Virginia Apgar (June 7, 1909 – August 7, 1974) was an American
obstetrical anesthesiologist. She was a leader in the fields of
anesthesiology and teratology, and introduced obstetrical
considerations to the established field of neonatology. To the public,
however, she is best known as the inventor of the Apgar score, a way
to quickly assess the health of newborn children immediately after
1 Early life and education
2 Work and research
3 Honors and awards
4 Selected works
6 Further reading
7 External links
Early life and education
Being the youngest of three children, Apgar was born and raised in
Westfield, New Jersey
Westfield, New Jersey to a musical family that "never sat down".
Her father was a scientist-inventor and Virginia was often found at
his side in a basement laboratory with telescopes and radios. She
graduated from Westfield High School in 1925. She graduated from
Mount Holyoke College
Mount Holyoke College in 1929, where she studied zoology with minors
in physiology and chemistry, and from the Columbia University College
of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) in 1933. She completed a
residency in surgery at P&S in 1937.
Although her work kept her busy, Apgar found time to pursue her many
outside interests. Music was an integral part of family life, with
frequent family music sessions. Apgar played the violin and her
brother played piano and organ. She traveled with her violin, often
playing in amateur chamber quartets wherever she happened to be.
During the 1950s a friend introduced her to instrument-making, and
together they made two violins, a viola, and a cello. She was an
enthusiastic gardener, and enjoyed fly-fishing, golfing, and stamp
collecting. In her fifties, Apgar started taking flying lessons,
stating that her goal was to someday fly under New York's George
Washington Bridge, and earned a Master's of Public Health from
Johns Hopkins University.
She was encouraged to practice anesthesiology by Allen Whipple, the
chairman of surgery at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, who felt
that advancements in anesthesia were needed to further advance surgery
and felt that she had the "energy and ability" to make a significant
contribution. She then further trained in anesthesia, receiving
certification as an anesthesiologist in 1937, and returned to
P&S in 1938 as director of the newly formed division of
Work and research
Virginia Apgar examining a newborn baby in 1966
In 1949, Apgar became the first woman to become a full professor at
P&S, where she remained until 1959. During this time, she
also did clinical and research work at the affiliated Sloane Hospital
for Women, part of Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. In 1953,
she introduced the first test, called the Apgar score, to assess the
health of newborn babies. The
Apgar score is calculated based on an
infant's condition at one minute and five minutes after birth. If the
Apgar score is low, additional scores may be assigned
every five minutes.
In 1959, Apgar left Columbia and earned a Master of Public Health
degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.
Also starting in 1959 until her death in 1974, Apgar worked for the
March of Dimes
March of Dimes Foundation, serving as vice president for Medical
Affairs and directing its research program to prevent and treat birth
defects. Because gestational age is directly related to an
infant’s Apgar score, Apgar was one of the first at the March of
Dimes to bring attention to the problem of premature birth, now one of
March of Dimes
March of Dimes top priorities. During this time, she wrote and
lectured extensively, authoring articles in popular magazines as well
as research work. In 1967, Apgar became vice president and director
of basic research at The National Foundation-March of Dimes.
During the rubella pandemic of 1964-65, Apgar became an outspoken
advocate for universal vaccination to prevent mother-to-child
transmission of rubella.
Rubella can cause serious congenital
disorders if a woman becomes infected while pregnant. Between 1964-65,
the United States had an estimated 12.5 million rubella cases, which
led to 11,000 miscarriages or therapeutic abortions and 20,000 cases
of congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). Of these, 2,100 died in infancy,
12,000 were deaf, 3,580 suffered blindness due to cataracts and/or
microphthalmia, and 1,800 were mentally retarded. In New York City
alone, CRS affected 1% of all births at that time. Apgar also
promoted effective use of Rh testing, which can identify women who are
at risk for transmission of maternal antibodies across the placenta
where they may subsequently bind with and destroy fetal red blood
cells, resulting in fetal hydrops or even miscarriage.
Apgar brought her legendary energy and "people skills" to the new job.
She traveled thousands of miles each year to speak to widely varied
audiences about the importance of early detection of birth defects and
the need for more research in this area. She proved an excellent
ambassador for the National Foundation, and the annual income of that
organization more than doubled during her tenure there. She also
served the National Foundation as Director of Basic Medical Research
(1967-1968) and Vice-President for Medical Affairs (1971-1974). Her
concerns for the welfare of children and families were combined with
her talent for teaching in the 1972 book, "Is My Baby All Right?",
written with Joan Beck. Apgar was also a lecturer (1965-1971) and then
clinical professor (1971-1974) of pediatrics at Cornell University
School of Medicine, where she taught teratology (the study of birth
defects). She was the first to hold a faculty position in this new
area of pediatrics. In 1973, she was appointed lecturer in medical
genetics at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
Apgar published over sixty scientific articles and numerous shorter
essays for newspapers and magazines during her career, along with her
book, Is My Baby All Right? She received many awards, including
honorary doctorates from the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania
Mount Holyoke College
Mount Holyoke College (1965), the
Elizabeth Blackwell Award
from the American Medical Women's Association (1966), the
Distinguished Service Award from the American Society of
Anesthesiologists (1966), the Alumni Gold Medal for Distinguished
Achievement from Columbia University College of Physicians and
Surgeons (1973), and the Ralph M. Waters Award from the American
Society of Anesthesiologists (1973). In 1973 she was also elected
Woman of the Year in Science by the Ladies Home Journal.
Throughout her career, Apgar maintained, with her characteristic
optimism, that "women are liberated from the time they leave the
womb," and that being female had not imposed significant limitations
on her medical career. She avoided women's organizations and causes,
for the most part. Though she sometimes privately expressed her
frustration with gender inequalities (especially in the matter of
salaries), she worked around these by consistently pushing into new
fields where there was room to exercise her considerable energy and
abilities. Apgar was equally at home speaking to teens as she was
to the movers and shakers of society. She spoke at March of Dimes
Youth Conferences about teen pregnancy and congenital disorders at a
time when these topics were considered taboo. Apgar never married,
and died of cirrhosis of the liver on August 7, 1974 at
Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. She is buried at Fairview
Cemetery in Westfield.
Honors and awards
Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania
Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania (1964)
Mount Holyoke College
Mount Holyoke College (1965)
Distinguished Service Award from the American Society of
Elizabeth Blackwell Award, from the American Women's Medical
Honorary doctorate, New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry
Alumni Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement, Columbia University
College of Physicians and Surgeons (1973)
Ralph M. Waters Award,
American Society of Anesthesiologists
American Society of Anesthesiologists (1973)
Woman of the Year in Science,
Ladies Home Journal
Ladies Home Journal (1973)
Apgar was also a fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine, the
American Public Health Association, and the New York Academy of
Apgar has continued to earn posthumous recognition for her
contributions and achievements. In 1994, she was honored by the United
States Postal Service with a 20¢
Great Americans series
Great Americans series postage
stamp. In November 1995 she was inducted into the National Women's
Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. In 1999 she was designated a
Women's History Month
Women's History Month Honoree by the National Women's History
Apgar, Virginia (1973). Is my baby all right? A guide to birth
defects. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-78707-1.
Apgar, Virginia (1953). "A proposal for a new method of evaluation of
the newborn infant". Current Researches in
Anesthesia & Analgesia.
32 (4): 260–267. doi:10.1213/00000539-195301000-00041.
^ a b c d Calmes, Selma H (May 2015). "Dr.
Virginia Apgar and the
Apgar Score: How the Apgar Score Came to Be".
Analgesia. 120 (5).
Virginia Apgar Papers: biographical information". Profiles in
Science. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
^ a b c d e f g Amschler, Denise (1999). "Apgar, Virginia
(1909-1974)". In Commire, Anne. Women in World History: A biographical
encyclopedia. Gale. pp. 415–418.
^ a b c "The
Virginia Apgar Papers: Biographical Information".
profiles.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 2018-04-04.
^ Doughtery, Matthew. "A Pioneering Physician". In Vivo: Columbia
Health Sciences. Retrieved 2017-06-30.
^ "Dr. Virginia Apgar". Changing the Face of Medicine. National
Library of Medicine. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
^ Women in Medicine Exhibit Resources Archived 2006-09-01 at the
^ Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Archived 2008-05-17 at the
^ "ACOG Committee Opinion: The Apgar Score". American College of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Retrieved May 14, 2013.
^ a b c d e Dezen, Todd P.; Lynch, Elizabeth (2009-06-24). "March of
Dimes Honors 100th Anniversary Of Virginia Apgar". White Plains, New
March of Dimes
March of Dimes Foundation.
Pan American Health Organization
Pan American Health Organization (1998). "Public Health Burden of
Rubella and CRS" (PDF). EPI Newsletter. XX (4). Retrieved
^ Scrivener, Laurie; Barnes, J. Suzanne (2002). A Biographical
Dictionary of Women Healers. Westport, CT: Oryx Press. pp. 6–7.
^ "Honorees: 2010 National Women's History Month". Women's History
Month. National Women's History Project. 2010. Retrieved 14 November
Pearce JM (2005). "
Virginia Apgar (1909-1974): neurological evaluation
of the newborn infant". European Neurology. 54 (3): 132–4.
doi:10.1159/000089084. PMID 16244485.
Goodwin JW (March 2002). "A personal recollection of Virginia Apgar".
Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada. 24 (3): 248–9.
Goldman R, Blickstein I (February 2001). "Dr. Virginia
Apgar--1909-1974" [Dr. Virginia Apgar--1909-1974]. Harefuah (in
Hebrew). 140 (2): 177–8. PMID 11242930.
Mazana Casanova JS (11 November 2000). "
Virginia Apgar y su test
posnatal medio siglo después" [
Virginia Apgar and her postnatal test
half a century later]. Anales Españoles De Pediatría (in Spanish).
53 (5): 469. doi:10.1016/S1695-4033(00)78630-9.
Baskett TF (November 2000). "
Virginia Apgar and the newborn Apgar
score". Resuscitation. 47 (3): 215–7.
doi:10.1016/S0300-9572(00)00340-3. PMID 11114450.
Jay V (1999). "On a historical note: Dr. Virginia apgar". Pediatric
and Developmental Pathology. 2 (3): 292–4.
doi:10.1007/s100249900126. PMID 10191354.
Proffitt, Pamela (1999). Notable women scientists. Detroit, Mich.:
Gale Group. ISBN 0787639001.
Morishima HO (November 1996). "
Virginia Apgar (1909-1974)". The
Journal of Pediatrics. 129 (5): 768–70.
doi:10.1016/S0022-3476(96)70170-1. PMID 8917248.
Shampo MA, Kyle RA (July 1995). "Virginia Apgar--the Apgar score".
Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 70 (7): 680. doi:10.4065/70.7.680.
Butterfield LJ (September 1994). "Virginia Apgar, MD, MPhH". Neonatal
Network. 13 (6): 81–3. PMID 7854290.
Butterfield LJ (1994). "Virginia Apgar, MD, MPhH (1909-1974)". Journal
of Perinatology. 14 (4): 310. PMID 7965228.
Ignatius J (1993). "
Virginia Apgar 1909-1974" [Virginia Apgar
1909-1974]. Duodecim (in Finnish). 109 (1): 54–5.
Appelgren L (April 1991). "The woman behind the Apgar score. Virginia
Apgar. The woman behind the scoring system for quality control of the
newborn" [The woman behind the Apgar score. Virginia Apgar. The woman
behind the scoring system for quality control of the newborn].
Läkartidningen (in Swedish). 88 (14): 1304–6.
Wilhelmson-Lindell B (October 1990). "
Virginia Apgar Award to Petter
Karlberg. After 45 years of pioneering commission as a pediatrician,
the research on body-soul-environment is tempting" [Virginia Apgar
Award to Petter Karlberg. After 45 years of pioneering commission as a
pediatrician, the research on body-soul-environment is tempting].
Läkartidningen (in Swedish). 87 (40): 3198–200.
Kovács J (September 1989). "In commemoration of Virginia Apgar" [In
commemoration of Virginia Apgar]. Orvosi Hetilap (in Hungarian). 130
(38): 2049–50. PMID 2677904.
Calmes SH (1984). "Virginia Apgar: a woman physician's career in a
developing specialty". Journal of the American Medical Women's
Association. 39 (6): 184–8. PMID 6392395.
Schoenberg DG, Schoenberg BS (January 1977). "Eponym: yes, Virginia,
there is an Apgar score". Southern Medical Journal. 70 (1): 101.
doi:10.1097/00007611-197701000-00046. PMID 320667.
Frey R, Bendixen H (January 1977). "In memoriam Virginia Apgar
1909-1974" [In memoriam
Virginia Apgar 1909-1974]. Der Anaesthesist
(in German). 26 (1): 45. PMID 319701.
James LS (1976). "Dedication to Virginia Apgar, MD". Birth Defects
Original Article Series. 12 (5): xx–xxi. PMID 782603.
James LS (January 1975). "Fond memories of Virginia Apgar".
Pediatrics. 55 (1): 1–4. PMID 1089236.
James LW (December 1974). "Memories of Virginia Apgar". Teratology. 10
(3): 213–5. doi:10.1002/tera.1420100302. PMID 4617325.
Virginia Apgar papers at Mount Holyoke College
National Women's Hall of Fame
Full biography on WhoNamedIt.com
Virginia Apgar Papers – Profiles in Science, National Library of
History of medicine
Timeline of medicine and medical technology
Histories of basic sciences
Histories of medical specialties
Cardiology (invasive and interventional)
Trauma and orthopaedics
Medicine in ancient societies
Egyptian medical papyri
Medieval Western Europe
History of methods in medicine
Disasters and plagues
List of epidemics
Inductees to the National Women's Hall of Fame
Susan B. Anthony
Mary McLeod Bethune
Pearl S. Buck
Margaret Chase Smith
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Helen Brooke Taussig
Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias
Juliette Gordon Low
Elizabeth Bayley Seton
Carrie Chapman Catt
Mary "Mother" Harris Jones
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Ida B. Wells-Barnett
Billie Jean King
Florence B. Seibert
Gertrude Belle Elion
Ethel Percy Andrus
Marian Wright Edelman
Martha Wright Griffiths
Fannie Lou Hamer
Constance Baker Motley
Ellen Swallow Richards
Katherine Siva Saubel
Madam C. J. Walker
Rosalyn S. Yalow
Annie Jump Cannon
Jane Cunningham Croly
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Helen LaKelly Hunt
Zora Neale Hurston
Frances Wisebart Jacobs
Susette La Flesche
Betty Bone Schiess
Elizabeth Hanford Dole
Anne Dallas Dudley
Mary Baker Eddy
Matilda Joslyn Gage
Lillian Moller Gilbreth
Nannerl O. Keohane
Sandra Day O'Connor
Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin
Hannah Greenebaum Solomon
Louisa May Alcott
Charlotte Anne Bunch
Frances Xavier Cabrini
Mary A. Hallaren
Oveta Culp Hobby
Wilhelmina Cole Holladay
Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Ernestine Louise Potowski Rose
Lydia Moss Bradley
Mary Steichen Calderone
Mary Ann Shadd
Mary Ann Shadd Cary
Joan Ganz Cooney
Julia Ward Howe
Shirley Ann Jackson
Katharine Dexter McCormick
Rozanne L. Ridgway
Edith Nourse Rogers
Eunice Kennedy Shriver
Angelina Grimké Weld
Faye Glenn Abdellah
Emma Smith DeVoe
Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Sylvia A. Earle
Leontine T. Kelly
Frances Oldham Kelsey
Anna Howard Shaw
Wilma L. Vaught
Mary Edwards Walker
Annie Dodge Wauneka
Frances E. Willard
Dorothy H. Andersen
Lydia Maria Child
Marian de Forest
Beatrice A. Hicks
Harriet Williams Russell Strong
Emily Howell Warner
Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Mary Engle Pennington
Mercy Otis Warren
Linda G. Alvarado
Donna de Varona
Martha Matilda Harper
Patricia Roberts Harris
Stephanie L. Kwolek
Mildred Robbins Leet
Patsy Takemoto Mink
Sheila E. Widnall
Florence Ellinwood Allen
Ruth Fulton Benedict
Rita Rossi Colwell
Mother Marianne Cope
Maya Y. Lin
Patricia A. Locke
Blanche Stuart Scott
Mary Burnett Talbert
Eleanor K. Baum
Martha Coffin Pelham Wright
Judith L. Pipher
Catherine Filene Shouse
Allie B. Latimer
Rebecca Talbot Perkins
St. Katharine Drexel
Dorothy Harrison Eustis
Loretta C. Ford
Abby Kelley Foster
Helen Murray Free
Coretta Scott King
Barbara A. Mikulski
Donna E. Shalala
Ina May Gaskin
Mary Joseph Rogers
Carlotta Walls LaNier
Mary Harriman Rumsey
Clare Boothe Luce
ISNI: 0000 0000 6392 7