James T. Bradbury, Sc.D.

James Bradbury

1906 - 2004

James Thomas Bradbury, honorary Fellow of the Society, died February 25, 2004, in Bozeman, Montana, in the 98th year of a remarkable life as a major source of the scientific basis of obstetrics and gynecology.

After graduating in bacteriology and botany from Montana State College, Jim went to the University of Michigan where he received the Doctor of Science degree in zoology in 1932. His doctoral thesis concerned endocrine factors influencing mammary development and secretion and it made him curious about human lactation, so he made an appointment with the newly named professor of obstetrics and gynecology, Norman F. Miller. Doctor Miller was unable to provide much in the way of answers, but he was impressed enough to make an offer: "How would you like a job to answer your own questions?" This fortuitous meeting led to a career in academic obstetrics and gynecology that would extend, with one brief interruption, over the next 42 years.

In 1944 Jim moved to the University of Iowa where, except for a 3- year sojourn to the University of Louisville, he spent the next 30 years. His laboratory at Iowa became known for its research productivity as well as for endocrine and other assays useful in clinical practice. He probably considered his most important basic research to be the demonstration of a direct effect of estrogen on ovarian growth and maturation in the hypophysectomized rat. He was a full participant in the department—for example, he played a key role in establishing Iowa's Pap smear screening program -- and he progressed up the academic ladder to Professor in 1956. Generations of Iowa medical and graduate students, residents, and fellows found him an inspiring teacher and a marvelous repository of knowledge of endocrinology.

Particularly noteworthy among his many research contributions are those made in collaboration with clinical colleagues. He and Willis E. Brown demonstrated ovulation inhibition with cyclic stilbestrol administration in women, anticipating by more than a decade the advent of oral contraceptives. He and Raymond G. Bunge, a urologist, made important original observations on intersex cases. He worked with C. P. Goplerud and Charles A. White on developing and perfecting several means of fetal assessment in high-risk pregnancy. A collaboration with William C. Keettel was his most productive; using methods crude by today's standards, they were among the first to demonstrate the high LH levels characteristic of polycystic ovary syndrome and their description of the endocrinology of puerperal lactation (presented as Keettel's candidate thesis to the American Gynecological Society) has been essentially confirmed by more modern methodology.

Jim's contributions to his adopted specialty were appreciated and recognized. His election as Associate Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 1953 was the fourth award of that distinction, and he received the College's Distinguished Service Award in 1977. He also held honorary memberships in the American Gynecological Society (and thus in AGOS) and the Central Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. He was instrumental in the beginnings of the Society of Gynecologic Investigation and served as its seventh president. In 1985 the SGI recognized him with its Distinguished Scientist Award, an accolade fittingly shared with Leon Chesley. Jim served on study sections of the National Institutes of Health several times, as well as on editorial boards of several journals.

Jim retired from the University of Iowa in 1974, but this magnificent mind was not about to be, in his words, put out to pasture. On moving to Bozeman, Montana, he found that Montana State College was one of the University of Washington's WAMI campuses and had a need to teach first year medical students. Thus, he began another career, as the faculty member responsible for teaching the endocrinology portion of the physiology course. Commenting how much fun it was to learn all that was new with respect to insulin, thyroid and other non-reproductive hormones, he expressed a joy of learning that marked him as the quintessential scholar.

His inquiring mind was never more evident than in letters to colleagues. They contained newsy items, but the main thrust typically was an issue he was pondering, usually triggered by something he had just read. (Yes, he did read current journals as well as meeting programs until he was well into his nineties.) My last letter from him came in February 2001, as he was nearing 95. Noting an abstract in the current program of the Endocrine Society, he wondered if estrogen implanted into the polycystic ovary might mature the granulosa cells to produce aromatase and thereby convert the excess testosterone of thecal origin to estradiol.

Perhaps Jim Bradbury is best epitomized by something his colleague Bill Keettel wrote at Jim's retirement from the University of Iowa: "He has commanded the respect of medical students, residents, staff and practicing obstetricians and gynecologists, not only for his basic research, his broad knowledge of endocrinology and as a teacher, but above all as a wonderful, kindly, thoughtful friend."

Katherine, his beloved wife of 70 years, preceded him in death by 3 years. A sister, two sons, six grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren survive.

He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.
Hamlet. Act I, Scene 2, Line 187

Submitted by Roy M. Pitkin, M.D.

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