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H. Gideon Wells was the tenth president of the American Association of Immunologists, serving from 1923 to 1924. A faculty member in the Department of Pathology at the University of Chicago from 1904 to 1940, Wells established himself as one of the leading authorities in the United States on the chemical aspects of pathology and immunology.
Wells received his M.D. from Rush Medical College in 1898. After a year-long medical internship at Cook County Hospital (1898–1899), he returned to Rush as a fellow in pathology (1899–1900) under Ludvig Hektoen (AAI ’19, president 1926–1927). Wells briefly maintained a private practice (1900–1901) but closed its doors in 1901 when Hektoen, who was appointed chair of the Department of Pathology at the University of Chicago earlier in the year, offered him the opportunity to join the department staff as an associate. Wells became an instructor in 1902 and simultaneously took courses in the department, earning his Ph.D. in 1903. He joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 1904 but immediately took a leave of absence to complete a postdoctoral fellowship in Berlin under organic chemist Emil Fischer (1904–1905). In 1905, he returned to the University of Chicago, where he rose to associate professor (1909–1913) and professor (1913–1940). While on the University of Chicago faculty, Wells also served as founding director of the Otto S. A. Sprague Memorial Institute in Chicago (1911–1940), overseeing research in a variety of areas, most notably, cancer genetics and tuberculosis chemotherapy. During and immediately after the First World War, Wells led two Red Cross commissions to Romania (1917, 1918–1919), using his administrative and medical knowledge to combat typhus and famine. Upon his return to the University of Chicago after the war, Wells took on increasingly greater administrative responsibilities under Hektoen and, in 1925, became department chair, a position he held until his retirement in 1940, when he was succeeded by Paul R. Cannon (AAI ’29, president 1941–1942). Wells died of heart failure on April 26, 1943, in Billings Hospital in Chicago after undergoing an operation to remove a carcinoma of the cecum.
Councillor: 1920–1923, 1924–1927
The Journal of Immunology
Board of Editors: 1916–1935
"The Chemical Basis of Immunological Specificity," Delivered April 17, 1924
The Journal of Immunology 9, no. 4 (1924): 291–307.