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The Vivien T. Thomas Collection

Vivien T. Thomas
Vivien T. Thomas
by Bob Gee
oil on canvas, 29.5 by 23.5 inches, 1969


Vivien T. Thomas was born in Lake Providence, Louisiana on August 29, 1910. His family later moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he was educated in the public schools. In 1929, after working as an orderly in a private infirmary to raise money for college, he enrolled as a premedical student at Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial College. The bank crash that year wiped out his life's savings, forcing him to drop out of school. In 1930, he took a position at Vanderbilt University as a laboratory assistant with Alfred Blalock. Thomas' abilities as a surgical assistant and research associate were of the highest quality, and when Blalock moved to Johns Hopkins in 1941 he asked Thomas to accompany him. Thomas joined Blalock's surgical team and helped to develop the procedure used in the "blue baby" operation. He helped train many of the surgeons at Johns Hopkins in the delicate techniques necessary for heart and lung operations. Thomas was a member of the medical school faculty from 1976 until 1985 and was presented with the degree of Honorary Doctor of Laws by the Johns Hopkins University in 1976.

Hopkins Affiliations

Scope and Content

The Vivien T. Thomas Collection primarily spans his final years at Johns Hopkins. It focuses on the writing and publication of Thomas's book Pioneering Research in Surgical Shock and Cardiovascular Surgery: Vivien Thomas and His Work with Alfred Blalock (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985). The collection contains manuscript copies and correspondence, which include lengthy exchanges between Thomas and Mark M. Ravitch, M.D., who encouraged and assisted Thomas with the production and publication of the book. Also included are a collection of reprints of articles by colleagues as well as ones to which Thomas contributed. Material related to the Hunterian laboratory includes notebooks from some of dog experiments as well as correspondence and financial records related to the operation of the lab.

Policy on Access and Use

This collection may contain some restricted records. Materials pertaining to patients, students, employees, and human research subjects, as well as unprocessed collections and recent administrative records, carry restrictions on access. For more information about the policies and procedures for access, see Policy on Access and Use.

Permissions and Credits

When citing material from this collection, credit The Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. For permission to reproduce images, contact the holder of the copyright.

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