Joseph J. Kinyoun

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Joseph J. Kinyoun
Dr. Joseph J. Kinyoun (6916215501).jpg
Born (1860-11-25)November 25, 1860
East Bend, North Carolina
Died February 14, 1919(1919-02-14) (aged 58)
Washington, D.C.
Resting place Centerview Cemetery
38°45′01.8″N 93°50′38.7″W / 38.750500°N 93.844083°W / 38.750500; -93.844083 (Joseph J. Kinyoun burial site)
Alma mater Bellevue Medical College
Known for
  • Discovered a bacterium strain of Vibrio cholerae which causes cholera
  • Founder and first director of the U.S. Laboratory of Hygiene
Scientific career
Fields Bacteriology, Public health
Institutions Marine Hospital Service
George Washington University
Influences Robert Koch

Joseph James Kinyoun MD (November 25, 1860 – February 14, 1919) was founder and first director 1887–1899 of the United States' Hygienic Laboratory, the predecessor of the National Institutes of Health.[1]


Early life

Joseph James "Joe" Kinyoun was born November 25, 1860 in East Bend, North Carolina, the oldest of five children born to Elizabeth Ann Conrad and John Hendricks Kinyoun. His family settled in Post Oak, Missouri in 1866 after his house burned down during the Civil War. At the age of 16, he studied medicine with his father, John Hendricks Kinyoun, who was a general practitioner.[2]

Kinyoun was educated at St. Louis Medical College and graduated from Bellevue Medical College in 1882 with a M.D. degree. He did postdoctoral studies in pathology and bacteriology at the Carnegie Laboratory[3] where he became the first bacteriology student and studied cholera. Then he was a visiting scientist in Europe under Robert Koch. He was awarded a Ph.D. from Georgetown University in 1896.


On October 4, 1886, Dr. Kinyoun began his career in the Marine Hospital Service at Staten Island Quarantine Station as an assistant surgeon, taking over direction of the Laboratory of Hygiene in 1887.[4] When the Surgeon General moved the laboratory from Staten Island to Washington, DC in 1891, he placed 26-years-old Kinyoun in charge of the nation's first federal bacteriology laboratory. His code name during his MHS career was Abutment.

Kinyoun's later career was spent in private companies and as a professor of bacteriology and pathology at George Washington University[3] before becoming a bacteriologist for the District of Columbia Health Department, a position he held until his death. In 1909, Dr. Kinyoun served as president of the American Society for Microbiology. He is perhaps best known now for the dissemination of the Kinyoun modification of the Ziehl-Neelsen stain for Acid-fast bacteria.[5]

Kinyoun's microscope

Hygienic Laboratory (1887–1896)

As the director of the Hygienic Laboratory, he researched on a plethora of different infectious diseases and their respective etiology and vaccine treatment while urging necessary hospital protocols and regulations for isolation of infected patients.[6] Cholera, yellow fever, smallpox, and plague were the four main epidemic diseases that the laboratory investigated.

San Francisco Quarantine station

In 1899, Walter Wyman transferred Kinyoun to the San Francisco Quarantine station where he became head of the Marine Hospital Service in San Francisco. In March 1900 he was central to the discovery of the San Francisco plague of 1900–1904. He resigned his position in 1901 after allegations that his conclusive bubonic plague diagnoses were scaremongering. He was proven correct by independent testing and the appearance of further cases.

Political and social impact on the San Francisco Plague

The Marine Hospital Service was set as a station in San Francisco’s Angel Island where it served as the largest port on the West Coast. When Kinyoun trained as a MHS bacteriologist in the laboratories of Pasteur and Koch, he confirmed the diagnosis and identification of several additional cases of the plague among Chinatown residents. The local political and commercial transportation interests were split over the inspection issue. In the morning of Wong Chut King's death, the first victim of the plague epidemic, Kellogg’s utilized Kinyoun’s slides and tissue samples to quarantine the station's library, where he confirmed the tentative diagnosis, and injected infectious material into test subjects like guinea pigs, white rats, small monkeys. After a few days passed, the animals showed signs of improvement, which led him to conclude that his diagnosis was no longer certain.[7] In addition to health officials withdrawing from their responsibilities, the present overt racism catalyzed the a slow progression to containing the plague. With the root of the plague originating in Chinatown, the anti-Chinese sentiment was launched which set blame on the confined Chinese population. Since the cause of the plague could not be determined, the outbreak inhabited the name the Asian disease. In order to maintain control of it’s spread, Kinyoun placed quarantines in Chinatown, which prevented all Asians Americans from crossing state borders without approval from health inspection. Due to the social and economic conflict that quarantines provoked over the years, Chinese inhabitants lived in fear of military presence and their threats of compulsory vaccination. With the Residents of Chinatown threatened by quarantine, they hid their ill and deceased community members while public figures like Governor Henry Gage, the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, and major newspaper agencies, all denied the existence of the plague in San Francisco. Governor Gage took advantage of the rising fear of discrimination and helped the Chinese community bring lawsuits against Kinyoun for violating their civil rights. The judge ruled in favor of the claimant as the quarantine violated the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection.[8] In 1901, the Governor Gage targeted Kinyoun, the federal quarantine officer, for injecting infectious agents into Chinese corpses in order to fabricate the existence of the disease and create a plague epidemic. The State's major medical journals encountered media conflict as The Sacramento Bee supported Kinyoun and argued for public health battle against the outbreak, while The Chronicle and The Bulletin, was spearheading business interests and political gains.[9] Although he had to abort the quarantine in the early summer of 1900, Kinyoun and was ridiculed by the public but continued to send telegrams to health officers of neighboring states to urge precautionary action because of the epidemic. Eventually, Governor Gage made an agreement that the State of California would help fight the plague and stop attacking Kinyoun, if the federal government blocked any further mention of the outbreak and removed Kinyoun from San Francisco.

Marriage and children

James and Susan Elizabeth "Lizzie" Perry married in 1883. The couple had at least five children: Bettie Kinyoun; Joseph Perry Kinyoun; Alice Kinyoun Houts; Conrad Kinyoun; and John Nathan Kinyoun. After his first child, Bettie, passed away at the age of 3 from contracting diphtheria, he poured himself into his work and even set up a public diphtheria laboratory at Georgetown Medical School.

Death and afterward

Joseph Kinyoun died on February 14, 1919, in Washington, DC.

A collection of his papers is held at the National Library of Medicine.[7]

Published works


The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' Joseph J. Kinyoun Memorial Lecture is named in his honor.

See also


  1. ^ "Birth of the Hygienic Laboratory". Origins of the National Institutes of Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine. May 8, 1987. 
  2. ^ "Kinyoun, John H. (1825-1903), Account Books, 1859-1898 (C3863)" (PDF). The State Historical Society of Missouri. 
  3. ^ a b Bing, Richard J. (2010). "The National Institutes of Health and Joseph J. Kinyoun" (PDF). Heart News and Views. 17 (3). International Society for Heart Research. p. 7. 
  4. ^ Luiggi, Cristina (2011-05-28). "One-Man NIH, 1887". The Scientist. 
  5. ^ Kinyoun JJ. 1915. A note on Uhlenhuths method for sputum examination, for tubercle bacilli. Am. J. Public Health 5:867–870.
  6. ^ Morens, David M.; Fauci, Anthony S. (2012-08-31). "The Forgotten Forefather: Joseph James Kinyoun and the Founding of the National Institutes of Health". mBio. 3 (4): e00139–12. doi:10.1128/mBio.00139-12. ISSN 2150-7511. PMC 3388889Freely accessible. PMID 22736540. 
  7. ^ "Joseph J. Kinyoun Papers 1899-1939". National Library of Medicine. 

External links

  • Works by or about Joseph J. Kinyoun at Internet Archive
  • "Joseph James Kinyoun". Founder of NIH Laboratory of Hygiene, Medical Doctor. Find a Grave. February 14, 2009. Retrieved June 4, 2013. 
  • "Joseph James Kinyoun, M.D." The NIH Almanac. Chronology of NIH Directors. National Institutes of Health (NIH). 
  • Luiggi, Cristina (June 4, 2011). "One-Man NIH, 1887". The Scientist. 
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