William Augustus Hinton

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William Augustus Hinton


William A. Hinton (1883-1959) was born on December 15, 1883 in Chicago, Illinois. His parents were both enslaved. He entered Harvard College in 1902 and graduated in 1905. Between undergrad and medical school, Hinton taught at Walden University in Nashville, Tennessee, the Agricultural and Mechanical College in Langston, Oklahoma, and at Meharry Medical College, and continued his own education during the summer at the University of Chicago. He entered Harvard Medical School in 1909 and completed his degree in 1912. Hinton was awarded the Hayden scholarship, reserved for African American students, but turned it down and competed and was awarded the Wigglesworth Scholarship.

He wanted to specialize in surgery, but after being denied the opportunity by Boston-area hospitals, he turned to research. In 1912, he began working part time as a volunteer assistant in the Department of Pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and for three years performed autopsies on all persons suspected of having syphilis. He then worked at the Wassermann Laboratory which was the Massachusetts State Laboratory for communicable diseases at Harvard Medical School. In 1915, the Wassermann Laboratory was transferred from Harvard Medical School to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and Hinton was appointed Assistant Director of the Division of Biologic Laboratories and Chief of the Wassermann Laboratory, a position he served for 38 years.

Dr. Hinton began teaching at HMS in 1918 as Instructor in Preventive Medicine and Hygiene, and in 1921, his responsibilities expanded to include Bacteriology and Immunology. He was appointed Instructor in Bacteriology and Immunology in 1946, twenty five years after his first appointment. He was promoted to Clinical Professor in 1949 – the first African-American Professor at Harvard University. He only gained promotion one year before his retirement.


Harvard University Archives. HUP Hinton, William Augustus (1a).Photo order number 10964.


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“William Augustus Hinton,” OnView: Digital Collections & Exhibits, accessed January 25, 2021, https://collections.countway.harvard.edu/onview/items/show/18162.

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