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George E. Burch Papers 1882-1986 (bulk 1920-1986)
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Biography

Biographical Note

George E. Burch (1910-1986) was born in Edgard, LA. and was an internationally known cardiologist. He received his bachelor (1927) and medical degrees (1933) from Tulane University. He joined the Tulane medical faculty after graduation, advancing rapidly to become Henderson Professor and Chairman of the Department of Medicine in 1947. He became Professor Emeritus in 1975.

Burch was especially interested in the venous system, which led him to develop a phlebomanometer for measuring venous and tissue pressure in extremely small veins (1936). In 1945, even before the creation of the Atomic Energic Commission, Burch performed the first studies of biologic decay rates in humans. Working with the National Bureau of Standards, he helped establish regulations and safety measures for use of radioisotopes in humans and for radioisotope measuring equipment.

He also conducted pioneering studies in vectocardiography, leading to the creation of standard factors on the spatial ventricular gradient and spatial vectocardiogram of normal and diseased hearts. His studies led to new insights into the electrocardiogram and the description of new patterns of high basal myocardial infarction, localized myocardial hypertrophy, and apical myocardial infarction. His work in this field elevated his research status to international levels, as well as helping to establish Tulane as a leader in cardiology research.

In 1958, he participated in the first space mission to send primates into orbit. His work involved analyzing heart function data telemetered from the Jupiter space mission that sent Able and Baker, two squirrel monkeys, into space. Burch also maintained an interest in bioclimotology throughout his career. He devised several techniques for measuring water loss from the lungs and skin. His studies showed the importance of air conditioning for recovering cardiac patients and others with chronic diseases. He also devised a graphic method for recording pressure-volume loops directly from the heart, making it theoretically possible to obtain details about the tension and power output of the heart, and thus describe many of the theretofore unknown mechanical properties of the heart.

Burch contributions towards the knowledge of congestive heart failure, venous tone, medical climatology, medical peculiarities of the heart as a pump, electrocardiography, cardiomypothies and medical instrumentation have led to the publication of over 840 papers and 12 books on cardiac diseases. His Primer on Electrocardiography (1945) is considered a classic. Active as a consultant for many organizations, he was honored by the American Heart Association with the James B. Herrick Award in 1977. He received the Distinguished Fellowship Award from the American College of Cardiology in 1984.