January 31, 1945
His name is well known on the University of Kansas Medical Center campus for the Clendening History of Medicine Library and Clendening History of Medicine Museum, and at one time was known across the country for his newspaper columns on health. Others remember Dr. Logan Clendening as a great doctor, a pioneer in the study of medical history and a bestselling author.
Logan Clendening was born at his family home in Kansas City, Missouri on May 25th, 1884 to Edwin and Lide Clendening. Logan attended Kansas City High School—later renamed Central High—and graduated in 1901 at seventeen years of age. For two years, Clendening studied at the University of Michigan before returning to Kansas to complete his bachelor’s degree at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Clendening continued at the University of Kansas, completing his medical degree on June 5th, 1907 when the program was in its infancy. After medical school, Clendening travelled extensively, studying medical topics at the post-graduate level at Harvard Medical School and the Augustana Hospital in Chicago. In 1909, Clendening travelled to Norway with a wealthy family from Kansas City as their private physician. These travels sparked Logan’s interest in all things foreign, leading him to study in hospitals throughout Europe in 1911, such as the highly esteemed University of Edinburgh. He also joined the Reserve Medical Corps of the United States Army in 1911.
During the First World War, Logan served as First Lieutenant for two years at the Fort Sam Houston Base Hospital in San Antonio, Texas after being called to duty on June 5th, 1917. After his discharge in December of 1918, Clendening returned to Kansas City and to his wife of four years, Dorothy Hixon Clendening. They married in July of 1914, just before the war broke out in Europe. Prior to his deployment, Clendening had been appointed as an instructor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 1912 where he taught physical diagnosis and therapeutics. In 1922, Clendening was appointed KU Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine and became a favorite professor among students for his humor and quick wit. He became a full professor in 1939 and in that same year founded the History and Philosophy of Medicine Department at the University of Kansas School of Medicine that still thrives today. As chair of the department, Clendening encouraged medical scholars from many distinguished medical programs such as Johns Hopkins, Yale, and the University of California to speak on a variety of medical history topics. The tradition of these lectures is still carried on today, bringing in many notable historians of medicine.
Clendening was not only known for his medical skills, but also his abilities as a historian of medicine. During the Great Depression, Logan and his wife Dorothy traveled extensively, collecting rare books and medical artifacts that make up a significant portion of the Clendening History of Medicine Library and Museum. He also began his writing career in the 1920s, starting with his first book on internal medicine published in 1924. His second book, The Human Body became one of the bestselling medical books of the century, being published until the 1970s and selling almost a half a million copies. He was also the author of a widely read health column entitled “Diet and Health” that appeared in 383 newspapers nationwide, with a combined readership of about 25 million. His medical texts and medical column were only part of his writing career, as Logan turned to writing medical history later in his life.
His authority as a medical historian came in 1942 when he became the vice president of the American Association of the History of Medicine. He also founded the Quivira Medical Society in Kansas City for physicians interested in medical history. This group published a weekly newspaper column on medicine, and Clendening often contributed. After becoming vice president of the American Association of the History of Medicine, and starting work on his nationwide medical column, Clendening quit his private medical practice and took to traveling with his wife. According to Dr. Ralph Major, Clendening’s long time friend and successor in the department at the University of Kansas, Clendening, “became intensely interested in medical shrines, in famous hospitals, universities and museums and this interest took him over most of Europe, North Africa and throughout North and South America.” He prided himself on collecting medical artifacts and first editions of countless classic medical texts. Many of the artifacts and books housed at the Clendening History of Medicine Museum and Library were collected during these trips. His wife, an avid photographer, documented their travels through photographs. These photographs serve as a record of their travels and are housed at the University of Kansas Medical Center Archives.
His last book was his most significant contribution to the history of medicine. In 1942, Logan published his Source Book of Medical History, an incredibly detailed account of medical history from antiquity to the twentieth century. His writings on medical history would go on to inspire his friend Dr. Major to write his own, more lengthy medical history. Only three years after the publication of his medical source book, Logan took his own life on January 31st, 1945. His wife, Dorothy, was shocked to find him dead in his study from apparent cuts to his wrist and throat. In Clendening’s will, he left all of his artifacts and books to the University of Kansas Endowment Association and also donated fifty thousand dollars to the History and Philosophy of Medicine Department. Dorothy remained an important figure at the History and Philosophy of Medicine Department that Logan founded just six years prior to his death. In 1949, she donated twelve thousand dollars to the university so that they may add to the book collection left by her husband. She also gifted the Logan Clendening Memorial Lectureship in Medical History. Dorothy Hixon Clendening Clark, having remarried in 1950, died in Santa Barbara California in 1973.
The Clendening’s contributions to the University of Kansas are still seen today during monthly lectures, published newsletters, and rotating medical exhibits in the museum, most featuring artifacts they collected and donated. The library alone holds nearly six thousand volumes from Logan’s personal collection, allowing local scholars access to many important pieces of medical history. According to Chair Emeritus of the department, Dr. Robert Hudson, the Clendening’s contribution has wider implications in that, “it established Kansas as a serious focus of teaching and study in medical history, as the discipline grew nationally and internationally. By the late 1960s, medical educators identified the History of Medicine Department, and our remarkably successful postgraduate program, as among the most widely known attributes of the University of Kansas School of Medicine.”
University of Missouri-Kansas City
Coleman, Daniel. “Logan Clendening: Physician and Author, 1884-1945.” Missouri Valley Special Collections, 2009.
Hulston, Nancy J. “Logan Clendening: A Life of Letters.” Unpublished biography, faculty files, 1905-1977. University of Kansas Medical Center Archives, 2001.
Major, Ralph H. Disease and Destiny: Logan Clendening. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1958.]