Historical Tidbit: Alfred F. Hess, MD (9 October 1875 to 5 December 1933) and the Prevention of Rickets
Submitted by Alan D. Rogol, MD, Ph.D
Alfred Hess was a pediatrician at the Rockefeller Institute before going into private practice in New York. He determined the underlying factors for rickets, both in rats and children (Am J Pub Health 1922; 12(2):104). He and his colleagues showed that rickets could be prevented with cod liver oil, exposure to UV light and that certain foods could be used to treat rickets after exposure to UV light (Science 1924; 60(1551):269). Three factors determined the anti-rachitic effect of light: the diet, rate of growth and pigmentation of the skin. He used mercury vapor quartz and carbon arc light sources with appropriate filters to determine that it was the UV part of the spectrum that was responsible for light’s anti-rachitic properties.