University of Minnesota

“If It Isn’t Fun.” – “The Lab”

I first arrived at “The Lab” on a blustery October afternoon in 1953 at the South Tower of Memorial Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. There I parked my green 1941 Chevy coupe in the only open space and started walking eastward around the concourse toward Gate 27, the main entrance to the Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene (LPH). Abruptly, from behind, I was accosted by an Ichabod Crane-like figure who quickly got in step with me, then wheezed in my ear, “Just what’s your business at the stadium, young fellow?” His wasn’t a friendly tone.

I replied that I had an appointment with Professor Ernst Simonson to talk about a research project and asked if he might help me locate the professor. From then on, for a long time, I felt that I was held suspect by physiologist Henry Longstreet Taylor. At least that day I had met his minimal criterion for entry into the sanctum sanctorum: I had legitimate business there. In my old car, battered Bavarian hat and Navy overcoat, I surely didn’t cut a picture of distinction. I was to learn later how jealously the staff had to guard its meager parking space, so I came eventually to understand the edge of hostility at my first meeting with ol’ HLT.

Under Simonson’s tutelege, I became involved in the electrocardiographic and physiologic researches of the laboratory during the course of my medicine fellowship at the university. I then returned to the LPH in a six-month research rotation in 1954 and became physician to the Lab’s pioneering cohort study of heart disease among Twin Cities business and professional men, and then to Henry Taylor’s first field study on risk among Minneapolis firemen. This liaison led to my being invited to join the staff as research fellow when my residency was completed in 1956. I am still there, 40-some years later.

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