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Herbert C. Clark and the Gorgas Memorial Laboratory

Herbert Clark, MD <br>(Photo credit: Artistica, Panama)

From the time of his appointment as the first director of the Gorgas Memorial Laboratory (GML) in 1929, pathologist Herbert C. Clark, MD, served in that capacity until his retirement in 1954. The laboratory was extremely significant to American College of Surgeons founder Franklin Martin, MD, FACS, since Dr. Martin was a close friend and colleague of Maj. Gen. William Crawford Gorgas, after whom the laboratory was named. As a founder of the laboratory’s parent body, the Gorgas Memorial Institute of Tropical and Preventive Medicine (GMITP), Dr. Martin served as the institute’s president and as a board member from the time of its incorporation in 1921—the year after Major Gorgas died—until the end of his life, Dr. Martin always maintained a high level of interest in all facets of the institute’s work.

The objectives set upon the founding of the GMITP were vast, aimed at saving 750,000 lives annually; eradicating many tropical diseases thereby opening up territories to unlimited expansion; instituting periodic health exams; and laying the foundation for healthier generations. U.S. President Calvin Coolidge signed a law in 1928 appropriating an annual budget of $50,000 for the Gorgas Institute to operate a laboratory known as the Gorgas Memorial Laboratory for carrying on the institute’s objectives. That same year, Panama made available a building that had been constructed to house the Medical School of Panama.

Dr. Clark, who formerly had been with the United Fruit Company, led the GML to recognition as a prestigious international research center. He hosted research scientists from many renowned American universities and scientific bureaus of the USPHS, the Navy Medical Corps, and the Army Medical Corps. Dr. Clark was a member and president (1935) of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and a frequent contributor to the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and other journals. The Gorgas Memorial Laboratory existed throughout most of the twentieth century.


  1. “Finding aid to the Gorgas Memorial Institute of Tropical and Preventive Medicine Records, 1899-1992.” National Library of Medicine.

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