Ludlow, Clara Southmayd

From GW Encyclopedia

Clara Ludlow, c.1900


Clara Southmayd Ludlow was born in Easton, Pennsylvania on December 26, 1852. Very little is known about the first 47 years of her life. Clara’s father was a physician who served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during the Civil War. Clara was an alumna of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts and served as publisher of their Alumni Annual from 1885 to 1889. She had at least two brothers, both of whom were important enough to be included in reference works on distinguished Americans. Henry Hunt Ludlow, born in 1854, was an Army officer who taught military science and tactics at the Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College between 1903 and 1906. He also taught mathematics at West Point. David Hunt Ludlow, a physician like his father, was born in 1857. He spent the greater part of his life in Easton where he interested himself in many subjects and contributed much to community life.

Clara received her B.S. degree in 1900 and her M.S. in 1901 from Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College. In early 1901 (according to her doctoral dissertation), she was in the Philippines when medical officers of the U.S. Army suggested that she undertake the study of mosquitoes. Her work there was carried out under the authority of the Surgeon General’s Office. During this time she published a number of articles on mosquitoes, in both Army and civilian journals.

Sometime shortly after her arrival in the Philippines, Clara Ludlow met Dr. William Calvert. Calvert, who worked at the Manila Plague Laboratory, was impressed with Ludlow's intelligence and discipline. He encouraged her to pursue her interest in mosquitoes. Interest in mosquitoes in general and anopheline mosquitoes in particular was at a high point at the beginning of the twentieth century. Ross's discovery that anopheline mosquitoes transmitted malaria and the Reed Commission's report on yellow fever encouraged entomologists to look for new species of mosquitoes all over the world. Ludlow could not have begun her study of mosquito taxonomy at a more opportune time. Moreover, support for Ludlow's research reached the top of the Army Medical Corps. George E. Sternberg, Army Surgeon General, ordered that Army medical officers were to send mosquito specimen kits to Ludlow after her return to California in October 1901. Three years later Ludlow moved to Washington, D.C., where she secured an appointment at the Army Medical Museum

The earliest date which would indicate Dr. Ludlow’s presence at G.W.U. is 1905 printed after her name in a bibliography of publications by G.W. faculty and students. This corresponds to the record in the University Registrar’s Office which is as follows:

Registered in the Ph.D. course – 1905-06; 1907-08.

Registered in the Medical course – 1909-10 (1st year)

Registered in the Ph.D. course – 1908 February; degree granted.

The Ph.D. in Preventive Medicine (General Sternberg was her dissertation advisor) was granted to her on February 22, 1908 by the Faculty of Graduate Students.

Although histology was offered as a course in Arts and Sciences and in the Departments of Medicine and of Dentistry in 1905 and 1906, there is no mention in announcements of the faculty and assistants in these departments of Dr. Ludlow as a member of the staff in any capacity. A news item in the March 1907 Bulletin under the heading Department of Medicine announces that the histology laboratory has been equipped with necessary apparatus for beginning a laboratory course in Embryology. This is the first mention of Embryology as part of the Medical Department program. Then in the 1908 Bulletin Ludlow is listed under “Instructors, Demonstrators, and Assistants” as a Demonstrator in Histology and Embryology. The University faculty records indicate that Ludlow’s resignation from the G.W. faculty was accepted by President Stockton and became effective in April 1911. No reason was noted and no information as to what she would do thereafter.

It seems fairly certain that Dr. Ludlow’s main employment after leaving the University was as an entomologist with the Army Medical Museum. Boyd’s Directory of the District of Columbia lists her occupation and place of employment in the following manner:

1909 – Scientific worker 1911 – Medical Museum 1921 – Entomologist, War Dept. 1922-1924 – Entomologist, Medical Museum

In addition, on the title page of one of her reports issued by the War Department, Office of the Surgeon General (Bulletin No. 4, November 1913), her position is noted as “anatomist, Army Medical Museum, formerly lecturer, Disease-bearing Mosquitoes, U.S. Army Medical School.” While with the Army Medical Museum, Ludlow classified and identified mosquitoes found at various Army posts and the diseases caused by their bites. Several of her monographs on the subject were widely used as texts in medical schools. Furthermore, Dr. Ludlow assisted Major James F. Coupal, physician to President Coolidge. It was he who delivered the eulogy at her funeral services at Washington’s All Souls Unitarian Church. Finally, Clara Ludlow had the honor of being laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. She died September 28, 1924.

Ludlow published 49 scientific papers on mosquitoes. By all accounts she was a strong-willed, highly intelligent, acerbic individual. Men dominated the field of entomology when Clara Ludlow began her study of mosquitoes. Ludlow made it clear that she was unwilling to defer to anyone, male or female, who, she considered her intellectual inferior.

University Historian, Dr. Elmer Kayser, recalled in 1978 an incident involving Ludlow. It occurred about 1920, in his capacity as Secretary of George Washington University, when he had occasion to address some correspondence to Miss Clara Ludlow. The envelope was promptly returned to him with a note in Ludlow’s hand: “In the future, kindly address me as Dr. Clara Ludlow.”

Document Information

Images: 1
Photographic Credit: GW University Historical Photographs Collection
Author or Source: Faculty pamphlet collection
Document Location: University Archives
Date Added to Encyclopedia: December 21, 2006
Prepared by: Lyle Slovick

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