Herbert Hoover photo

Remarks at a Ceremony Honoring Dr. William Henry Welch.

April 08, 1930

THE MANY YEARS that I have been honored with Dr. Welch's friendship make it a privilege to join in this day of tribute to him by his friends and by the great scientific societies of our country. Dr. Welch has reached his 80th year and a whole Nation joins in good wishes to him.

Dr. Welch is our greatest statesman in the field of public health, and his public service to the Nation well warrants our appreciation of him. With profound knowledge, wide experience and skill in dealing with men, sound judgment, and a vision of the future, he has been a great asset to the Nation, and we may fortunately hope that he will continue for many years more to bless mankind with his invaluable leadership.

Our age is marked by two tendencies, the democratic and the scientific. In Dr. Welch and his work we find an expression of the best in both tendencies. He not only represents the spirit of pure science but constantly sees and seizes opportunities to direct its results into service of humankind.

Medicine until modern times was a species of dramatic play upon emotions rather than a science made useful through technology. It combined centuries of experience in trial and error in reactions from many drugs, with a maximum of skill on the part of the practitioner in a kindly art of making the patient feel as hopeful and comfortable as possible while he was dying of the disease, the origin and treatment of which was as yet undiscovered. Providence was made responsible for his fate rather than the bacillus which should never have been allowed to infect him.

Modern medical practice, however, is based upon a vast background of scientific research and discovery. In the creation of this science, in the conversion of its principles into technical methods for use in actual practice, in the diffusion of knowledge of these principles and methods, and in the application of them upon a national and worldwide scale, Dr. Welch has played a leading American part. As a research worker in pure science, he has made original and valuable discoveries. As a technologist he has devised practical methods of applying pure science. As a teacher he has spread true knowledge and inspiration among thousands. But in organizing and directing research and application of medical knowledge on a wider field of prevention of disease, he is among the preeminent few who deserve the title of statesman.

No valuable change in everyday practice of any of the great arts has ever been made that was not preceded by the accretion of basic truths through ardent and painstaking research. This sequence that precedes effective action in medicine is equally important in every field of progress in the modern world. It is not the method of stirred public emotions, with its drama of headlines; it is rather the quiet, patient, powerful, and sure method of nature herself.

Dr. Welch has happily combined in his character and intellect the love of truth and the patient experimental habit of the pure scientist, with the ingenuity of the inventor and the organizing vision and energy of the promoter of sound enterprise--and combines all these things with a worldly wisdom and gracious charm that has made him a leader amongst men.

I know that I express the affection of our countrymen and the esteem of his profession in every country when I convey to him their wishes for many years of continued happiness.

Note: The President spoke during ceremonies honoring Dr. Welch on his 80th birthday, in Memorial Continental Hall, Washington, D.C. His remarks were broadcast nationwide.

Dr. William Henry Welch, a prominent pathologist, educator, and author, was active in national and international medical organizations.

Herbert Hoover, Remarks at a Ceremony Honoring Dr. William Henry Welch. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/209995

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