Park, William Hallock


Dates:         b. 1863; retired 1936; d. 1939

Locations:    Surgical Dressor (1886); Senior Assistant to House Surgeon (1887); House Surgeon, Roosevelt Hospital (1888); Assist. College of P & S (1890‑1892); Attending Laryngologist and Assist. Attend. Laryngologist, Bellevue and Roosevelt Hospitals (1890‑1892); Inspector and Bacteriological Diagnostician of Diphtheria, NYC Board of Health (1892); Dir. Div. of Pathology, Bacteriology and Disinfection then Head, Bureau of Laboratories, New York City Department of Health (1894‑1936); Visiting Bacteriologist, Willard Parker Hospital (1892‑1932); Instructor in Contagious Diseases (1895‑1897); Adjunct Professor (1898); Assoc. Prof. (1899); Professor of Bacteriology and Hygiene, New York University and Bellevue Medical Hospital (1900‑1933); Co‑Director of the Carnegie Laboratory (1898‑); Dean of NYU‑Bellevue (1914‑1915); Director of Bacteriological Laboratories, NYU (‑1937); Consulting Bacteriologist, NY State Dept. of Health (1915‑1939)

Training:      BA City College of NY 1883; MD under Prudden, College of Physicians and Surgeons 1886; internship at Roosevelt Hospital (1885‑1898); to Ireland and Germany 1889‑1890; back to Europe 1897

Fields:        medical; public health; milk; biology;

Publications: "Diphtheria and Pseudo‑membranous Inflamations," Medical Record (30 July and 6 August 1892); Park and Beebe, "Diptheria and Pseudodiptheria," Med. Rec. 46 (1894): 385‑401; Park and Williams, "The Production of Diphtheria Toxin," J. Exp. Med. 1 (1896): 164‑185;  Park, Beebe, and Williams, "Study of a Bacillus Resembling the Bacillus diphtheriae, Found in Milk and American Cheese," Scientific Bulletin, NYC Health Dept. no. 2 (1893‑1895); with Guerard, Bacteriology in Medicine and Surgery:  A Practical Manual for Physicians, Health Officers, and Students (New York:  Lea Brothers and Co., 1899); Park and Dunham, "A Clinical and Bacteriological Study of a Number of Outbreaks of Disease Due to the Dysentery Bacillus of Shiga," New York Univ. Bull. Med. Sci. 2 (Oct. 1902): 166‑187; Park, K.R. Collins, and M.E. Goodwin, "The Dysentery Bacillus Group and the Varieties which should be Included in It," J. Med. Res. n.s. 6 (May 1904): 553‑568;

More Pubs:  "Typhoid Bacilli Carriers," JAMA 51 (19 Sept. 1908): 981‑982; Park and Krumwiede, "The Relative Importance of the Bovine and Human Types of Tubercle Bacilli in the Different Forms of Human Tuberculosis," J. of Med. Res. n.s. 18 (Oct. 1910): 205‑208; with Ravenel, J.A. Anderson, H.J. Conn, and R.S. Breed, "Standard Methods of Bacteriological Analysis in Milk," Am. J. Pub. Health 7 (1916): 4‑11; Park, Williams, and Cooper, "The Results of the Use of Absorption of Agglutination on the Identification of Strains of Influenza Bacilli," Proc. Soc. Exp. Biol. & Med. 16 (1919): 120;

SAB Involvement:  SAB charter member; member SAB Comm. on Standardization of Sera 1906‑; SAB vice-president 1911; Pres. SAB 1912; session chair of immunity 1916 meeting; member SAB Comm. on Corresponding. Members 1919; Chair of Lab. Section APHA; Pres. AAPB 1917; SAB Honorary Member ca 1918

Presidential Address: “The Applications of Bacteriology in the Activities of a City” Science 38:369 (Abstract only)

Archive Files:  see obit in JAMA (13 April 1939): 1522; Zinsser, "William Hallock Park," J. Bact. 38 (1938): 1; Wade Oliver, The Man Who Lived for Tomorrow (New York:  E.P. Dutton & Co., 1941); James Alexander Miller, "William Hallock Park," Trans. Assoc. Am. Physicians 54 (1939): 13‑14; City College Alumnus 35:4, n.d.; “Un Eminent Microbiologiste et un Grand Hygieniste Americain, William Hallock Park” by G. Ramon, typescript in ASM Archives; Am. J. Pub. Health 29:5, May 1939; ANB; DAB



     Park came from a successful and long lineage of farmers in CT and NY.  His education was unremarkable, and Park himself was not an outstanding pupil.  Like Prudden, Park was an outdoor sportsman, choosing fishing and tennis.  He also was a lover of opera. 

       Park was a graduate of P & S, mostly interested in otolaryngology, working in private practice and several New York Hospitals and asylums.  Others at P & S were writing theses on bacteriology.  He traveled to Europe in 1889 to take post‑graduate courses in Nose and Throat, and two months of graduate work in Obstetrics and Gynecology in Dublin.  It was during his stay in Europe that Park witnessed a great influenza pandemic.

     Upon returning from Europe in 1891 as a Nose and Throat specialist, he argued with Prudden over the role of the diphtheria bacillus as the cause of true diphtheria.  Prudden offered him a position as a volunteer, then a paid fellowship.  He spent two years in the lab in the late afternoon after dividing his time among four hospitals (as Attending Laryngologist in three and Assist. Attending Surgeon in the other).  Park was included in an informal Review Club, founded by Charles M. Dowd, Rowland G. Freeman, and others.  Prudden suggested that Park study diphtheria.  It was while making his daily rounds at the wards of the Willard Parker Hospital (a NYCHD facility) that he collected his data on diphtheria.

     Park was curious as to why so many cases clinically diagnosed as diphtheria, with the typical pseudomembranous inflammation showed no Klebs‑Loeffler bacilli.   He prepared smears from 159 patients and discovered that only 54 showed the presence of the bacilli.  The others were presumably streptococcal infections, which he labeled as "pseudodiptheria."  His follow up studies showed that the true dip. group had a mortality rate of 47% while the pseudodip. group was below 6%.  Park concluded that there were at least two different diseases, caused by two distinct species of bacteria.  He coined the term pseudo‑diphtheria.  Moreover, he strongly advocated the bacteriological diagnosis in order to "take measure more effectually" in the prevention of the disease, including animal inoculations.  There was also the problem of non‑virulent true diphtheria bacilli, which was morphologically identical, and produced acid in bouillon.  (Pseudodiphtheria bacilli produced alkali in broth). 

     The landmark article also defined the authority of bacteriological experts: "The amount of familiarity with bacteriological work and the appliances necessary, although not very great, are still enough to prevent the great majority of physicians from under‑taking it themselves."  (quoted in Oliver 1941, p. 62)  Park advocated cultural diagnoses be performed by the Boards of Health.

     In 1893, Park was recruited by Biggs to be the bacteriologist for the Department of Health.  The rationale was purely economical, as the correct diagnosis would save the Dept. work and money.  Park's initial salary was $1,200 a year.

     Oliver describes Park as a bacteriological "missionary." When a case of diphtheria was reported, one of Park's inspectors would visit the physician, and "explain the philosophy underlying the work being undertaken by the Board of Health.  But not until the physician's consent was obtained did an inspector take cultures..."  (Oliver 1941, p. 80)  Between May 1893 and May 1894, the Dept. performed 5,611 culture examinations, conducting an average of 14.6 daily cultures in 1893 and 36.1 in 1894. 

     In a study in 1894, Park and Beebe reported throat culture findings from over 5,000 cases of suspected diphtheria, producing results that implicated a small but still important role for the diphtheria carriers.  Their work was an extension of early reports by Roux and Yersin in 1890, and Tobiesen in 1892.  The study by Park and Beebe was, however, the first large scale investigation of the carrier problem.  The research was conducted to determine the persistence of virulent bacilli following infection.  They found that a notable percentage of healthy children harbored virulent diphtheria bacilli, and that all members of an infected household "should be regarded as under suspicion..." (Quoted in Oliver 1941, p. 87)

     At the 1899 meeting of the SAB, Park presented two papers:  "Exhibition of Cultures and Stained Specimens of Plague Bacillus from Two Cases of Bubonic Plague Admitted to New York Harbor, November, 1899" and "Notes on the Effect of Blood Serum from Tuberculous Animals and Men on the Tubercle Bacillus When Mixed with it in the Culture Tube and Hanging Drop."  At the 1900 meeting of the SAB, he delivered "The Bacterial Condition of City Milk and the Need of Health Authorities to Prevent the Sale of Milk Containing Excessive Numbers of Bacteria," (discussed by Abbott, Sedgwick, Hill and Harding) and another paper on the "Duration of Life of Typhoid Bacilli, Derived from Twenty Different Sources, in Ice:  Effect of Intense Cold on Bacteria," (discussed by Robin and Sedgwick) and another on "The Use of Paraffin to Exclude Oxygen in Growing Anaerobic Bacteria."  He returned to the milk issue at the 1901 meeting, with "What Groups of Bacteria in Milk are Dangerous?"  The paper did not appear in the printed abstracts. 

     Around 1900, Park began to address the question of serum sickness, which he took to be a problem of serum purity.  He also begins documenting the length of immunization from preventative antitoxin treatment.  This work led to the determination of the antitoxic portion of the sera, noting that it was carried by the globulin fraction.

     Also in 1902, Park and Williams reported the persistence of both diphtheria and pseudodiphtheria bacilli in the nose and throat.  They discounted the suggestion of the transmutation of the two organisms.  All diphtheria-like organisms were indeed suspect pathogens.  Park later introduced a classification of diphtheria organisms based on morphology and on dichromatic staining with Loeffler's alkaline methylene blue.

     Park, in 1894, headed the Hospital Laboratory of the Div. of Pathology, Bacteriology and Hygiene, which was located in the upper stories of the Disinfecting Station (for a salary of $1,200 a year).  According to this division, Park oversaw production of antitoxin and experimental work, while Beebe directed the Diagnostic Laboratory, which performed most of the routine work.  Still, Park’s career is best described as one who shunned pure biological approach to bacteria, choosing instead to devote himself to the tediousness of practical, less theoretical, laboratory work.  (Blancher 100).  He began his career by devising diagnostic outfits for use by physicians for making throat cultures, and this style of work characterized his career.

     Park and William's antitoxin was far more potent than that produced in Europe.  This success was achieved by culturing a more potent toxin.  Williams discovered the No. 8 strain, which when transplanted to fresh bouillon every two or three days, produced uniquely strong and consistent toxin.  Even though it was isolated from a mild strain, it survived well in artificial culture. The potency of the toxin was essential as the horses could take only so much fluid subcutaneously.  Additionally, Park and Williams reduced the culture time from four weeks (Roux's recommended time) to four days.

     Park and Williams also documented the importance of culture reaction.  It was Smith who suggested that the variability of diphtheria toxin might be due to the acid produced from glucose in culture broths.  Park therefore recommended the addition of alkali to the cultures.

     The most dramatic instance of his defense of practical methods was in the public debate with Dr. Joseph E Winters, the attending physician to the Health Dept. Hospitals of NYC and Prof. of Pediatrics at Cornell, over the value of antitoxin.  Winters contended that antitoxin was not only ineffective, but actually harmful through the dissolving action on red blood cells, and the production of "antitoxin septicemia," followed by pneumonia.  The debate was public spectacle at the 1895 meeting of the NY Acad. of Med. and again at a meeting of the Mass. Med. Soc.  Winters claimed that if any patient had been isolated and cared for properly, he would recover.  Winters, according to Oliver, was still smarting from Koch's wrongful announcement of tuberculin treatments.

     In 1896, Park contracted a very severe case of typhoid fever, which put him out of work from Aug. to November.  During this time, Park fretted about his position as director, actually implicating Williams.  He also began work on his textbook by translating and abstracting Kolle and Wasserman's text.  Park recalled, in later years, that at the time "he really knew only two microorganisms, the diphtheria bacillus and the cholera vibrio."  (Oliver 1941, 176)

     In 1898, Park became Adjunct Professor of Bacteriology as well as Co‑Director of the Carnegie Lab, personally teaching through 1933. 

     In 1902 and 1903, Park turned his attention to dysentery bacilli, as well as diphtheria toxin‑antitoxin injections.  The dysentery research was in response to three epidemics in 1902, and Park determined that the causative agent was the Shiga type.  Park also found two related bacilli, which he gave the name para‑dysentery, and distinguished them on their ability to produce indol, and the great range of fermenting activity (thus resembling other colon bacilli).

     The milk collaborative work was continued in 1908, via a Rockefeller Fellowship to complete a study of milk used in infant feeding.  On a different research line, Park and Prudden in the early 1890's studied the effect of electrolyzed sea water on the typhoid bacillus.  With Emmett Holt, an authority on children's diseases, Park in 1903 studied the cause of cholera infantum or infantile summer diarrhea, a disease which had been the cause of many thousands of deaths among infants in the city each summer.  Also, in an unrelated area, Park studied methods of diagnosing paratyphoid fever in 1902.

     The toxin‑antitoxin studies confirmed Smith and Ehrlich's hypothesized use for immunity. 

     In 1914, Park was elected to the Deanship of New York University/Bellevue, without his consent.  He reluctantly accepted, only to find a resolution passed by the Health Commission that all Board of Health Directors were to devote their entire time to the Dept.  Park relinquished the deanship.

     At the 1912 meeting of the SAB, Park delivered his presidential address on "The Applications of Bacteriology in the Activities of a City."  Park and M.C. Schroeder returned to the SAB program in 1917, to discuss the "Bacterial Content of Cream Separated from Milk at Different Speeds."  For the 1923 SAB meeting, Park and Schroeder were listed on the program to describe "New Procedures for the Determination of Antitoxic Immunity to Diphtheria."  There was no abstract listed.