William Stewart Halsted: Letters to a young female admirer

John L. Cameron, Toby A. Gordon, Marjorie Winslow Kehoe, Nancy McCall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To present the first new information in the past 25 years concerning the life of Dr. William Stewart Halsted. This paper reports on recently discovered personal correspondence of Dr. Halsted, beginning at age 66, to a young lady, Elizabeth Blanchard Randall, 40 years his junior. Summary Background Data: Dr. William Stewart Halsted is generally considered the most important and influential surgeon that this country has produced. During his Hopkins days in Baltimore (1886-1922) he was rather reclusive, and little is known of his personal life. He was married but had no children. Several biographies written by Halsted's contemporaries constitute the bulk of what is known about Halsted's personal life. Methods: All extant letters from Dr. Halsted to Miss Randall were reviewed. Archival materials were consulted to understand the context for this friendship. The correspondence between Halsted and Randall took place during a 3-year period, although their acquaintance was probably long-standing. Results: The letters reveal Dr. Halsted and Miss Randall's great and warm affection for each other, despite their 40-year age difference. The letters have a playful nature absent in Halsted's other correspondence. This relationship has not been previously noted. Conclusions: Late in Halsted's life, he developed a warm and affectionate relationship with a young lady 40 years his junior, as revealed in Halsted's correspondence. Halsted's warm, personal, and playful letters are in stark contrast to his biographers' portrayals of him as a more serious and reclusive person.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)702-707
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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