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Dr. Louise Pearce
(1885 - 1959) U.S.A.

Louise Pearce

Medical researcher


Born in Winchester, Massachusetts, Louise Pearce graduated from Stanford with a bachelor's degree in physiology in 1907, an unusual degree for a woman student at that time. She attended Boston University School of Medicine, and after two years transferred to John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. Louise Pearce was awarded her M.D. degree at Johns Hopkins in 1912.

Pearce was one of the foremost women scientists of the early 20th century, a physician and pathologist at the Rockefeller Institute who helped develop a treatment for African sleeping sickness (trypanosomiasis).

In 1920, when a severe outbreak of the disease broke out in the Belgian Congo, (Zaire), Dr. Pearce, then 35 years old and attracted by the adventures of field research, volunteered to go alone to Leopoldville to test the new drug. Studying the effect of each dose of tryparsamide on more than seventy patients, Pearce saw the parasites were completely eradicated within a few weeks of the treatment.

Tryparsamide cured more than 100,000 Africans who had contracted sleeping sickness. Belgian officials, impressed and grateful for her results, awarded her the Ancient Order of the Crown of Belgium and elected her a member of the Belgian Society of Tropical Medicine. Three decades later, in 1953, she was called to Brussels to receive the King Leopold II prize, the Royal Order of the Lion, and a check for ten thousand dollars.

Later in her career Pearce did research on on susceptibility and resistance to infection, work which was a direct precursor of Baruj Benacerraf's Nobel-prize-winning discovery of immune response genes in the 1960s. Pearce spent her last years at Trevanna Farm, in Skillmann, New Jersey, a home she shared with author Ida A. R. Wylie and the noted New York City public health physician S. Josephine Baker. Dr. Pearce died in the summer of 1959 after a short illness.


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