I was honored to know Dr. Hingson and his wife Gussie, through a family connection, and was truly awed by the man’s genius, even when I was a teenager. Gussie was a lifelong friend of an older cousin, and I have many letters and Christmas cards they exchanged over the years.
The New York Times noted in their obituary of Dr. Hingson in 1996: Robert Andrew Hingson [was] a pioneer in the field of public health who made important contributions to anesthesia for safer, easier childbirth and to mass immunizations with the ”jet” injection…[his] fame was assured well before this relief work. His invention of continuous caudal — posterior — anesthesia and perfection of lumbar epidural anesthesia to prevent pain in childbirth earned him worldwide recognition.
Both techniques are credited with reducing maternal and infant mortality around the world. Dr. Hingson began epidural and jet injections as a fledgling physician when he was the director of anesthesia at the United States Marine Hospital on Staten Island from 1941 to 1943.
His jet injector speeded mass inoculations against many diseases, without needles or syringes. Hundreds of people could be inoculated in an hour, making the injector a vital tool in eradicating small pox.
In 1962 Dr. Hingson led a team that immunized a million people against smallpox in Liberia. In 1967 his foundation vaccinated 846,000 people against smallpox in Costa Rica and immunized people there against epidemics of measles and polio…