To the Editor:—

While conducting research for a comprehensive biography of Henry Isaiah Dorr and the Henry Isaiah Dorr Chair of Research and Teaching in Anaesthetics and Anaesthesia at Harvard University, which is the world’s first endowed professorship in anesthesia, 1we recognized the startling finding that Dorr appears to have been the first person to hold the title Professor of Anaesthetics and Anesthesia.

Dorr attended courses at Harvard University from 1869 to 1870 and then embarked on a career as a dentist. From 1875 to 1876, he was a student at the Philadelphia Dental College and earned the doctor of dental surgery degree. He joined the faculty as Demonstrator and was promoted to Adjunct Professor of Dentistry in 1878. Later that same year, a new professorship of Clinical Dentistry was established, and Dorr was appointed. In 1889, his title changed to Professor of the Practice of Dentistry, Anaesthetics and Anaesthesia. This is confirmed by letterhead with the date March 14, 1896, which lists the faculty and their titles (Fig. 1).

The earliest previously known appointment of Professor of Anesthesia was that of T. S. Buchanan at the Flower School of Medicine in New York City in 1905. 2Dorr’s appointment predated that of Buchanan by 16 yr. Little is discoverable of Dorr’s specific contributions to anesthetic science and practice, but he may have established the first systematic courses of instruction in this discipline. 3 

On December 13, 1926, 37 yr after his initial appointment as Professor of Anaesthesia and Anaesthetics, the Board of Trustees of Temple University, which the Philadelphia Dental School joined in 1907 to create the Temple University School of Dentistry, elected Dorr Emeritus Professor of Anesthesia and Anesthetics. This may represent another world first for him and for the academic anesthesia community.

Dorr proposed the establishment of an endowed Chair in Anaesthetics and Anaesthesia in a letter to President A. Lawrence Lowell of Harvard College on November 7, 1910. The president and fellows formally established the chairship on February 17, 1917. It was occupied for the first time by Henry K. Beecher, M.D., on July 1, 1941.

Kitz RJ, Lowenstein E. The Henry Isaiah Dorr Professorship at Harvard University: The world’s oldest endowed chair in anesthesia. Bull Anesth Hist 2000; 18: 1–23
Vandam LD: Early American anesthetists. A nesthesiology 1972; 38: 264–74
Dorr HI. Letter, date unknown. Provided by Elizabeth Snow Bissett, grandniece.