The Origin of Pediatrics

For the vast majority of human history, doctors cared for the young and old alike without any particular specializations.  Though some medical practitioners made reference to or wrote about issues that commonly affect children, there was no specific field dedicated to childhood medical care.  It was not until recent centuries that we began to recognize the special difficulties and unique needs that children may have with regards to medical care.


In 1778, a Frenchwoman named Suzanne Curchod, wife of French finance minister Jacques Necker, saw to the refitting of an old monastery into a Catholic hospital known as Hospice de Charité, a religious-run establishment that was seen as a place for the poor to receive care and their last rites before expiring.  In 1802, the government’s General Hospices Council established a nearby space as a hospital explicitly for the needs of children (the neighboring organizations would fully merge in 1920), the Hôpital des Enfants Malades, literally “Hospital for Sick Children.” What is now known as the Necker-Hospital for Sick Children is officially recognized as the first pediatric hospital in the world, and it still operates, a teaching hospital in the middle of Paris. 

At the dawn of the 20th century, King’s College London School of Medicine alum George Frederic Still published his doctoral thesis on juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, today called Still’s disease.  Still would later serve as the first professor of childhood disease at the college, publishing several volumes on the subject.  His Common Disorders and Diseases of Children is a foundational textbook on the practice, and his 1931 publication, The History of Paediatrics: The Progress of the Study of Diseases of Children up to the End of the XVIIIth Century is a well-researched and accurate tome of the early practices of the form.

Modern pediatric practice in the United States truly began in the 1930s.  The formation of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Detroit, MI, at the top of the decade was followed up in 1933 with the creation the certifying American Board of Medical Specialties. The American Board of Pediatrics--a joint venture between the AAP, the American Pediatric Society and the American Medical Association Section on Diseases of Children, was among the first certifying groups included.  It continues to protect the integrity of pediatric practice in America.

The Children’s Clinic is a professional association of pediatricians that have been providing the people of Tennessee with quality care for decades.  Our highly qualified staff offers compassionate, personalized care from birth through the teenage years.  Our office is located at 264 Coatsland Drive in Jackson, TN.  You can reach us by calling 731-423-1500 or via our website,