Question of the Week

The passage of the Federal Caustic Labeling Act of 1927 was made possible in part by which renowned Philadelphia physician?

Friday, 1/17/14

Answer: Chevalier Jackson.

Dr. Chevalier Jackson was a pioneer in the field of laryngology who developed instruments for endoscopies and trained physicians in their use at his Philadelphia and Pittsburgh clinics. Renowned during his lifetime, Jackson invented the bronchoscope—a hollow tube with a light attached, allowing physicians to locate foreign objects in the lungs and remove them. It has been estimated that he personally saved 5,000 lives with this procedure. 

Besides inventing instruments and procedures, Jackson was also an advocate. His persistent work in trying to prevent stricture in children, caused by swallowing lye, resulted in the passage of the Federal Caustic Labeling Act of 1927, which mandated the labeling of poisonous material. Jackson held professorships at many area medical schools (including Jefferson, Penn, and Temple) and served as president of the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (now Drexel School of Medicine) from 1935–1941. The Chevalier Jackson-Norris Clinic is now part of Temple University’s Department of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery.

Dr. Jackson took a strict view on protecting throats, particularly his own. He neither smoked nor drank and at football games even used Halloween noise-makers instead of cheering.  He was the author of several textbooks and monographs, including The Life of Chevalier Jackson: An Autobiography and What Does Your Baby Put in His Mouth?  He wrote over four hundred medical articles. His legacy includes three associated medical eponyms: “Jackson’s position” relating to intubation; “Jackson’s safety triangle,” a triangular space near the thyroid; and “Jackson’s sign,” a wheezing sound made when foreign bodies are in the trachea or bronchus. A quick wit, he is also known to have said: “In teaching the medical student the primary requisite is to keep him awake” and “A physician without knowledge of pulmonary function is like a donut without a hole.”

HSP's library contains a few works on and by Jackson including The Life of Chevalier Jackson: An Autobiography (Call number Gj .168) and What Does Your Baby Put in His Mouth? (call number UPA/Pam RD 137.J33 1923).

Image: Dr. Chevalier Jackson, photograph (undated), Philadelphia Record photograph morgue (Collection V07), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania

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