Jacob (Jake) T. Wilhite, physician and rabies researcher, was born near Creedmoor, Travis County, Texas, on April 3, 1875, the son of James and Fanny Wilhite, early pioneers in Travis County. He was educated in the public schools of Travis County and attended the University of Texas for two years before enrolling in the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, where he received an M.D. degree in 1903. He served an internship at John Sealy Hospital for a year. In 1905 he accepted a position at the State Hospital for the Insane in Austin (now the Austin State Hospital) as assistant to superintendent Ben M. Worsham; he worked with Worsham and L. H. Kirk to establish the Pasteur Institute of Texas in Austin. Wilhite was placed in charge of the institute six months after it opened and maintained that position until his death. In his rabies research he discovered new methods of diagnosing the disease. While at the institute he treated 12,000 patients believed to have been infected with rabies, and only sixteen died. He also examined thousands of animals suspected of having had the disease. At the time of his death the institute was attracting fifty patients a day. Though known as an aggressive and thorough researcher, Wilhite shunned personal rewards and publicity. During the entire period he was at the institute he never requested a raise in his salary, nor did he ever seek commercial benefits from his work. He also never published the results of his research and treatment of rabies, so many of his findings were lost when he died. He was a member of the Texas Medical Association and a fellow of the American Medical Association. He never married. He died in Austin at Seton Infirmary (see DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY OF ST. VINCENT DE PAUL) on January 27, 1927, from bronchopneumonia after an attack of influenza.
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Austin American, January 28, 1927., Texas State Journal of Medicine, March 1927. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Patricia L. Jakobi,
“Wilhite, Jacob T.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 19, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
August 1, 1995
Most Recent Revision Date:
July 4, 2017
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: