Joseph Hersey Pratt (1872-1956) was a member of the second class of the Johns Hopkins Medical School, where he became a devoted student of William Osler and life-long disciple. Pratt received his medical degree in 1898 and spent his professional career in Boston. He maintained a close association with Osler until the latter's death in 1919, when Osler's deification as a secular medical saint began. When Pratt died in 1956 at age 83, the Boston Globe eulogized him in an editorial which read, "Dr. Pratt earned a place in the group of Boston medical immortals who have done so much to raise the whole standard of medicine in this country" (Figure 1).
Pratt made two significant contributions to American medicine: (1) he originated the medical practice of group therapy; and (2) he helped establish Boston's New England Medical Center. In the 1930s he also pioneered there a novel, non-analytical approach for treating psychoneuroses, but this contribution has been obscured by later more enterprising psychologists and psychiatrists who from 1960s on publicized their own forms of what now is termed behavioral psychotherapy. This essay reviews briefly Pratt's career, focuses mainly on his several medical contributions, and compares the lives of these two memorable physicians.
Ambrose, Charles T., "Joseph Hersey Pratt, M.D.: The Man Who Would Be Osler" (2011). Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics Faculty Publications. 44.