Walter C. Alvarez

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Walter C. Alvarez
Walter C Alvarez 1958.png
Walter Clement Álvarez

(1884-07-22)July 22, 1884
DiedJune 18, 1978(1978-06-18) (aged 93)
San Francisco, California
Alma materCooper Medical College
Years active1913-1925
Harriet Skidmore Smythe
(m. 1907; died 1973)
ChildrenGladys, Luis, Robert and Bernice
Parent(s)Luis F. Alvarez
RelativesMabel Alvarez
For his grandson, the American geologist, see Walter Alvarez.

Walter Clement Alvarez (July 22, 1884 – June 18, 1978) was an American medical doctor of Spanish descent. He authored several dozen books on medicine, and wrote introductions and forewords for many others.


He was born in San Francisco and spent his childhood in Hawaii, where his father was a government physician. In 1910, having received his medical education in Stanford University, he began his practice.

From 1913 to the end of 1925, Alvarez practiced internal medicine in San Francisco and conducted research at the University of California, Berkeley. He lived at 3837 Clay Street raising his family. In 1934 he became Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota (Mayo Foundation) and later served as Consultant in Medicine Emeritus.

His father was Luis F. Alvarez, who worked as a physician in California and Hawaii and developed a method for the better diagnosis of macular leprosy. His sister was California artist and oil painter Mabel Alvarez.

Alvarez was married to the former Harriet Skidmore Smythe[1] and the couple had four children: Gladys, Luis, Robert and Bernice. Luis later became a Nobel Prize-winning physicist.

His grandson is Walter Alvarez, a Professor of Geology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Beginning after his retirement in 1951, Alvarez began writing a medical column which soon became syndicated throughout North America in hundreds of daily and weekly newspapers. The Walter C. Alvarez Memorial Award is named in his honor and is presented to a member or nonmember of the American Medical Writers Association to honor excellence in communicating health care developments and concepts to the public. He is most notable for his enlightened approach to homosexuality and his efforts to educate the medical profession and the broader public about the topic. He is regarded as an ally of the homophile movement in the 1950s-1970s.

Alvarez' syndrome, a syndrome of hysterical or neurotic abdominal bloating without any excess of gas in the digestive tract,[2] and Alvarez-waves, painless uterine contractions occurring during the length of pregnancy,[3] are named after him.

Alvarez was the first to investigate electric activity of a stomach and, thereby, became the founder of a new diagnostic gastroenterology branch — electrogastrography.[4]

He died in California in 1978.[5]

His personal papers are held by Lane's Archives and Special Collections.[6]


  • Alvarez on Alvarez, 1977
  • Walter C. Alvarez: American Man of Medicine, 1976
  • Inglenook Doctor Book, 1975
  • Dr. Walter C. Alvarez on Health & Life, 1975
  • Gay Liberation and Homosexuality and Other Forms of Sexual Deviance (co-written with Sue March), 1974
  • The New Home Medical Encyclopedia (co-authored with Samuel L. Andelman), 1974
  • Nerves in Collision, 1972
  • Danger Signals: How to Recognize the Warnings of Serious Diseases, 1966
  • Little Strokes, 1966
  • Incurable Physician, An Autobiography, 1963[7]
  • Minds that Came Back, 1961
  • Geriatrics: Devoted to Research and Clinical Study of the Diseases, 1958
  • Practical Leads to Puzzling Diagnoses: Neuroses that Run Through Families, 1958
  • Live at Peace with Your Nerves, 1958
  • How to Live with Your Arthritis, 1953
  • The Neuroses: Diagnosis and Management of Functional Disorders and Minor Psychoses, 1951
  • How to Live with Your Ulcer, 1951
  • Brief Psychotheraphy: A Handbook for Physicians on the Clinical Aspects of Neuroses (co-written with Bertrand S. Frohman and Evelyn P. Frohman), 1948
  • Nervousness, Indigestion and Pain, 1943 (Previously issued as Nervous Indigestion)
  • Help Your Doctor to Help You When You Have Food Allergy, 1941
  • Help Your Doctor to Help You When You Have Gallstones and Disease of the Gallbladder, 1941
  • The March of Medicine (co-written with Karl A. Menninger), 1940
  • An Introduction to Gastroenterology, 1940
  • How to Live with your Ulcer, 1933
  • Nervous Indigestion, 1931
  • The Mechanics of the Digestive Tract: An Introduction to Gastroenterology, 1928
  • The Mechanics of the Digestive Tract, 1922


  1. ^ "Bride Born in China". The San Francisco Call. 16 Feb 1907 – via
  2. ^ Alvarez' syndrome at Who Named It?
  3. ^ Alvarez-waves at Who Named It?
  4. ^ Alvarez W. C. (April 15, 1922). "The electrogastrogram and what it shows". J Am Med Assoc. 78 (15): 1116–19. doi:10.1001/jama.1922.02640680020008.
  5. ^ "Dr. Walter Alvarez, Writer, Dies". Santa Cruz Sentinel. 20 Jun 1978. p. 24 – via
  6. ^ "Register of the Walter Clement Alvarez Papers 1884-1976 MSS 16". Lane Medical Archives. Stanford University Medical Center. Retrieved 2 July 2010.
  7. ^ Di Cyan, E. (1 March 1964). "The Incurable Physician: An Autobiography of Dr. Walter C. Alvarez". Archives of Internal Medicine. 113 (3): 462–463. doi:10.1001/archinte.1964.00280090148029. Retrieved 9 November 2012.

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