Elmer Belt

Elmer Belt (April 10, 1893 – May 17, 1980) was an American urologist, surgeon and pioneer in sex reassignment surgery. He was also known as a collector of works relating to Leonardo da Vinci that now reside in the University of California, Los Angeles Library System.

Elmer Belt
Born(1893-04-10)April 10, 1893
DiedMay 17, 1980(1980-05-17) (aged 87)
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine
Academic advisorsHerbert McLean Evans

Early life and educationEdit

Arthur Elmer Belt was born April 10, 1893. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1916, a master's degree in 1917 and a doctorate in 1920. Belt was a member of the first class taught by Herbert McLean Evans.[1]


Dr. Belt was associate professor of urology and clinical professor of surgery at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine. Dr. Belt began performing male to female sex change operations after being contacted by Dr. Harry Benjamin.[2] Before the Christine Jorgensen story became headline news, Belt had been quietly performing sex changes for a few years. He performed primarily male-to-female operations but did perform a few female-to-male. Some of his most well known patients were Patricia Morgan,[3] Mario Martino and Aleshia Brevard. After family pressure, Dr. Belt finally ceased performing sex change operations in 1962.

Dr. and Mrs. Belt gave some notable collections to Los Angeles-area academic libraries:

  • The Upton Sinclair Collection, given to the Occidental College Library in 1950[4]
  • The UCLA Elmer Belt Florence Nightingale Collection to the UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library in 1958
  • The Elmer Belt Library of Vinciana about Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance,[5] given to the UCLA Arts Library in 1961.

Personal lifeEdit

Belt married the former Mary Ruth Smart in 1919. The couple had two sons, Charles Elmer and Bruce Gregory.

Dr. Belt died on May 17, 1980, aged 87.[6][7]

Published worksEdit

  • Belt, Elmer (1955), Leonardo the anatomist, Logan Clendening lectures on the history and philosophy of medicine, Ser. 4, Univ. of Kansas Press, OCLC 255148312
  • Belt, Elmer (1937), Surgical teaching through motion pictures, A. R. Fleming co, OCLC 58932480

Awards and honorsEdit

  • 1951: honorary Phi Beta Kappa key[8]
  • 1962: honorary Doctor of Laws degree, University of California, Los Angeles[9]
  • 1972: Sir Thomas More Medal for Book Collecting, University of San Francisco
  • 1977: Aesculapian Award, University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine[10]


  1. ^ "Herbert McLean Evans". Biographical Memoirs. 45. National Academy of Sciences. 1974. p. 162. ISBN 978-0-309-02239-2.
  2. ^ Meyerowitz, Joanne (2004). How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Harvard University Press. pp. 142–146. ISBN 978-0-674-01379-7.
  3. ^ Stryker, Susan; Whittle, Stephen (2006). The Transgender Studies Reader. CRC Press. p. 312. ISBN 978-0-415-94709-1. For Patricia Morgan, who underwent surgery with Elmer Belt in 1961 and 1962, the first operation lasted around eight hours.
  4. ^ "Strength and Variety in Library at Oxy Credited to Many Donors". Los Angeles Times. 1962-07-17. A 500-work collection of Upton Sinclair given by Dr. and Mrs. Elmer Belt. Little- known works by Sinclair about army and navy life...
  5. ^ Seldis, Henry J. (1966-05-01). "Symposium Will Salute Library of Elmer Belt". Los Angeles Times. p. P2. If Leonardo da Vinci is the subject of the extraordinary six-day International Symposium that opens Monday at UCLA, it is Dr. Elmer Belt--whose library of Vinciana is indeed a princely gift to UCLA--who is being honored.
  6. ^ Thackrey, Ted, Jr. (1980-05-19). "Dr. Elmer Belt, Internationally Known as Public Health Advocate, Dies at 87". Los Angeles Times. Private memorial services were pending Sunday for Dr. Elmer Belt, internationally known urologist, surgeon, public health advocate and authority on the life and works of Leonardo da Vinci.
  7. ^ "Elmer Belt papers 1920-1980, bulk 1958-1978". oac.cdlib.org. Retrieved 2020-03-02.
  8. ^ "43 at UCLA Awarded Phi Beta Kappa Keys". Los Angeles Times. 1951-03-11. p. 33.
  9. ^ "Five Noted Men to Get UCLA Honor". Los Angeles Times. 1962-06-03. p. F1.
  10. ^ "School of Medicine Lists Convocation". Los Angeles Times. 1977-05-12. The Aesculapian Award for outstanding contributions to the school, will be presented to Dr. Elmer Belt, one of the school s founders.

External linksEdit