1949-1950 James Earle Ash, USA

1949-1950 James Earle Ash

James Earle Ash

1884-1986


IAMM President 1939-1940, 1949-1950

James Earle Ash or Col. Ash as he was later known, was born 8 September, 1884 in Philidelphia, Pennsylvania.  

He completed his medical studies at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1905. Like many other pathologists of that time, he spent a period of postgraduate study in Vienna, which in the second half of the 19th century was highly regarded as a place in which to do such postgraduate study. In 1916 he joined the US Army Medical Corps. He retired as a Colonel in 1947. When he died at the age of 101 he had spent 73 years working in the field of pathology.  His early military experience included an 8 year assignment in Manila, in the Philippines. This firmly established his life-long interest and expertise in Tropical Diseases. He served 2 terms as Curator of the Army Medical Museum, - 1929-1931 and 1937-1946. In 1946 he was appointed the first Director of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP). In 1941 he was the right man in the right place because he persuaded the then Surgeon General of the US Army to have any and all tissues removed from American servicemen to be sent to the Army Medical Museum. To manage this volume of work he recruited many of America’s best pathologists. During this time he transformed the medical museum into an Institute of world standing that serviced the three services of the US military and provided a consultation service, not only to the military but also to civilian pathologists world wide. Registries of various diseases had already been established, but he expanded these until they included the pathology of all the clinical specialties that were developing in medicine. This led to the publication of the wonderful AFIP Tumor Fascicles. From 1947-1948 he was Scientific Director of the American Registry of Pathology which was established to oversee the publication of the Fascicles.  In 1945 he published with Sophie Spitz (of Spitz nevus fame) ‘Pathology of Tropical Diseases – an Atlas.’ The main stimulus for this was the need for doctors (pathologists in particular) to become acquainted with some of the tropical diseases to which personnel serving during World War 2 had been exposed. This was a highly successful publication that was followed by the even more successful ‘Pathology of Tropical and Extraordinary Diseases – an Atlas.’ by Chapman H. Binford and Daniel H. Connor who succeeded him at the AFIP. Col. Ash throughout his tenure at the AFIP was a great friend and supporter of the IAMM and then the IAP. When Maude Abbott died on 2nd September, 1940, he took on the position of Secretary – Treasurer for a number of difficult wartime and postwar years. He also filled the position of President for 2 terms during the turbulent years in which the IAMM metamorphosed into the IAP.  Dan Connor who followed him at the AFIP, worked with many of the famous pathologists Col. Ash had recruited.  They all had a great admiration for him, as a pathologist, a leader, an administrator and a colleague. The fine portrait that Dan took of him for the frontispiece of ‘Pathology of Tropical and Extraordinary diseases – an Atlas’ is reproduced here.  Obituaries were written in many journals, including one in the IAP News Bulletin of March, 1986.