The Faculty History Project documents faculty members who have been associated with the University of Michigan since 1837. Key in this effort is to celebrate the intellectual life of the University. This Faculty History Website is intended as a component of the effort to document the extraordinary academic achievements of Michigan’s faculty in building and sustaining one of the world’s great universities. It provides access to a comprehensive database of information concerning the thousands of faculty members who have served the University of Michigan.
Find out more.

The Bentley Historical Library serves as the official archives for the University.

Memorial

Henry Sewall
The Michigan Alumnus 27


Henry Sewall, M.D. (Hon.) '88, 
Sc.D. (Hon.) '12


An appreciation by Professor Emeritus
 Warren P. Lombard

Excerpts from an address by Dr. Lombard on
 "Henry Sewall and the Department of Physiology." 
delivered at the Founders' Day meeting, February
 22 1909 of the Students' Medical Society. 



DR. HEXRY SEWALL, distinguished physiologist, Professor of 
Physiology at the University of Mich
igan from 1882 to 1889, died in Denver, Colorado, July 8, 1936. At the 
time of his death he was 81 years of 
age.


Henry Sewall was born in Win
chester, Virginia, May 25, 1855. His 
early education was received at priv
ate schools in Baltimore and Brooklyn, 
 and he took the Bachelor of Science 
degree at Wesleyan University in 1876. 
 
He then engaged in graduate work at
 Johns Hopkins University, where he 
came under the influence of Newell 
Martin. Sewall was assistant in Biology from 1876 to 1878; Fellow in
 Biology from 1878 to 1879; and received the degree of Doctor of Phil
osophy in 1879. The next year was
 spent in study in Europe. On his
 return to America he was appointed
 Associate in Biology at Johns Hopkins, 
and in the following year, 1881, he
 was given the newly-created place of 
Lecturer in Physiology at the Uni
versity of Michigan. From the first 
his work was of a high order, and that 
it was appreciated is shown by the 
fact that the following year he was
 made full Professor. 


When Sewall came to this Univers
ity the whole method of teaching phys
iology changed. Not only did he know 
the subject as it is taught in the text-
books, but he was thoroughly ac
quainted with the most advanced
 methods of physiological investigation. 
He was full of enthusiasm, deeply in
 earnest, and taught his subject as only 
a man who is in love with his subject 
can teach it. The lectures which he
 gave to his students were very complete, as is shown by the synopsis of 
the course, which he published in 1885. 
Nor did he neglect the laboratory side
 of the subject. 


But Sewall was not content to
 merely teach his subject. He was 
determined to add to the store of phys
iological knowledge. Sewall's presence
 gave an increased impetus to this form
 of work, and he not only added to the 
renown of the school through his own
 contributions, but through the help 
which his example gave to others who 
were striving in the same direction.


During the eight years that Doctor
 Sewall was connected with this department he published twelve articles. 
 Probably of all his researches the one 
which is generally looked upon, as the 
most remarkable is the one on immun
ity. It is certainly the best thing he
 did while connected with this school, 
 and was without doubt work of the 
highest order. 


To Doctor Sewall belongs the credit 
of being the first to give incontestable
 proof that it is possible to artificially 
establish immunity to a purely chem
ical poison, which is the product of a 
living cell, by injecting the poison into 
an animal frequently and in small, 
 continually increasing doses. He sug
gested the analogy between serpent's
 venom and bacterial ptomanes. 


The year following publication of 
his paper on this work, Doctor Sewall
 was forced by sickness to stop his
 teaching. He was granted leave of absence for a year, but finding that it 
would be unwise for him to continue to
 live in our uncertain climate, he re
signed from the University.