Virginia Apgar (1909-1974)

Virginia Apgar



Virginia Apgar is a physician and obstetrical anesthesiologist from United States. She was born on June 7 of 1909 in Westfield, a town in Union County, New Jersey in United States. She developed the 'Apgar Score' system to test the health of newborn infants by delivery room personnel. In 1994 she was honored on a United States postage stamp as pat of the 'Great Americans' series.



Ms. Apgar died on August 7, 1974 at her age of 65. She was a leader in the fields of anesthesiology and teratology, and effectively founded the field of neonatology. Dr. Virginia Apgar did not fear a challange. An anesthesiologist by training, she climbed the ranks at New York's Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in the 1930's and 40's, when anesthesiology wasn't recognized as a medical specialty. In 1949, she moved onto neonatal medicine, where she began to dedicate herself to saving the lives of babies.


As a young women pursuing a career in the medical field Apgar overcame financial difficulties and discrimination to become a pioneering researcher and educator. She went on to graduate fourth in her class from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York City. She was only one of nine women in the class of 1933. Apgar was encouraged to study anesthesiology and became interested in the field of obstetrical anesthesia where she would make her greatest contributions. She also held a master's degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University, worked for the March of Dimes as the head of its new congenital malformations division in the 1950s, and went on to become what is said to be the first medical professor to specialize in birth defects as a professor at Cornell University.

Personal Information


Virginia was born to Charles Emery Apgar and Helen May Clarke Apgar. Charles Emery Apgar and Lawrence Clarke Apgar were her brother and sister.


Apgar was also an early expert in the area of birth defects. In 1952 Apgar developed the standardized method for evaluating an infant's health at birth based on appearance, heart rate, reflex irritability, muscle tone, and respiration. Still in worldwide use, the Apgar test enables medical staff to quickly assess a newborn's condition and initiate treatment if necessary.

Virginia authored the book, "Is My Baby All Rights," with journalist Joan Beck in 1972. She also learned to fly a single engine plane in her 50s. She is among the women included in a forthcoming book honoring Western Massachusetts women that is part of The Republican's history series.







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