Harvey Grant Taylor, pioneer pediatric oncologist and early administrator of the University of Texas M .D. Anderson Cancer Center, was born on July 22, 1903, in San Francisco, California, to Benjamin Rush Taylor and Stella May (Benson) Taylor. When Taylor was five, his father moved his family from California to the Canadian wilderness northwest of Calgary, where Taylor began his early education by way of books gleaned from his parents’ home library. At the age of twelve, Taylor began his formal schooling when his family moved back to California. He graduated from Campbell Union High School in 1923. With a budding interest in radio communications, Taylor enrolled at San Jose State Teachers College (now San Jose State University) and earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1928. In 1929 he graduated with a master of arts in education from Stanford and proceeded to earn a medical degree from Duke University School of Medicine in 1939. Immediately following graduation, Taylor began an internship on the Howland Ward, a pediatric ward at the Duke University Hospital (1939–40) and completed his residency training at Duke University in 1940.
In 1941 Taylor accepted a position as research assistant and resident pediatrician at the Alfred I. Du Pont Institute for Children (Du Pont Institute) in Wilmington, Delaware (1941–42). While employed there, he became aware of a failed agreement between the Du Pont Institute and the U.S. Navy Medical Corps over data proprietorship. As a result, Taylor enlisted in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in 1942 and was assigned to Lawson General Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. Between 1942 and 1946 Taylor was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, where he studied unusual diseases affecting the civilian population, in particular, the effects of a bite from Habu snakes and the high incidence of Japanese B encephalitis. He received the Bronze Star and a battlefield promotion during World War II and was discharged with the rank of colonel.
Following his discharge from the U. S. Army in 1946, Taylor returned to Duke University, where he was appointed assistant professor of pediatrics, assistant professor of bacteriology, and assistant dean at the Duke University School of Medicine. Between 1947 and 1949 Taylor was promoted to associate professor of pediatrics and associate dean of the Medical School. In 1949 he stepped away from his duties at Duke University to return to Japan on a special assignment for the U.S. Armed Forces Epidemiological Board. That same year, Taylor was appointed as the deputy medical director for research with the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) in Hiroshima. The commission was established to explore the medical effects of the atomic bomb. In 1952 he was appointed director of the ABCC and served in that capacity until 1954. Taylor later credited his work on the commission, along with the past war effort in general, for his support for collaborative efforts regarding cancer research.
By 1954, following his departure from the ABCC, Taylor moved to Houston where he accepted a position as dean of the University of Texas Postgraduate School of Medicine (preceptor to the University of Texas Health Science Center), professor of pediatrics and chief of the pediatric department at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute (currently M.D. Anderson Cancer Center), and clinical professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine.
At M.D. Anderson Hospital, Taylor created a new kind of environment for children hospitalized with cancer. He helped establish new models of care called the “Living-In” and “Family-Centered Program,” that enabled parents to reside in the hospital with their children. The primary objectives of the programs were to address the social and emotional needs of young patients by providing parents the opportunity to more fully participate in their child’s care, encourage family ties, and help make the hospital an extension of the family’s home. He also created parent support groups after observing that the sharing of experiences with childhood illness provided families a level of moral support and assistance that hospital staff could not offer to the same degree. Innovative for their time, Taylor’s programs helped set the standard of care for pediatric patients in the United States. He was also the first to establish interracial pediatric wards at M.D. Anderson and ensured schooling be provided to hospitalized children.
In the late 1950s Taylor organized the Southwest Cancer Chemotherapy Study Group (which later became the Southwest Oncology Group). Additionally, he became director of the Division of Continuing Education at the University of Texas Health Science Center in 1964.
In 1968 Taylor retired as the head of the department of pediatrics at M.D. Anderson Hospital. He was named emeritus professor of pediatrics and emeritus director of the Division of Continuing Education at the University of Texas Health Science Center in 1977. In 1980 fellow physician and colleague John P. McGovern established an endowed annual Grant Taylor Lectureship at the Texas Medical Center in honor of Taylor’s humanistic practice of medicine. Following his retirement from M.D. Anderson, Taylor spearheaded a program that utilized funds accrued from recycling aluminum around the hospital toward the development of research initiatives in the field of pediatric oncology. He also taught pediatric care to medical students at Houston’s Community Health Clinic.
Taylor’s memberships included the Pediatric Research Society, Harris County Medical Society, Royal Academy of Medicine, and New York Academy of Science. The Texas Pediatric Society honored Taylor with the Sidney R. Kaliski Award of Merit in 1986 for his contributions to the welfare of children. During his career, he wrote numerous scientific articles and in 1990 published Pioneers in Pediatric Oncology.
Harvey Grant Taylor died at the age of ninety-two his home in Houston on September 19, 1995. His wife Martha Worth Rogers Taylor predeceased him. He was survived by two sons, Worth and Grant Jr.