Pearl Kendrick

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Pearl Kendrick
Pearl Kendrick.jpg
Pearl Louella Kendrick

August 24, 1890
DiedOctober 8, 1980(1980-10-08) (aged 90)
Alma materSyracuse University
Johns Hopkins University
Scientific career
FieldsBacteriology, Public Health

Pearl Louella Kendrick (August 24, 1890 – October 8, 1980) was an American bacteriologist known for co-developing the first successful whooping cough vaccine alongside fellow Michigan Department of Public Health scientist Grace Eldering and chemist Loney Gordon in the 1930s. In the decades after the initial pertussis vaccine rollout, Kendrick contributed to the promotion of international vaccine standards in Latin America and the Soviet Union.[1] Kendrick and her colleagues also developed a 3-in-1 shot for diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus called the DTP vaccine which was initially released in 1948.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Pearl Louella Kendrick was born on August 24, 1890 in Wheaton, Illinois, US. She graduated from high school in 1908 and attended Greenville College for a year before transferring to Syracuse University. In 1914, she received her B.S. in Zoology from Syracuse.[3] Kendrick graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1932[clarification needed]while simultaneously working at the Michigan Department of Public Health as an associate director and chief.[4]


After moving to Michigan for work and graduating from Johns Hopkins, Kendrick began to research whooping cough (pertussis) to try to solve the growing issue of the contagious disease. Based on the statistical data of the time, the disease killed an average of 6,000 people in the United States per year, with the majority (95%) being children.When she moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, Kendrick worked at the Western Michigan Branch Laboratory of the Michigan Department of Health. It was there that she met Grace Eldering, a fellow scientist at the Department who also had an interest in developing a pertussis vaccine.[5]

Kendrick and Eldering headed the vaccine project through program development, testing, and the eventual inoculation of children with the pertussis vaccine.[6][7] The pair conducted door-to-door field research where they took samples from sick children in the Grand Rapids area. Eventually, the two used these samples to develop the whooping cough vaccine, which they gave to treatment groups during an experiment known as the "Grand Rapids Trials."[8] In the midst of their research, World War II was also in full effect. This led to many scientific studies facing cessation due to being underfunded. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt took an interest in Kendrick's and Eldering's work and assisted them with obtaining funds from the Works Progress Administration (WPA).[9] With this added assistance, the development of the vaccine could be continued. As a result of analyzing the data collected from the Trials for nearly 3 years, it was found that the vaccine was a success.[9] Michigan started distributing the vaccines in 1940 and deaths from whooping cough declined.[5][10] Their work contributed significantly [11] to the development of cough plate diagnostics.[12] The collaborative nature of their work within the bacteriological research community and their partnerships with the Grand Rapids public health community are recognized as an important contribution to vaccine research and public health.[13]

Further research and modern implications[edit]

In the following years, Kendrick, Eldering, and Gordan developed a vaccine for diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (DPT vaccine).[14] DPT vaccines were the prevailing defense against the three diseases until concerns arose about the safety and efficacy of this vaccine type in the 1980s and 1990s. The DPT vaccine laid the groundwork for new vaccine developments. Subsequently, a molecularly different variation of the DPT vaccine called the DTaP was created and became the principal vaccine for diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus in the U.S. and abroad.[2]

Later life and death[edit]

In 1951, Kendrick retired from the Michigan Department of Public Health. After retiring, she became a faculty member at the University of Michigan's Department of Epidemiology. She retired from the university in 1960. Kendrick served as president of the Michigan American Society for Microbiology. She died on October 8, 1980, in Grand Rapids.[5]

Awards and honors[edit]

Kendrick was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame Historical Honors Division in 1983.[1][15]


  1. ^ a b "Pearl Kendrick" (PDF). Michigan Women's Historical Center & Hall of Fame. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 December 2015. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Klein, Nicola P (2014-11-06). "Licensed pertussis vaccines in the United States". Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics. 10 (9): 2684–2690. doi:10.4161/hv.29576. ISSN 2164-5515. PMC 4975064. PMID 25483496.
  3. ^ Bannink, Jill. "Finding aid for the Michigan women and the whooping cough vaccine collection: Collection 328" (PDF). Retrieved 27 November 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ Mason, Karen M. "Finding Aid for Pearl L. Kendrick Papers,1888-1979". Retrieved October 31, 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ a b c "Pearl Kendrick" (PDF). Michigan Women's Historical Center & Hall of Fame. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 December 2015. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
  6. ^ Shapiro-Shapin, Carolyn G. (August 2010). "Pearl Kendrick, Grace Eldering, and the Pertussis Vaccine". Emerging Infectious Diseases. 16 (8): 1273–1278. doi:10.3201/eid1608.100288. PMC 3298325. PMID 20678322.
  7. ^ Kendrick P, Eldering G (1936). "Progress Report on Pertussis Immunization". Am J Public Health Nations Health. 26 (1): 8–12. doi:10.2105/ajph.26.1.8. PMC 1562571. PMID 18014359.
  8. ^ Zarrelli, Natalie. "Whooping Cough Killed 6,000 Kids a Year Before These Ex-Teachers Created a Vaccine". HISTORY. Retrieved 2021-11-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ a b "Pearl Kendrick--A Woman Who Fought Whooping Cough | Ann Arbor District Library". Retrieved 2021-11-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ Pediatric Research – Childhood Vaccine Development: An Overview
  11. ^ "Pearl Kendrick, Grace Eldering, and the Pertussis Vaccine" (PDF). 16 (8). Center for Disease Control, Emerging Infectious Diseases. August 2010. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ Kendrick P, Eldering G (1934). "Cough Plate Examinations for B. Pertussis". American Journal of Public Health. 24 (4): 309–18. doi:10.2105/ajph.24.4.309. PMC 1558621. PMID 18013967.
  13. ^ Shapiro-Shapin, Carolyn G. (Spring 2007). ""A Whole Community Working Together": Pearl Kendrick, Grace Eldering, and the Grand Rapids Pertussis Trials, 1932-1939". Michigan Historical Review. 33 (1): 59–85. doi:10.1353/mhr.2007.0001. JSTOR 20174193.
  14. ^ "This Week In Illinois History: Dr. Pearl Kendrick (October 8, 1980)". Northern Public Radio: WNIJ and WNIU. 2021-10-04. Retrieved 2021-11-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ "Dr. Pearl Kendrick and Dr. Grace Eldering – Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council". Retrieved 2021-11-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)