Department History

This is the History of the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics at The University of Iowa, beginning from 1870-2010. The department was established in 1870 with the appointment of William Middleton as chair of physiology within the College of Medicine.

Pre-McClintock Era (1870-1902)

All of the men who occupied the position of department chair during this time were practicing physicians who divided their time between their own private practices, lecturing, and carrying out administrative duties that were required of them.

It was expected that members of a medical school faculty should be able to teach any clinical or preclinical course. This requirement was often disputed and added to the frequent shift in leadership. At times, the shift in responsibility for teaching medical courses was very frustrating for everyone involved. For example, one particularly unpopular teaching assignment occurred when Professor Samuel Calvin (Geology) and Professor Thomas Macbride (Natural History) supervised the newly-instituted laboratory work in pathology and histology, and were assisted by two medical doctors.

During the pre-McClintock Era the following Professors occupied the chair of physiology:

William Drummond Middleton (1844-1902) was born near Aberdeen, Scotland. When he was 12 years old his family immigrated to Albany, New York and then moved to Davenport, Iowa. After graduating from high school he taught in a country school until the Civil War broke out and he was called to serve. Following the war, he obtained a M.D. degree from Bellevue (New York) Hospital and Medical College in 1868, and practiced in Davenport from 1868-1902. He also served in the following positions: Professor of Physiology and Microscopic Anatomy,1870-1887; Professor of Theory and Practice of Medicine,1887-1891; Chief Surgeon of the Rock Island Railway,1892-1902; Dean of the College of Medicine,1895-1902; and President of the Iowa State Medical Society,1870-1891.He was a charter member of the Iowa Academy of Science, and initiated steps towards the construction of the University of Iowa's Medical Building (on Capitol square) following the 1898 construction of the first unit of The University Hospital #1 (East Hall). He also helped to secure the completion of the new Medical and Anatomy building (east campus) which was completed in 1905. However, he passed away in 1902 before the project was finished. Dr. Middleton early recognized the microbial origin of disease and, as if to prove his belief, died at the age of 58 from an infection accidentally contracted from a patient that he had been treating.

Richard W. Hill - No information is available.

James R. Guthrie (1858-1930) was born on a farm in Sand Springs, Iowa. He obtained his M.D. at The University of Iowa in 1884, and completed his postgraduate work in New York City. He practiced medicine in Dubuque, Iowa until his death. In 1889-1898 he served as Professor of Physiology and Histology at The University of Iowa (In 1892 the title "Chair of Physiology and Microscopic Anatomy" was renamed "Chair of Physiology"). While occupying the Chair of Physiology he also served as an Assistant Professor in Obstetrics and Gynecology, In 1898-1912 he served as Head of Ob-Gyn, and from 1912-1915 he was the Dean of the Medical Faculty and Professor Emeritus.

Lee Wallace Dean (1873-1944) was born in Muscatine, Iowa. He received his BS from The University of Iowa in 1894 and earned his M.D. in 1896. He spent one year doing postgraduate work in Vienna and other European countries. In 1898-1902 he occupied the chair of Physiology while teaching anatomy and acting as Clinical Assistant in Ophthalmology, Otology, and Rhinolaryngology as well as conducting a large private practice in Iowa City. In 1915 he succeeded J.R. Guthrie as Dean of the College of Medicine. In 1927, during his deanship, the Medical Labs Building (west campus) . Also in 1927 Dr. Dean resigned as Dean to become Professor and Head of Otolaryngology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He was the last Chair of Physiology who combined a private practice with his teaching.