International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy


    Dr Edmund Vincent Cowdry

    Status Physician
    Country Canada


    Edmund Vincent Cowdry, BS, MD, PhD (1888-1975) was a Canadian cytologist, anatomist and gerontologist. He is best known for his contributions in the studies of aging and cancer, but he also carried out research on leprosy, including his influential work on promin to treat rat leprosy.

    Cowdry obtained his PhD in anatomy from the University of Chicago in 1913. He was professor of cytology, and later anatomy, at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri between 1928 and 1950. He made contributions to scientific knowledge of cytology, aging, and cancer, as well as the histopathology of leprosy. He also established centres for research on cancer and gerontology.

    In 1939, Walter M Simpson, Director of Kettering Institute for Medical Research, suggested to Cowdry that promin might be effective in the treatment of leprosy. Cowdry, working at the Barnard Hospital in St Louis, Missouri, under a grant from the US Public Health Service, then began experimenting with promin to treat rat leprosy. Guy Henry Faget, director of the Carville Leprosy Hospital, heard about this research and corresponded with Cowdry, who reported that rats treated with promin survived longer and appeared to be in better condition than rats in the control group. This encouraging news led to Faget's trials with promin on volunteer human patients at the Carville leprosarium, beginning in 1941. Cowdry would later express concern that Faget's publication of his results at Carville did not acknowledge Faget's correspondence with Cowdry, nor credit Simpson for the initial suggestion to use promin.

    Cowdry received the Bobst award for his outstanding work in gerontology in London in 1954, and also received various other honors and awards in his fields. He died in St Louis in 1975.


    International Journal of Leprosy, Centennial Festskrift edition, Vol 41, No 2. 1973.

    Cowdry, Edmund V. "Correspondence: Introduction of promin in treatment." International journal of leprosy and other mycobacterial diseases 31.3 (1963): 369-70. Web.

    "Obituary: Edmund V. Cowdry, B.S., Ph.D. 1888--1975." International journal of leprosy and other mycobacterial diseases 46.2 (1978): 216. Web.

    Kirk, J. E. "Obituaries: Edmund Vincent Cowdry." The Gerontologist 15.5 Part 1 (1975): 477. Web.

    Parascandola, J. "Sulfones and the miracle at Carville." Revue d'histoire de la pharmacie 44.312 suppl (1995): 409-412.

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