-09-27) (aged 87)
EmployerJournal of the American Medical Association
SpouseAnna Mantel Fishbein

Morris Fishbein (July 22, 1889 – September 27, 1976) was an American physician and editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) from 1924 to 1950.

Ira Rutkow's Seeking the Cure: A History of Medicine in America provides a brief overview of Fishbein's influence on American medicine during the Interwar period.[1]: 192–199 

Fishbein is vilified in the chiropractic community due to his principal role in founding and propagating the campaign to suppress and end chiropractic as a profession due to its basis in pseudoscientific practices.[2]


He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on July 22, 1889, son of an immigrant Jewish peddler who moved his family to Indianapolis. He studied at Rush Medical College where he graduated in 1913. Fishbein served for 18 months as a resident physician at the Durand Hospital for Infectious Diseases.[3]

He joined George H. Simmons, editor of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), as an assistant and advanced to the editorship in 1924, a position he maintained until 1950. He was on the cover of Time on June 21, 1937. In 1938, along with the AMA, he was indicted for violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.[4] The AMA was convicted and fined $2,500 but Fishbein was acquitted.[5]

In 1961 he became the founding Editor of Medical World News, a magazine for doctors. In 1970 he endowed the Morris Fishbein Center for the study of the history of science and medicine at the University of Chicago. Its first activity was a lecture series taking place in May of that year. Allen G. Debus served as director of the Center from 1971 to 1977. Fishbein also endowed a chair at the university for the same subject, a chair taken up by Debus in 1978. The 7th floor in Shoreland Hall at the University of Chicago was known as Fishbein House, using the Fishbein name as its namesake.

He died on September 27, 1976, in Chicago, Illinois.[6] He was survived by two daughters, Barbara Fishbein Friedell and Marjorie Clavey, and his son, Justin M. Fishbein.


He was also notable due to his affinity for exposing quacks, notably the goat-gland surgeon John R. Brinkley, and campaigning for regulation of medical devices. His book Fads and Quackery in Healing debunks homeopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic, Christian Science, radionics and other dubious medical practices.[7]

In 1938, Fishbein authored a two-part article "Modern Medical Charlatans" in the journal Hygeia which criticized the quackery of Brinkley.[8] Brinkley sued Fishbein for libel but lost the case.[9] The jury found that Brinkley "should be considered a charlatan and a quack in the ordinary, well-understood meaning of those words." Fishbein responded that "the decision is a great victory for honest scientific medicine, for the standards of education and conduct established by the American Medical Association."[9]

Fishbein was critical of the activities of Mary Baker Eddy. He considered her a fraud and plagiarist.[10]

Selected publications[edit]

  • The Medical Follies (1925)
  • The New Medical Follies (1927)
  • Shattering Health Superstitions (1930)
  • Fads and Quackery in Healing (1932)
  • Frontiers of Medicine (1933)
  • Your Diet and Your Health (1937)
  • A History of the American Medical Association 1847 to 1947 (1947)
  • Medical Writing: The Technic and the Art (1957)
  • Morris Fishbein, M.D.: An Autobiography (1969)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rutkow, Ira (2010). Seeking the Cure: A History of Medicine in America. New York: Scribner. ISBN 978-1416538288.
  2. ^ Donahue, (1996), 16(1):39-49.
  3. ^ "Morris Fishbein: transcript of an interview interviewed by Charles O. Jackson," (Interview). March 12, 1968.
  4. ^ "Medicine: A. M. A. Indicted". Time Magazine. 2 Jan 1939. Archived from the original on December 1, 2010.
  5. ^ Carl F Ameringer (2008). The Healthcare Revolution (PDF). University of California Press. p. 35. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 May 2010. Retrieved 8 July 2010.
  6. ^ "Dr. Morris Fishbein Dead at 87. Former Editor of A.M.A. Journal". Associated Press in the New York Times. September 28, 1976. Retrieved 2009-07-18. Dr. Morris Fishbein, a prominent medical authority and for many years the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, died today. He was 87 years old.
  7. ^ Tobey, James A. (March 1933). "Fads and Quackery in Healing". American Journal of Public Health and the Nation's Health. 23 (3): 295–296. doi:10.2105/AJPH.23.3.295. PMC 1558161.
  8. ^ "The Case of Brinkley Vs. Fishbein: Proceedings of a Libel Suit Based on an Article Published in Hygeia". Journal of the American Medical Association. 112 (19): 1952. May 13, 1939. doi:10.1001/jama.1939.02800190066017.
  9. ^ a b Lee, Alton R. (2002). The Bizarre Careers of John R. Brinkley. University of Kentucky Press. pp. 211-218. ISBN 0-8131-2232-5
  10. ^ Hudson, Robert P. (1983). Disease and Its Control: The Shaping of Modern Thought. Greenwood Press. p. 70.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]