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Charles V. Chapin Papers

Historical note

Charles V. Chapin (1856-1941) was born in Providence, Rhode Island to Joshua Bicknell Chapin (1814-1881) and Louise (Value) Chapin (1814-1890). His father was a physician and the Commissioner of Public Schools in Rhode Island. He married Anna Augusta (Balch) (1858-1947) on May 6, 1866 and they had a son Howard M. (1887-1940), who was the director of the RI Historical Society Library from1913 until his death in 1940.

Chapin obtained his early education at English and Classical High Schools and then entered Brown University and graduated with an A.B. in 1876. After graduation he studied under Dr. George Wilcox and then continued his education at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Bellevue Hospital and Medical College. In 1879, upon graduating with his M.D., he worked at Bellevue for a year. In 1880, Chapin returned to Providence and started a private practice. He was also a Professor of Physiology at Brown University from 1883 to 1896.

1884 was the year in which Chapin was appointed as Superintendent of Health and he served in that capacity until his retirement in 1932. Chapin had tried to retire in the early 1900s due to poor health, however, after taking a hiatus out of the country, he came back and resumed his position. He also held the job of City Registrar from 1889-1932.

Chapin was well known, nationally and internationally, for his public health work related to contagious diseases, such as diphtheria, scarlet fever, and typhoid. His research showed that contagious diseases were not airborne, but were spread through contact. He was also a prolific writer and lecturer and was a member of many associations and societies. Chapin was the president of the American Public Health Association in 1926 and 1927 and was the first president of the American Epidemiology Society in 1927. He also received the Sedgwick Medal in 1930.

In 1910, he was instrumental in setting up City Hospital, where people who had contagious diseases could get medical care. Currently this former hospital building is a dormitory for Providence College. Chapin died in 1941 and is buried at the Swan Point Cemetery in Providence.