Paul Dudley White

Paul Dudley White (1886 – 1973)

Paul Dudley White (1886 – 1973) was an American cardiologist

A global pioneer in cardiology during the early 1900s

In 1930, White along with Louis Wolff and John Parkinson, described bundle-branch block associated with a short P-R period in healthy young people prone to paroxysmal tachycardia (the Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome)

Honoured on September 15, 1986 on the 3¢ stamp of the Great Americans postage stamp series

He was an advocate for healthy living in preventing cardiac disease, promoting physical exercise, sleep and a nutritious diet. 

Death from a heart attack before the age of 80 is not God’s will, it is man’s will.

Paul Dudley White

  • Born on June 6, 1886 in Massachusetts
  • 1911 – MD, Harvard Medical School
  • 1911-1913 Fellowship in cardiovascular physiology, University College Hospital, London.
  • 1914 – Early proponent of the electrocardiogram. Installed a machine in the basement of the Massachusetts General Hospital
  • 1914-1918 WW1 initially serving for the British Force in France and then the American Expeditionary force and Red Cross in Greece
  • 1919-1949 Cardiologist and Professor of Medicine Massachusetts General Hospital
  • 1922 – Founded the American Heart Association
  • 1931 – Published his hugely popular monograph ‘Heart Disease’ based on 21,160 ECGs collected and reviewed since 1914. The thousand page tome became the standard text on cardiology for decades
  • 1942 – President of American Heart Association
  • 1948 – President of International Society of Cardiology
  • 1955 – Cardiologist to President Dwight D. Eisenhower following his heart attack. White examined the ailing president and reported his findings to the worried nation. He took the opportunity to lecture the country about heart disease, using simple language to describe the illness, its causes and its treatment that it could be understood by the layperson.
  • 1964 – President Johnson presents White with the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Died on October 31, 1973 at 87 years

Medical Eponyms
Wolff–Parkinson–White syndrome (1930)

WPW syndrome is a combination of the presence of a congenital accessory pathway and episodes of tachyarrhythmia.

On April 2, 1928 a young man was referred to Paul Dudley White because his physician was perplexed by the occurrence of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation in a healthy individual. White was preparing for visits to overseas medical centers and took the ECGs with him.

  • Vienna: the tracing was deemed to represent nothing more unusual than bundle-branch block and atrioventricular (AV) nodal rhythm
  • London: Parkinson was interested and found a further seven cases to add to the four from Boston.

1930Wolff L, Parkinson J, and White PD publish the eleven cases as definitive description of the syndrome – ‘Bundle Branch Block with Short P-R Interval in Healthy Young People Prone to Paroxysmal Tachycardia.’ A review of the literature confirmed and acknowledged the previously described cases as above. Wolff, Parkinson, and White erroneously thought that the wide QRS complex was caused by a type of bundle-branch block.

WPW is a combination of the presence of a congenital accessory pathway and episodes of tachyarrhythmia. When recognised in 1930 during a case study of 11 patients, it was first described as:

Functional bundle-branch block and abnormally short P-R interval, occurring mostly in otherwise healthy young people with paroxysms of tachycardia or of auricular fibrillation.

Wolff L, Parkinson J, White PD 
WPW 1930 Fig 6
Fig 6. Case III. WPW 1930

McGinn-White pattern (1935)

SI QIII TIII  pattern on ECG representing right heart strain in an acute pulmonary embolism. McGinn and White first described the so-called S1Q3T3 pattern in five patients with acute cor pulmonale secondary to pulmonary embolism.

(1)The prominent S wave and low origin of the T wave in lead 1, the ST segment starting slightly below the baseline, (2) the gradual staircase ascent of the ST interval from the S wave to the T wave in lead 2, and especially (3) the Q wave and definite late inversion of the T wave in lead 3. 

McGinn S and White PD
McGinn-White pattern 1935 Case 1
Case 1: Fig. 1. Three leads two hours after attack of pulmonary embolism; and Fig. 2. Four weeks after attack. McGinn, White. 1935

Major Publications



Eponymous terms

Dwight D. Eisenhower and Paul Dudley White in 1963
Dwight D. Eisenhower and Paul D. White at the International Cardiology Foundation in NY, 1963

BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

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