Oldest “Working” Pathologist Dies at 104 on March 9

William Sunderman, M.D., Ph.D., Sc.D, a key figure in pathology profession during 20th Century

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WORKING EIGHT-HOUR DAYS until a few weeks before his death on March 9, pathologist F. William Sunderman, M.D., Ph.D., Sc.D., lived a remarkable life.

During his 104-year life, Dr. Sunderman played a key role in founding the Pennsylvania Association of Clinical Pathologists in 1946 and is credited with developing one of the earliest proficiency testing programs. He served as President of the Association of Clinical Pathologists and was a founding Governor of the College of American Pathologists.

Career Accomplishments

His accomplishments are numerous. Dr. Sunderman developed a method for measuring glucose in blood (the Sunderman Sugar Tube). He was one of the first physicians to use insulin to bring a patient out of a diabetic coma.

Dr. Sunderman was a medical director for the Manhattan project at Los Alamos during World War II. He was a medical consultant for the space project at the Redstone Arsenal from 1947 to 1969 and served as Chief of the Clinical Pathology Department at the Communicable Disease Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

Born on October 23, 1898 near Altoona, Pennsylvania, Dr. Sutherman received his M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and became an intern at Pennsylvania Hospital, in Philadelphia. At the time of his death, he was still working at the hospital, editing journals and papers.

With a lifetime interest in music, Dr. Sunderman played the violin. He collected quality violins and the one he played most was a Stradivarius made in 1694 for Spain’s Bishop Cardiz. During his travels in the 1960s to play with professional musicians, he discovered lost chamber music manuscripts by Rachmaninoff and Borodin in a Moscow music store. At the age of 100, Dr. Sunderman played his violin at a Carnegie Hall concert, fulfilling a life- long ambition.

A prolific writer, Dr. Sunderman authored 300 scientific papers and 16 scientific books. He founded and edited the journal Annuals of Clinical and Laboratory Science.

Nation’s Oldest Worker

In 1999, Green Thumb, Inc., a federal work training program, recognized Dr. Sunderman as the nation’s oldest worker. He was then 100 years old. At this time, when asked about the secret of his longevity, he decided to pursue the subject scientifically.

Dr. Sunderman wanted to analyze the blood of the 600-year-old tortoises in the Galapagos Islands. He traveled to the islands, but was unsuccessful at collecting blood samples.


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