Alfred Blalock Papers, 1899-1985

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Blalock, Alfred
Alfred Blalock (1899-1964), surgeon-in-chief of the John Hopkins Hospital, professor, and director of the surgery department at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (1941-1964), was one of two physicians who developed the "blue baby" operation and treatments for surgical shock. Collection contains correspondence, memorabilia, photographs, scrapbooks, tributes, committee materials, biographical materials, and reprints. Major subjects include Johns Hopkins Hospital, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, medical education, tetralogy of fallot surgery (blue baby syndrome), and surgery. Materials date from 1899 to 1985.
39 Linear Feet (26 cartons, 1 flat box folder)
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The collection contains the professional papers of Alfred Blalock. Types of materials include correspondence, operation notes, department budgets, patient information, administrative materials, programs, and a cassette tape. Materials range in date from 1899 to 1985.

Biographical / historical:

Alfred Blalock was born in Culloden, Georgia, on April 5, 1899. When he was fourteen, he entered the Georgia Military Academy, a preparatory school for the University of Georgie, as a senior. Afterwards, he graduated with an AB from the University of Georgia (1918). He earned his MD from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (1922).
From 1922 to 1925, Blalock worked as a hospital physician and assistant resident surgeon at Hopkins, completing an internship in urology, and then as an assistant resident on the general surgical service, followed by a fellowship in otolaryngology.
In 1925, Blalock he went to the newly constructed Vanderbilt University Hospital to complete his residency in surgery under Barney Brooks, Vanderbilt's first professor of surgery. While at Vanderbilt, he did pioneering work on the nature and treatment of hemorrhagic and traumatic shock, demonstrating that surgical shock resulted primarily from the loss of blood. He advocated for plasma or whole-blood transfusions as treatment following the onset of shock. His early work on shock is credited with saving the lives of many casualties during World War II.
Blalock worked as a professor at Vanderbilt from 1938 to 1941. In 1941, he returned to Johns Hopkins to take on the joint positions of surgeon-in-chief of the hospital and professor and director of the surgery department at the medical school. While at Johns Hopkins, Blalock worked with his colleague Helen Taussig and assistant Vivien Thomas on a shunt technique to cure blue baby syndrome. Blalock had developed great expertise in vascular anastomosis. On November 29, 1944, Blalock, Taussig, and Thomas performed the first Blalock-Taussig operation on a patient with Fallot's tetralogy. The child survived the operation and word of their successful treatment quickly spread throughout the world.
At the end of his life, Blalock devoted much of his time to the establishment of a center for child medicine and child surgery in Baltimore. He retired from the Department of Surgery at Johns Hopkins in 1964 and died the same year.
Throughout his career, Blalock received many awards and honors. Blalock belonged to numerous medical societies in the United States and abroad, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Royal Society of Medicine, as well as being awarded numerous honors including Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award (with Robert Gross and Helen Taussig), the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur, the Passano Award, the Matas Award, and the Henry Jacob Bigelow medal. He published more than 200 articles and the book "Principles of Surgery, Shock and Other Problems." He also delivered more than 40 honorary lectures, as well as being awarded honorary degrees from nine universities. The Alfred Blalock Surgical Resident Award is given in Dr. Blalock's honor at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center each year.
Blalock married Mary Chambers O'Bryan in 1930. They had three children: William Rice Blalock, Mary Elizabeth Blalock, and Alfred Dandy Blalock. Mary died in 1958. A year later, Blalock married Alice Waters. Blalock died in 1964.

Acquisition information:
Accession A2004.036 (gift, June 2004)
Processing information:

Processed by Archives staff: February 2005; encoded by Emily Glenn: June 2005

This collection is organized into six series: Personal and Professional Correspondence, 1931-1985; Personal Materials, circa 1921-1964; Johns Hopkins University, 1944-1964; Scrapbooks, 1899-1964; Collection Biographical Materials, undated; Oversized Materials, 1926-1976.
Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Duke University Medical Center Library's online catalog.


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Personal Name(s):
Blalock, Alfred
Corporate Name(s):
Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Vanderbilt University. Medical Center.
Topical Term(s):
Tetralogy of Fallot--surgery
General Surgery.
Education, Medical.


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Donor permission is required before collection materials can be accessed. For further information consult with the Medical Center Archivist.

Terms of access:

Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Alfred Blalock Papers, Duke University Medical Center Archives.