Franz J. Ingelfinger

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Franz Joseph Ingelfinger (August 20, 1910 – March 27, 1980) was a German-American physician, researcher and journal editor. He served as Chief of Gastroenterology at Evans Memorial Department of Clinical Research, part of Boston University School of Medicine. He also served as Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) from 1967 to 1976.[1] His work was influential in the field of science journalism.

Life and careerEdit

Ingelfinger was born in Dresden, Germany, the only child of Eleanor Holden and Joseph Franz Ingelfinger.[2] He came to the United States with his family in the early 1920s to live in his mothers home town of Swampscott, Massachusetts where his German father established a general practice as a physician[3]. After initially wanting to enter the business world, faced with dwindling job opportunities after the Wall Street crash he decided to follow in his father and go into medicine. Ingelfinger earned diplomas from Phillips Andover Academy, followed by Yale University in 1932 and Harvard Medical School in 1936.

The Ingelfinger rule is named after him. In 1969, one of Ingelfinger's first acts as editor of NEJM was to draw up rules for authors forbidding prior submission or publication of their work in other media. This stipulation for authors and the related press embargo were designed to ensure that the articles published were original and "newsworthy."[4] It also helped prevent what later NEJM editors called science by press conference, the practice of going directly to the media with scientific results rather than waiting for the peer review process designed to check the work for errors and flaws.[5]

In 1968 NEJM published a spoof letter from a fake Chinese Doctor "Robert Ho Man Kwok" that led to perpetuation of the negative image against Chinese food through so-called Chinese Restaurant Syndrome[6]. It was later revealed that when the actual author, Howard Steel, a former childhood friend of Ingelfinger contacted him to tell it was a spoof he hung up on him. And it is not known why the publication never corrected the scientific record or considered pulling the letter[7].

He served as president of the American Gastroenterological Association. In 1979 he was presented the George Kober Medal of the Association of American Physicians, given to leaders in academic medicine, research and teaching.[8] He died from complications of esophageal cancer in Boston, Massachusetts.[9]


  1. ^ Altman, Lawrence K. (March 27, 1980). F.J. Ingelfinger, 69, Medical Editor; Progress at the Journal. New York Times
  2. ^ Staff report (March 28, 1980). Prominent medical journalist Franz Ingelfinger dies at 69. Chicago Tribune
  3. ^ Toy, Jennifer (November–December 2002). "The Ingelfinger Rule: Franz Ingelfinger at the New England Journal of Medicine 1967-77" (PDF). Science Editor. 26: 195–198.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  4. ^ Marshall, Eliot (October 30, 1998). Franz Ingelfinger's Legacy Shaped Biology Publishing. Science Vol. 282 no. 5390 p. 861 doi:10.1126/science.282.5390.861
  5. ^ Angell, Marcia and Kassirer, Jerome P. (November 7, 1991). The Ingelfinger Rule Revisited. New England Journal of Medicine
  6. ^ "The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of MSG". MEL Magazine. 2019-12-07. Retrieved 2019-12-15.
  7. ^ "The Strange Case of Dr. Ho Man Kwok | Colgate Magazine". Retrieved 2019-12-15.
  8. ^ McLaughlin, Loretta (March 27, 1980). Franz Ingelfinger, medical leader with three careers as a doctor, at 69. Boston Globe
  9. ^ Enloe, Cortez F., Jr. (May 1980). Franz Joseph Ingelfinger, M.D. (obituary). Nutrition Today, May/June 1980 - Volume 15 - Issue 3 - p. 27.

External linksEdit