Homer Wheelon, M.D., physiologist, artist, and poet: Origins of the tailpieces in journals of the American Physiological Society

Lawrence P. Schramm, Diana C. Schramm, F. Wilson Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Since 1953, illustrations have been inserted as "tailpieces" at the ends of articles in The American Journal of Physiology and The Journal of Applied Physiology. The drawings were made by Homer Wheelon, a member of the American Physiological Society from 1919 until his death in 1960. Forty-five years after his death, Wheelon is unknown, but he contributed 32 publications to the medical literature and trained J. Earl Thomas, an important 20th century gastrointestinal physiologist. Wheelon was born into poverty in 1883 to itinerant Methodist preachers, circumstances that guided his education and career choices. Throughout his life, Wheelon exhibited a fondness and talent for art and photography and an unusual breadth of intellectual interests and knowledge. Wheelon received a bachelor's degree from the University of Washington, then studied at the University of Oregon, Northwestern University, and St. Louis University. Earning his M.D. from St. Louis University and assuming a faculty position there, Wheelon and his graduate student, Thomas, conducted widely recognized gastrointestinal research. Returning to Seattle in 1921, Wheelon became a highly respected physician and hospital administrator, but he also found time to indulge his interest in visual art and poetry. In 1933, inspired by observing a rabbit being used in a pregnancy test, Wheelon began to write and illustrate an epic, 322-page poem, Rabbit No. 202, illustrations from which became the journals' tailpieces. The present study traces Wheelon's personal life and scientific career in an attempt to understand this complex man and the origins of his unusual poem and its drawings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R1567-R1578
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Volume291
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 18 2006

Keywords

  • Chauncy Leake
  • Endocrinology
  • Gastrointestinal physiology
  • J. Earl Thomas
  • Northwestern University
  • St. Louis University

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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