Deborah I. Levine, PhD
Acknowledgment: The author thanks A. Licia Carlson, Scott H. Podolsky, David S. Jones, and Jeremy A. Greene for insightful comments during the preparation of this manuscript and Allan M. Brandt, Charles E. Rosenberg, Nancy F. Cott, Alisha M. Rankin, Conevery B. Valencius, and Elly R. Truitt for helpful comments during the overall research and preparation of this material.
Grant Support: By Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, and Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Program “Modeling Interdisciplinary Inquiry” at Washington University in St. Louis.
Potential Conflicts of Interest: Disclosures can be viewed at www.acponline.org/authors/icmje/ConflictOfInterestForms.do?msNum=M13-0682.
Requests for Single Reprints: Deborah I. Levine, PhD, Providence College, 1 Cunningham Square Providence, RI 02918; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author Contributions: Conception and design: D.I. Levine.
Analysis and interpretation of the data: D.I. Levine.
Drafting of the article: D.I. Levine.
Critical revision of the article for important intellectual content: D.I. Levine.
Final approval of the article: D.I. Levine.
Provision of study materials or patients: D.I. Levine.
Statistical expertise: D.I. Levine.
Obtaining of funding: D.I. Levine.
Administrative, technical, or logistic support: D.I. Levine.
Collection and assembly of data: D.I. Levine.
This article analyzes the letters exchanged as part of the clinical weight management of President William H. Taft, one of the first public figures in U.S. history to be defined popularly in terms of his pathologic obesity. In 1905, Taft hired Dr. Nathaniel E. Yorke-Davies, an English diet expert, to supervise a weight-loss plan. Taft corresponded extensively with Yorke-Davies over the next 10 years, receiving and responding to courses of treatment via post. This correspondence is one of the few archival collections documenting physician and patient perspectives on the treatment of obesity, and it took place at the precise moment when obesity began to be framed as both a serious and medically manageable condition. This intimate clinical history of the 27th president and 10th chief justice of the Supreme Court offers a unique opportunity to examine in detail the history of the obesity experience in the United States, and it sheds light on the almost-timeless challenges of creating and maintaining long-term treatment courses for conditions like obesity.
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Levine DI. Corpulence and Correspondence: President William H. Taft and the Medical Management of Obesity. Ann Intern Med. 2013;159: 565-570. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-159-8-201310150-00012
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2013;159(8): 565-570.
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Print ISSN: 0003-4819 | Online ISSN: 1539-3704
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