Joseph J. Kinyoun

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Joseph J. Kinyoun
Dr. Joseph J. Kinyoun (6916215501).jpg
Joseph J. Kinyoun
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.

The political and social impact of the San Francisco plague

The Marine Hospital Service was set up as a station on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay to serve the west coast's largest port. When the MHS bacteriologist who had been trained in the laboratories of Pasteur and Koch, confirmed the diagnosis and identified several additional cases of the plague among Chinatown residents, the local political and commercial transportation interests were split over the inspection issue. The morning of Wong Chut King's death, Kellogg brought his slides and tissue samples to the quarantine station's library where Kinyoun confirmed the tentative diagnosis and injected infectious material into guinea pigs, white rat, and a small monkey. After couple days, the animals seemed to improve so he backtracked and stated that his diagnosis was no longer certain.[7]

In addition to the limitations that political and business interests put upon health officials from upholding their responsibilities, the overt racism that existed catalyzed the slow progress to contain the plague. Chinatown property was owned by local white population while Chinese population was abused. All previous outbreaks had been blamed on the Chinese and the fact that plague had been discovered in Chinatown reinforced the anti-Chinese sentiment. Since they couldn't determine the cause of the plague, the outbreak was known as an Asian disease. In order to maintain and control the plague from spreading, Kinyoun placed quarantines in Chinatown which prevented all Asians from crossing state border without certificate of health inspection. Due to the social and economic conflict and discrimination that quarantines provoked over the years, Chinese inhabitants who were terrified by the military barricades and threats of compulsory vaccination, fought in the courtroom for discrimination. Residents of Chinatown, threatened by a quarantine, hid their plague-sickened and dead compatriots while political officials such as governor Gage, business interests such as the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, and major newspaper agencies denied the existence of 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 of due process and equal protection. The judge ruled in favor of the claimant because the quarantine violated the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection.[8]

In 1901, the governor accused Kinyoun of injecting live plague into Chinese corpses in order to fabricate the existence of the disease and create a plague scare. The chief target of the campaign was Kinyoun, the federal quarantine officer. The State's major medical journals split up into two groups: The Sacramento Bee was supporting Kinyoun and arguing for public health battle against the outbreak while The Chronicle and The Bulletin was spearheading business interests and political gain.[9] Although he had to abort his quarantine in the early summer of 1900 and was ridiculed as a "plague faker", Kinyoun continued to send telegrams to health officers of neighboring states to urge precautionary action because of the epidemic. Eventually under a lot of pressure, the governor made an agreement that 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.[10]

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. PMID 22736540. 
  7. ^ Winkelstein, W. (2005-02-01). "The Barbary Plague: The Black Death in Victorian San Francisco". American Journal of Epidemiology. 161 (3): 299–301. doi:10.1093/aje/kwi032. ISSN 0002-9262. 
  8. ^ Morens, David M.; Fauci, Anthony S. (2012-06-26). "The Forgotten Forefather: Joseph James Kinyoun and the Founding of the National Institutes of Health". mBio. 3 (4). doi:10.1128/mBio.00139-12. ISSN 2150-7511. PMC 3388889Freely accessible. PMID 22736540. 
  9. ^ Risse, Guenter B. (2012-03-14). Plague, Fear, and Politics in San Francisco's Chinatown. JHU Press. ISBN 9781421405100. 
  10. ^ "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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