Wyndham Bolling Blanton (3 June 1890–6 January 1960), physician and historian, was born in Richmond, the son of Charles Armistead Blanton and Elizabeth Brown Wallace Blanton. During his youth Blanton was exposed to both medicine and history, for his father and grandfather were physicians and both his parents' families included Virginians who had been famous during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He received his early education at the Glebe School in Richmond, earned a B.A. at Hampden-Sydney College in 1910, and received an M.A. at the University of Virginia two years later.
World War I
Blanton studied medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in New York, but he also studied in Europe and was in Berlin when World War I began. In 1915 he volunteered to serve in the American Ambulance Corps at the hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. He then returned to New York, received an M.D. in 1916, and began his medical internship at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. After the United States entered World War I, Blanton was commissioned a captain in the Army Medical Corps and served until 1919 without being sent abroad. He then completed his internship at Bellevue Hospital in the same year. On 1 January 1918 Blanton married Natalie Friend McFaden, who became a civic and political activist and a poet. They had three sons and one daughter.
Medical College of Virginia
After completing his internship, Blanton returned to Richmond and joined the private medical practice of his brother, Howson Wallace Blanton, and their father. He also began a long association with the Medical College of Virginia as chief of laboratory service at the college's hospital. Blanton became an associate in medicine in 1920, assistant professor in 1925, associate professor by the end of the decade, and professor of clinical medicine in 1939. In 1936 he founded the outpatient department's immunology clinic, which had become one of the largest units of the medical school by the time he retired in 1954. Blanton was active in more than a dozen professional and learned organizations. He served as president of the Richmond Academy of Medicine and the Richmond Society of Internal Medicine and as vice president of the Southern Medical Association and the American Academy of Allergy.
Blanton entered medicine during one of its most exciting periods, as scientific thinking was newly emphasized, hospitals and laboratories were established or reorganized, and X rays and aseptic surgery were employed. During and immediately following World War I he published five articles on bacteria and on such epidemic diseases as polio, acute respiratory infections, streptococcal diseases, and diphtheria in such nationally known medical journals as the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Journal of Medical Research. During the ensuing decades Blanton's research led to articles in the medical literature on chemical therapeutic drugs; on other infectious diseases including tuberculosis, anthrax, herpes zoster, and infectious jaundice; on such physiological disorders as cardiac standstill, hemochromatosis, and orthostatic albuminuria; on changes in blood-cell counts and types; on fevers, sudden death, and hypertension; and on ways of learning what was occurring within the body without exploratory surgery. Altogether, Blanton published thirty-six articles in fourteen medical journals between 1917 and 1957 as well as two textbooks, A Manual of Normal Physical Signs (1926; 2d ed., 1930) and A Handbook of Allergy for Students and Practitioners (1942).
Blanton was also a pioneer in the field of medical history. In 1927 he published a historical article in the Virginia Medical Monthly and became the first chairman of the historical committee of the Medical Society of Virginia, which hoped to sponsor the publication of a history of medicine in Virginia. The other committee members achieved this goal by deferring to Blanton, who conducted his own research, employed research assistants, and wrote three large volumes entitled Medicine in Virginia in the Seventeenth Century (1930), Medicine in Virginia in the Eighteenth Century (1931), and Medicine in Virginia in the Nineteenth Century (1933). Organized in a coherent and useful fashion and written in a readable and interesting style, the three volumes of Medicine in Virginia stood out among other state medical histories published during the same decade. They were milestones in the evolution of American medical scholarship and have stood the test of time. Blanton supplemented his books with about two dozen articles on various aspects of medical history and the history of medical education that appeared in at least ten journals, newspapers, magazines, and reference works between 1927 and 1957.
In 1933 the board of the Medical Society of Virginia elected Blanton editor of its Virginia Medical Monthly, a position he filled with distinction until 1942. Following his retirement from that post he remained on the monthly's editorial board as editor emeritus for eighteen more years. From 1939 to 1942 Blanton served on the editorial board of the Annals of Medical History. He was a consulting editor of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences from its founding in 1946 until his death, and he sat on the editorial board of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine from 1953 to 1960. In 1958 the Medical College of Virginia named him professor emeritus of clinical medicine and the history of medicine.
Blanton did not confine his interests to medicine and medical history. He was one of a group of Richmond men who in the 1930s began to compile a volume of biographies of some of Virginia's leading citizens. The one volume to appear was published in Richmond in 1936 as the start of a projected second series of Men of Mark in Virginia, continuing a five-volume work of that name edited by Lyon Gardiner Tyler between 1906 and 1909. The new volume featured a large number of physicians and Richmond residents, suggesting that Blanton exercised a strong influence over its production. He also wrote a centennial history of his church, The Making of a Downtown Church: The History of the Second Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Virginia, 1845–1945 (1945), prepared a number of short articles and papers on various aspects of Virginia's history, belonged to several historical and patriotic societies, and was a founder of the Historic Richmond Foundation. During service on the board of the Virginia Historical Society from 1945 until his death, he chaired the board's publications committee, supported the publication of additional primary source materials and scholarly articles of a higher quality in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, and helped make the society's collections more useful and accessible to scholarly researchers. Blanton was serving his second year as president of the Virginia Historical Society at the time of his death.
Blanton sat on the board of trustees of Mary Baldwin College from 1932 to 1940. He was a member of the board of Richmond's Union Theological Seminary from 1941 to 1958 and chairman from 1958 until his death. Wyndham Bolling Blanton died of a heart attack at his home in Richmond on 6 January 1960 and was buried in Hollywood Cemetery in that city.
Men of Mark in Virginia, 2d ser. (1936; anonymously edited), 1:36–39 (portrait); feature articles in Virginia Medical Monthly 69 (1942): 701–702, and Bulletin of the History of Medicine 38 (1964): 80–81; Blanton Family Papers and Wyndham Bolling Blanton Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond; Blanton's medical history research papers, Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville; Blanton Scrapbook (1915), Accession 42104, and Blanton diaries in Mary Blanton Easterly Papers, Accession 43509, Library of Virginia (LVA); bibliography of publications compiled from Index Medicus, 1916–1964, in Dictionary of Virginia Biography Files, LVA; Virginius Cornick Hall Jr., Portraits in the Collection of the Virginia Historical Society: A Catalogue (1981); obituaries in Richmond News Leader, 6 Jan. 1960, and Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7 Jan. 1960; memorials in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 68 (1960): 226–227, in Virginia Medical Monthly 87 (1960): 115, 226, in Journal of Allergy 31 (1960): 286–287, and in Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association 72 (1960): xli–xlii.
Written for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography by Todd L. Savitt.
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