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History of Department

The roots of the Department of Laboratory Medicine at Yale can be traced back to John Peters (1), the head of what he called the “Chemical Division” of the Department of Internal Medicine, subsequently known as the Section of Metabolism, who co-authored with Donald Van Slyke the landmark 1931 textbook Quantitative Clinical Chemistry (2.3); and to Pauline Hald, research collaborator of Dr. Peters who subsequently served as Director of Clinical Chemistry at Yale-New Haven Hospital for many years. In 1947, Miss Hald reported the very first flame photometric measurements of sodium and potassium in serum (4). This study helped to lay the foundation for modern studies of metabolism and their application to clinical care.

The Laboratory Medicine program at Yale had its inception in 1958 as a section of Internal Medicine under the leadership of David Seligson. In 1965, Laboratory Medicine achieved autonomous section status and in 1971, became a full-fledged academic department. Dr. Seligson, who served as the first Chair, pioneered modern automation and computerized data processing in the clinical laboratory. In particular, he demonstrated the feasibility of discrete sample handling for automation that is now the basis of virtually all automated chemistry analyzers. In addition, Seligson and Zetner demonstrated the first clinical use of atomic absorption spectrophotometry. He was one of the founding members of the major Laboratory Medicine academic society, the Academy of Clinical Laboratory Physicians and Scientists.

Dr. Gueh-Djen (Edith) Hsiung opened the field of diagnostic virology, starting in the 1960's as the Director of the Virology Laboratory. She was the first to describe the use of plaque morphology and a spectrum of cell cultures for recognition and characterization of the polio-virus, Coxsackie virus and echoviruses. She discovered and characterized viral infections in guinea pigs that facilitated studies of disease pathogenesis and treatment in humans. Her demonstration of transplacental transmission of cytomegalovirus (CMV) in the guinea pig correlated with congenital CMV in humans and provided an important model for this infection.

Dr. Leonard Kaplow also joined the faculty in the 1960's, becoming the Director of Laboratories at the VA Hospital. Kaplow pioneered the field of hematocytology, inventing methods for measuring enzymatic activity in individual cells that resulted in the LAP score and other important diagnostic procedures.

David Seligson was succeeded as Chair of the Department by Dr. Peter Jatlow in 1984. Dr. Jatlow has pioneered the study of the clinical pharmacology of cocaine. During his tenure as Chair, the Department grew dramatically in research presence, clinical scope, and teaching contributions to the School.


1. Franklin H. Epstein. John P. Peters and Nephrology American Journal of Kidney Diseases, 37:1113-1119, 2001.

2. John Punnett Peters and D. D. Van Slyke, Quantitative Clinical Chemistry. Volume 1, Interpretations. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1931. Revised 1946.

3. Quantitative Clinical Chemistry. Volume II, Methods. Baltimore : Williams & Wilkins, 1933. Revised 1943.

4. Hald PM: The flame photometer for the measurement of sodium and potassium in biological materials. J Biol Chem 167:499-510, 1947.