Thomas B. Fitzpatrick

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Thomas B. Fitzpatrick
Born December 19, 1919
Madison, Wisconsin
Died November 16, 2003
Lexington, Massachusetts
Nationality American
Occupation Dermatologist
Known for research on melanoma and UV exposure

Thomas B. Fitzpatrick (1919–2003) was an American dermatologist. He was Chairman of the Department of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School and Chief of the Massachusetts General Hospital Dermatology Service from 1959 to 1987. He has been described as "the father of modern academic dermatology" and as "the most influential dermatologist of the last 100 years", in part because he trained so many of the leaders in the field.[1]

Early life, education, and career[edit]

Fitzpatrick was born in Madison, Wisconsin on December 19, 1919. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin. He then received an M.D. degree from Harvard Medical School, where he became interested in the relatively new specialty of dermatology. After an internship at Boston City Hospital he went to the University of Minnesota for a Ph.D. in pathology. After two years at the Army Medical Center during World War II, he trained in clinical dermatology at the University of Michigan and the Mayo Clinic.

At the age of 32, fresh out of training, he became Professor and Chair of Dermatology at the University of Oregon. In 1959, still only 39, he was named chair of the Dermatology Department at Harvard Medical School, the youngest professor and chair at Harvard.[2]


He was an early researcher into the then-rare cancer, malignant melanoma. In 1966 he and dermatopathologist Wallace H. Clark, Jr., together with John Raker and Martin C. Mihm, Jr., created the first Pigmented Lesion Clinic in the United States at Massachusetts General Hospital. Clark's studies at that clinic resulted in the Clark's level system, which uses the microscopic appearance of a melanoma to predict its clinical course and prognosis. Fitzpatrick's group also produced the first systematic study of the early warning signs of melanoma.[3]

He investigated the role of sunlight and especially sunburn in the development of melanoma. In 1975, he devised the Fitzpatrick scale of skin phototypes, which described the common tanning behaviour of various skin types.[4] He worked with other researchers and with industry to develop and test some of the first modern sunscreens.[5] He was a developer of PUVA therapy for the treatment of psoriasis and other skin disorders.[1] Basic science discoveries included the discovery of the melanosome and of human tyrosinase.[2]

He created and edited the first major clinical reference book in the field, Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, currently in its 8th edition.[6]


His hobby was collecting quotations, of which he had so many that he co-edited a column in the Boston Globe called "Reflection for the Day"[1] in partnership with his wife of nearly 60 years, Beatrice Devaney Fitzpatrick.[2] They had five children. He died August 16, 2003 at his home in Lexington, Massachusetts


  1. ^ a b c Long, Tom (August 19, 2003). "Thomas Fitzpatrick, doctor and teacher". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 14, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "Thomas B. Fitzpatrick". Harvard Gazette. September 22, 2005. Retrieved September 14, 2014. 
  3. ^ Mihm, Martin C., Jr.; Sober, Arthur J. (2004). "Melanoma Before and After Thomas B. Fitzpatrick". Journal of Investigative Dermatology 122: xxxii–xxxiii. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1747.2003.22252.x. 
  4. ^ Fitzpatrick TB: Soleil et peau [Sun and skin]. Journal de Médecine Esthétique 1975; 2:33-34
  5. ^ Pathak M.A.; Fitzpatrick T.B.; Frenk, E. (1969). "Evaluation of Topical Agents That Prevent Sunburn". N Engl J Med 280: 1459–1463. doi:10.1056/NEJM196906262802607. 
  6. ^ Goldsmith, Lowell; et al. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, Eighth Edition. ISBN 978-0071669047.