draft ~ Topic-8_p17-18_ Chapter 2 ~ The Historical Role of Dr. J. Whitridge Williams, most famous obstetrician of the 20th century and author of “Williams’ Obstetrics”

by faithgibson on February 9, 2023

in Draft


Chapter 2 ~ The Historical Role of Dr. J. Whitridge Williams, most famous obstetrician of the 20th century and author of “Williams’ Obstetrics”

Dr. J. Whitridge Williams was the most famous and highly lauded American obstetrician of the 20th century. In addition to being influential within his profession peers, he was also revered by the public. He was the most outspoken, influential and prolific proponent of the “the new obstetrics” as a hospital-based surgical discipline.

It’s not surprising that historians identify Dr. Williams as the founder of academic obstetrics in the United States and recognized him as the leader of obstetrics in America during the first 3 decades of the 20th century. Personally, I would go much further and identify Dr. Williams as having almost single-handedly defined the discipline of obstetrics as a surgical specialty and promoted its “modern” practice as a highly interventive process that included giving Twilight Sleep drugs to all laboring women, the routine use of chloroform or ether (general anesthetics), delivering the baby with forceps and manually removing the placenta.


But before focusing on Dr JWW’s critical role in defining the “new” obstetrics, an overview of Dr. JWW’s professional background and positive contributions.


Dr. Williams was employed by the famous and highly respected Johns Hopkins University Hospital for his entire professional life, from 1893 to is untimely death in 1931. During that time, he was a practicing obstetrician, a professor of obstetrics, and in 1899, appointed Chief of Obstetrics. His famous obstetrical textbook “Williams’ Obstetrics” was published in 1904 and is currently in its 27th printing. He was appointed Dean of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1911 and served in that role until 1923. After that he resumed his role as a professor of obstetrics for the medical school and personally editing the next 5 editions of his obstetrical textbook.

Without a doubt, Dr. Williams was committed to modernizing obstetrical education, elevating obstetrical practice, eliminating midwifery care, which he believed was dangerous, and improving the status of obstetrical medicine in the United States. As a member of the American Association for the Study and the Prevention of Infant Mortality” (AASPIM) a new national organization founded in 1909 [1]  —  Dr JWW was also committed to reducing the embarrassingly high rate of infant deaths in the US compared to other wealthy industrialized countries.


Previous post:

Next post: