Ben Kean

Last updated

Benjamin H. Kean (c.1912 – 1993) was an American physician, author and researcher, widely known for his treatment of the Shah of Iran. Kean was born in Valparaiso, Indiana, and grew up in West Orange, New Jersey and Manhattan. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, and earned a medical degree at Columbia University. [1] Kean was an expert on tropical and rare diseases. He helped discover the cause of traveler's diarrhea and was also the personal doctor to the Shah of Iran who was in power during the 1970s. [2] Kean was also a medical educator and author. Kean died at the age of eighty-one from colon cancer. [1]

Columbia University private Ivy League research university in New York City

Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in Upper Manhattan, New York City. Established in 1754, Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in New York and the fifth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It is one of nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence, seven of which belong to the Ivy League. It has been ranked by numerous major education publications as among the top ten universities in the world.

Travelers diarrhea disease

Traveler's diarrhea (TD) is a stomach and intestinal infection. TD is defined as the passage of unformed stool while traveling. It may be accompanied by abdominal cramps, nausea, fever, and bloating. Occasionally bloody diarrhea may occur. Most travelers recover within four days with little or no treatment. About 10% of people may have symptoms for a week.

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi 20th-century Shah of Iran

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, also known as Mohammad Reza Shah, was the last Shah of Iran from 16 September 1941 until his overthrow by the Islamic Revolution on 11 February 1979. Mohammad Reza Shah took the title Shahanshah on 26 October 1967 during his coronation ceremony. He was the second and last monarch of the House of Pahlavi. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi held several other titles, including that of Aryamehr and Bozorg Arteshtaran ("Commander-in-Chief"). His dream of what he referred to as a "Great Civilisation" in Iran led to a rapid industrial and military modernisation, as well as economic and social reforms.


Career Summary

After graduating from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, he completed his medical internship & residency at Gorgas Hospital in the Panama Canal Zone. [3] After completion of his residency, he remained on staff at Gorgas Hospital. After the start of World War II, Kean was commissioned into the US Army Medical Corps, but remained at Gorgas Hospital, training US military physicians in tropical diseases. After the war, he was the chief health officer for the German state of Hesse during the American occupation. He reached the rank of lieutenant colonel before demobilization in 1946. [3] After demobilization Kean began a career in academic medicine at Cornell.

Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, colloquially known as P&S and formerly Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, is the graduate professional medical school of Columbia University that is located in the Columbia University Irving Medical Center in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. Founded in 1767 by Samuel Bard as the medical department of King's College, the College of Physicians and Surgeons was the first medical school in the thirteen colonies and hence, the United States, to award the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. Beginning in 1993, P&S also was the first U.S. medical school to hold a white coat ceremony.

Gorgas Hospital Hospital in Panama, Panama

Gorgas Hospital was a U.S. Army hospital in Panama City, Panama, named for Army Surgeon General William C. Gorgas (1854–1920).

Panama Canal Zone Former unincorporated territory of the United States surrounded by the Republic of Panama

The Panama Canal Zone was an unincorporated territory of the United States from 1903 to 1979, centered on the Panama Canal and surrounded by the Republic of Panama. The zone consisted of the canal and an area generally extending five miles (8.0 km) on each side of the centerline, excluding Panama City and Colón, which otherwise would have been partly within the limits of the Zone. Its border spanned three of Panama's provinces. When reservoirs were created to assure a steady supply of water for the locks, those lakes were included within the Zone.

Famous patients and colleagues

Over the years Kean worked with many famous people and leaders. He was a doctor for celebrities such as Oscar Hammerstein, Edna Ferber, Gertrude Lawrence, Martina Navratilova and Salvador Dalí. He was also the personal doctor for the Shah of Iran. During World War II, Kean found that pilots that were shot down in the ocean were being attacked by sharks. He then discussed the dangers with President Roosevelt and as a result, shark repellent was given to pilots to prevent this danger. [1]

Oscar Hammerstein II American librettist, theatrical producer, and (usually uncredited) theatre director of musicals

Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein II was an American librettist, theatrical producer, and theatre director of musicals for almost 40 years. He won eight Tony Awards and two Academy Awards for Best Original Song. Many of his songs are standard repertoire for vocalists and jazz musicians. He co-wrote 850 songs.

Edna Ferber American novelist, short story writer and playwright

Edna Ferber was an American novelist, short story writer and playwright. Her novels included the Pulitzer Prize-winning So Big (1924), Show Boat, Cimarron, Giant and Ice Palace (1958), filmed in 1960.

Gertrude Lawrence English actress, singer, dancer and musical comedy performer

Gertrude Lawrence was an English actress, singer, dancer and musical comedy performer known for her stage appearances in the West End of London and on Broadway in New York.


Kean was known for being an expert doctor on rare diseases, but also got embroiled in controversy. Over the years of working with many people he befriended Tim Garrity who was a major gambler and had ties to organized crime. Kean also became a heavy gambler, and after his bookies operation was raided in 1959, he appeared in many newspapers and had to go to court which led to the end of his gambling. [4] He also was caught in controversy after he was alleged to have played a central role in convincing the United States to allow the deposed Shah of Iran to be admitted into the US for medical treatment. President Carter's decision to allow the Shah entry to the U.S. led to the attack on the embassy in Tehran, Iran, in which 50 hostages were taken by militant Muslims and nationalists. [1] However, Kean denied any such role, to the point of suing the journal Science for libel. In a settlement, Science stated that he had acted both professionally and ethically. [1]

Iran hostage crisis diplomatic standoff between Iran and the United States, 1979–81

The Iran hostage crisis was a diplomatic standoff between Iran and the United States of America. Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981, after a group of Iranian college students belonging to the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line, who supported the Iranian Revolution, took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. It stands as the longest hostage crisis in recorded history.


Although Kean was mainly known for helping cure traveler's disease, he had other accomplishments as well. In an autopsy of the writer Sherwood Anderson, Kean was able to find that the cause of death was from a colon puncture, caused by a toothpick-armed olive swallowed in a round of martinis. He also wrote 175 scientific articles and wrote six books as well. He started the tropical medicine program at Cornell Medical School, where he also became head of the parasitological laboratory. [1]

Ben Kean Medal

The Ben Kean Medal is an honor awarded by the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene to a clinician or educator who impacts the people around them with the same traditions that Ben Kean first proposed. It was created in honor of Ben Kean after his death. The first recipient of the medal is his wife Colette Kean in 1994, and the first society member to receive it was Franklin A. Neva in 1995. [5]

The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) is a non-profit organization of scientists, clinicians, students and program professionals whose longstanding mission is to promote global health through the prevention and control of infectious and other diseases that disproportionately afflict the global poor. ASTMH members work in areas of research, health care and education that encompass laboratory science, international field studies, clinical care and country-wide programs of disease control. The current organization was formed in 1951 with the amalgamation of the American Society of Tropical Medicine, founded in 1903, and the National Malaria Society, founded in 1941.

Franklin Allen Neva was a virologist and physician who discovered Boston exanthem disease, helped isolate rubella virus, and worked with Jonas Salk on the development of the polio vaccine. He was the first member of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene to receive the Ben Kean Medal, in 1995, and also won the Donald Mackay Medal.

Related Research Articles

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine university

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is a public research university on Keppel Street, Bloomsbury, Camden, the constituent college of the University of London that specialises in public health and tropical medicine. On successful completion of their studies, its students gain a University of London degree.

Bailey Ashford American soldier, physician and author

Colonel Bailey K. Ashford was an American physician who had a military career in the United States Army, and afterward taught full-time at the School of Tropical Medicine, which he helped establish in San Juan.

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) is a higher education institution and registered charity located in Liverpool, United Kingdom. Established in 1898, it was the first institution in the world dedicated to research and teaching in tropical medicine. The school has a research portfolio of over £220 million, assisted by funding from organisations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome Trust and Department for International Development (DFID).

Max Theiler South African-American virologist and doctor

Max Theiler was a South African-American virologist and physician. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1951 for developing a vaccine against yellow fever in 1937, becoming the first African-born Nobel laureate.

William C. Gorgas 22nd Surgeon General of the United States Army

William Crawford Gorgas KCMG was a United States Army physician and 22nd Surgeon General of the U.S. Army (1914–1918). He is best known for his work in Florida, Havana and at the Panama Canal in abating the transmission of yellow fever and malaria by controlling the mosquitoes that carry these diseases. At the time, his strategy was greeted with considerable skepticism and opposition to such hygiene measures. However, the measures he put into practice as the head of the Panama Canal Zone Sanitation Commission saved thousands of lives and contributed to the success of the Canal's construction.

Abraham Manie "Abe" Adelstein was a South African born doctor who became the United Kingdom's Chief Medical Statistician.

Patrick Manson Scottish parasitologist

Sir Patrick Manson,, was a Scottish physician who made important discoveries in parasitology, and was the founder of the field of tropical medicine. He graduated from University of Aberdeen with degrees in Master of Surgery, Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Law. His medical career spanned Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, and London. He discovered that filariasis in humans is transmitted by mosquitoes. This is the foundation of modern tropical medicine, and he is recognized with an epithet "Father of Tropical Medicine". His discovery directly invoked the mosquito-malaria theory, which became the foundation in malariology. He eventually became the first President of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. He founded the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Neil Hamilton Fairley Australian physician and soldier

Brigadier Sir Neil Hamilton Fairley, was an Australian physician, medical scientist, and army officer; who was instrumental in saving thousands of Allied lives from malaria and other diseases.

Emily Barringer American ambulance surgeon

Emily Dunning Barringer was the world's first female ambulance surgeon and the first woman to secure a surgical residency.

Panagodage Bertram Fernando LMS (Ceylon) MBBS (London), MD FRCP DTM&H OBE is First Professor of Medicine Ceylon Medical College and Faculty of Medicine University of Colombo. Fernando was educated like Marcus Fernando at St. Benedict's College, Colombo. He was awarded a Government scholarship to the Ceylon Medical College in 1918 and qualified with L.M.S. (Ceylon) in 1923. In 1930 he attended University College Hospital, London, M.B. B.S. (1931) and obtaining MRCP in 1932 and the diploma in tropical medicine and hygiene. He was awarded an M.D. in 1951, and elected F.R.C.P. in 1952, the first Ceylonese to be awarded that distinction.

Edward Ford (physician) Australian soldier, academic and physician

Colonel Sir Edward Ford, was an Australian soldier, academic and physician. He played an important role in the anti-malaria campaign in the South West Pacific Area during the Second World War, and in preventative medicine in Australia after the war, but is best known for his Bibliography of Australian Medicine.

Charles Cassedy Bass (1875–1975) was a medical doctor and researcher on tropical medicine with significant contributions to understanding malaria, hookworm, and other diseases. Later Bass studied the relationship between dental health and the general well-being. Bass articulated and promoted the "Bass Technique of Toothbrushing" and developed improved means of flossing teeth, for which some refer to Bass as "The Father of Preventive Dentistry". He subsequently became a university administrator, serving as dean of the Tulane University School of Medicine, from 1922 to 1940. Photographs of Bass are available for on-line viewing.

Philip Manson-Bahr English zoologist and medical doctor

Sir Philip HenryManson-Bahr, MA Cantab, MB BChir, MD, MRCP, FRCP was an English zoologist and physician known for his contributions to tropical medicine. He changed his birth name to Manson-Bahr after marrying Edith Margaret Manson, daughter of the doyen of tropical medicine Sir Patrick Manson. Following his father-in-law, he devoted much of his career to tropical medicine. He was a Consulting Physician, and held high offices at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and at the London Hospital. He was knighted in 1941.

Joseph Masci American physician, educator and author

Joseph Masci is an American physician, educator and author based in Elmhurst, New York City. He is Professor of Medicine and Professor of Preventive Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He served as the Director of Department of Medicine at the Elmhurst Hospital Center from 2002 through 2017 when he became Chairman of the Department of Global Health.

Rabindra Nath Chaudhuri (1901–1981) was an Indian physician, medical academic and the director of the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine. Born in West Bengal in 1901, he graduated in medicine from the University of Calcutta before securing his MRCP degree from the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the degree of TDD from Wales. He started his career as an assistant professor at the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine in 1934 where he became a professor in 1945 and the director of the institution in 1950 before superannuating in 1966. He also served at Carmichael Hospital for Tropical Diseases as a Superintendent and Senior Physician.

Michele Barry is Director of the Stanford University Center for Innovation in Global Health, and in 2018 was awarded the Elizabeth Blackwell Medal by the American Medical Women's Association.

Sir (Ambrose) Thomas Stanton was a Canadian surgeon, entomologist and health administrator who helped to identify the cause of beri-beri. He later became Chief Medical Adviser to the British Secretary of State for the Colonies.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Lambert, Bruce (September 26, 1993). "Benjamin H. Kean, Shah's Physician, Dies at 81". The New York Times . Retrieved November 4, 2009.
  2. "Dr. Kean Remembered at Symposium on Tropical Medicine & Infectious Diseases". Cornell University. Retrieved November 19, 2009.
  3. 1 2
  4. Deaton, John (February 11, 1990). "The Rich Are Just Like You and Me - Sick". The New York Times. Retrieved November 19, 2009.
  5. "Ben Kean Medal". American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Archived from the original on December 4, 2010. Retrieved November 19, 2009.