Smith, Allen John (1863–1926)

By: Chester R. Burns

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: July 1, 1995

Allen John Smith, physician, college professor, and administrator, was born in York, Pennsylvania, on December 8, 1863, the son of Gibson and Susan (Fahs) Smith. He attended York Academy and received bachelor's (1883) and master's (1886) degrees from Gettysburg College, as well as a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania (1886). After postgraduate hospital training at the Philadelphia Hospital, Smith simultaneously engaged in private practice and taught pathology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. In the late 1880s he was awarded the Medical News prize for his discovery of Bacillus coeruleus. When the University of Texas Medical Branch opened in 1891, Smith became its first professor of pathology and bacteriology. He also taught histology, neuropsychiatry, and medical jurisprudence. Smith was a popular teacher. When he received offers from the University of Pennsylvania, UTMB students persuaded him to remain in Galveston for three additional years. He served as UTMB's dean in 1897–98 and between 1901–03. Although mostly a teacher and administrator, Smith did some research in Galveston. He and Marie Charlotte Schaefer demonstrated that the hookworm was a significant parasite in the feces of medical students. He also wrote a student text, Lessons and Laboratory Exercises in Bacteriology, in 1902. Smith was instrumental in organizing the first fraternity at UTMB, a chapter of Alpha Mu Pi Omega. In 1903 he became professor of pathology at the University of Pennsylvania, a position he held until his death. Between 1909 and 1912 he also served as dean of the medical faculty at his alma mater. He served during World War I at Camp Dix and Camp Pike. He received LL.D. degrees from McGill University in 1911 and Gettysburg College in 1921. Smith married Harriet W. Brooke in 1888, and they had a son. After her death in 1896, Smith married Pearl L. Pearce in 1899. He died on August 19, 1926, and was buried at Gettysburg. He willed his 2,000-volume library to UTMB. That library became a nucleus for UTMB's outstanding collection of rare medical books.

Daniel's Texas Medical Journal, October 1892. The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston: A Seventy-five Year History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967). Who Was Who in America, Vol. 1.
  • Education
  • Educators
  • Medical
  • Health and Medicine
  • University Presidents and School Administrators
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • School Founders
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • General Practitioners

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Chester R. Burns, “Smith, Allen John,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995

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