Margo A. Peyton

Segregated in Life and Death: Arnold R. Rich and the Racial Science of Tuberculosis

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Posted:
Fri, March 22, 2024

Arnold Rich (1893–1968) was an acclaimed pathologist and the first Jewish department chair at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In his landmark text, The Pathogenesis of Tuberculosis, Rich continued to advance the concept of racial susceptibility to tuberculosis a decade after mainstream medicine recognized that environmental factors fueled the disease. While Rich fits into the historical narrative that embedded categories of race facilitated scientific racism, two characteristics unique to Rich help to explain why he persisted. First were the scientific origins of his theories. While racial theorists sought to prove racial difference through science, Rich used racial difference to prove his outlying theories of tuberculosis immunology. Second was his identity as a prewar Jewish person when America’s focus on a racial binary pressured Jewish Americans to assimilate into white culture. Rich’s life and research exemplify how examining scientific racism through an individual complicates and expands our understanding of how race is constructed in the United States.