Ernest W. Goodpasture was a distinguished figure in pathology and a pioneer in modern virological research. He contributed significantly to the advance of knowledge in many fields, particularly the pathogenesis of infectious diseases, the problems of parasitism, the laboratory cultivation of viruses, and the mechanism and course of a wide variety of viral and other infections.
Goodpasture was born on a farm near Clarksville, Montgomery County, October 17,1886, the son of Albert Virgil and Jennie Wilson Dawson Goodpasture. Ernest Goodpasture received his B.A. degree from Vanderbilt University. He then entered Johns Hopkins Medical School, graduating in 1912. He was appointed a Rockefeller Fellow in pathology at Johns Hopkins under Professors William Welch and George H. Whipple. In 1915 he joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School. This period, which included two years of wartime service in the United States Navy, was followed by appointments at the University of the Philippines School of Medicine at Manila and at William H. Singer Memorial Laboratories in Pittsburgh. In 1924 he was invited to return to Vanderbilt as professor and chairman of the Department of Pathology in the reorganized Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
In 1919 Goodpasture, while studying the influenza pandemic, described a progressive and usually fatal disease in which glomerulonephritis was associated with coughing of blood. Most of the patients died of kidney failure. This has been known since as Goodpasture's syndrome.
For over thirty years, the work at his Vanderbilt laboratory produced a series of noteworthy contributions which brought national and international recognition in the field of infectious diseases, especially virus infections. For instance, he introduced the chick embryo as an experimental host in the investigation of infection and in the production of vaccines. These studies made possible the practical application on a large scale of the development of present-day vaccines against viral diseases. The eminent virologist Sir F. MacFarlane Burnet went so far as to say that Goodpasture's discovery made possible modern abilities to control viral diseases.
Goodpasture's experiments were classic examples of simplicity in plan, detailed observations, and objectivity. Perhaps the most remarkable were those designed to test the hypothesis of the neural spread of herpes simples virus. Equally impressive were the investigations demonstrating the infectivity of inclusions in fowl pox and the determination of the relationship of these inclusions to Borrel bodies.
In subsequent years, using the chick-embryo technique, Goodpasture and his coworkers elucidated the natural history of numerous viral diseases. These included studies of vaccinia infection, which resulted in improved vaccination against smallpox and identification of the virus that causes mumps. His technique proved adaptable to studies of rickettsia, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa, as well as viruses. He and his workers also carried out novel studies of experimental skin infection and the role of humoral factors in the immune process.
For his many contributions, he was invited to give some the nation's most prestigious lectures, including the Harvey, DeLamar, Hetkoen, Loeb, Shattuck, and Alvarenga Lectures. He received honorary degrees from Yale University, Washington University, the University of Chicago, and Tulane University. He was the recipient of the Passano Foundation Award, the Howard Taylor Ricketts Award, the Kober Medal, the Sedgwick Memorial Award, the Kovalenko Medal of the National Academy of Science, and the Gold Headed Cane of the American Association of Pathologists and Bacteriologists. He was elected to the board of directors of the International Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation, to the National Academy of Science, to the American Philosophical Society, and to the Board of Trust of Vanderbilt University. For many years he was a member and served as president of both the American Association of Pathologists and Bacteriologists and the American Society of Experimental Pathology. He also served on the board of editors of The American Journal of Pathology and was for a period its editor-in-chief.
During and after World War II, he served on the original Armed Forces Epidemiological Board, the Institute for Nuclear Studies at Oak Ridge, the Advisory Committee on Biology and Medicine of the Atomic Energy Commission, as a scientific director of the International Health Division of the Rockefeller, and on the commission on growth of the National Research Council.
Goodpasture was a dedicated teacher, and those who were privileged to be his students were fortunate indeed. Because of his strong sense of loyalty to Vanderbilt, Goodpasture agreed in later years to take on administrative responsibility. He served as associate dean of the Vanderbilt School of Medicine from 1942 to 1945 and as dean from 1945 to 1950.
In 1955, after more than thirty years at Vanderbilt, Goodpasture reached the age of retirement. He was invited to assume what was to become one this country's principal posts in his field, the scientific directorship of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C. Goodpasture led the institute through a period of reorganization, expansion, and an enormous output of research in which civilian pathologists throughout the country contributed heavily. He remained at the Armed Forces Institute for four years, when he resigned his position to return to Tennessee. His retirement was not to last long. He died suddenly in September 1960 of a myocardial infarction while engaged in yard work at his home.