Fighting pernicious anemia

The Simpson Memorial Institute building at 102 Observatory Street, designed by architect Albert Kahn, is shown circa 1927. (Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library)

 This month in history (90 years ago)

In the 1920s, the disease pernicious anemia was mysterious and deadly. After it killed Thomas Henry Simpson in 1923, his wife, Catherine MacDonald Simpson, sought to create an institute devoted to its study and a cure. Her offer of $150,000 for a building and $250,000 as an endowment was accepted by the Board of Regents. In May 1925, a building contract was let, and ground was broken the next month. The building was finished in June 1926. Inaugural director Dr. Cyrus Sturgis in 1929 developed ventriculin as a treatment for pernicious anemia. The arrangement made for ventriculin between U-M and Parke-Davis was a precursor to today’s licensing agreements between industry and academia. Today, the building is home to the U-M Medical School Center for the History of Medicine and several groups from the Department of Internal Medicine’s Hematology and Oncology, Gastroenterology and Nephrology divisions.

— Bentley Historical Library, The University Record and the U-M Health System 


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