University of Virginia Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library

Dr. Edward L. Trudeau and Tuberculosis Sanatoriums

Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau, c.1900

Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau, c.1900
Wikipedia Commons.


Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau (1848-1915), a New York physician, promoted isolation and fresh air after his own battle with tuberculosis. After contracting the disease in 1872, the year after he graduated from medical school, he retreated to the Adirondack Mountains to die in peace. However, he thrived on the fresh air, exercise, and healthy diet. This experience prompted the 24-year-old doctor to conclude that mountain air and healthy living could give tuberculosis sufferers a chance at recovery. His experiment with tubercular rabbits, conducted in his Adirondack cottage, confirmed his ideas. In 1885 he founded the Adirondack Cottage Sanatorium based on his own treatment and apparent success.

A nursing school was established at the sanatorium in 1912 where the students specialized in TB nursing. As in other institutions, some of the nurses were drawn to the field because members of their families had the disease.

It was Dr. Trudeau who popularized the sanatorium treatment for tuberculosis. Tuberculosis’ stubborn social stigma of immorality compelled patients to retreat from the spotlight of society, making sanatoriums the ideal treatment for physical and social ills.

Many TB sanatoriums that followed carried on Dr. Trudeau’s design of wide verandas for patients to sit in the fresh air. This belief in the healing properties of fresh air and good living was not incorrect; the healthy diet and exercise helped maintain or strengthen their immune systems to fight off the disease. While delaying the adverse effects of TB, the “sanatorium cure” could not, however, address the bacterial origins of the disease.

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