Dr. L. Emmett Holt

Biographies | Dr. L. Emmett Holt

Although Dr. L. Emmett Holt did not practice medicine in Webster he brought great fame to his hometown since he was an outstanding figure in pediatrics, and has been considered one of the greatest physicians and educators in the United States.

His parents were Horace and Sabrah Curtice Holt, early settlers of Webster, who lived on the present “Sweet Farm” on Holt Road, where he was born in 1855. He attended the Holt Road district school, Webster Academy, and the University of Rochester.

After a year’s teaching in Wellsville, New York, he entered Buffalo Medical School. Before graduation, he transferred to the College of Physicians and Surgeons, now a part of Columbia University in New York City, where he served a clerical internship in the Hospital for Ruptured and Crippled until his graduation in 1880. He studied in Vienna, Austria, in 1884.

In 1889 Dr. Holt helped to found the Babies Hospital in New York City, the first of its kind to deal exclusively with infants and their illnesses. His work there was epoch-making. It was through his efforts that the death rate among children was greatly reduced.

In 1904, he received the degree of Doctor of Science at Columbia where he held the chair of pediatrics. When Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler conferred the degree upon Dr. Holt, he commented in part “skillful in medical research and in teaching, bringing your knowledge and skill, relief, comfort, and happiness to suffering children”.

He wrote many papers and gave many lectures. His best known works are “Diseases of Infancy and Childhood”, a long textbook of pediatrics, and a book of questions and answers, “The Care and Feeding of Children”, which has served as a guide to mothers in the United States and abroad with translations in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese.

In 1917 Dr. Holt, with the help of others, organized the Child Health Organization which was an attempt to educate the nation in the necessity of special care for the child of school age. It later became a national movement called the American Child Health Organization.

Dr. and Mrs. Holt went to Peiping, China, in 1923, where he was a visiting professor to the Piping Medical Union. On January 14, 1924, after completing his lecture course, Dr. Holt died of a heart condition at the age of 69 years.

After his death, Herbert Hoover said, “His loss will be deeply felt in this country, but the services which he rendered in that field in which he was preeminent, will live forever.

The New York Outlook said, “The medical profession recognized him as one of its leaders; the community in which he lived, New York City, knew him for his public spirit, but nowhere was he held in higher esteem than in the multitude of homes into which he came – through his book – as a wise, friendly, and understanding counselor.

Dunn, Esther, Webster Through the Years, Webster Town Board, Webster, NY, 1970, pgs 206-208.

Updated Information

Dr. Holt married Linda Foster Mairs, daughter of John D. Mairs, on April 29, 1886 in New York City. The couple lived in Manhattan, New York where they raised five children; Evelyn (1887-1983), Horace (1889-1961), Calvert (1892-1938), Luther Emmett Jr. (1895-1974), and Kenneth (1899-1909).

Dr. Holt became the medical director of Babies Hospital in 1889 and remained connected with the hospital until his death. In 1890, Dr. Holt was the chair of the diseases of children at the New York Polyclinic. In 1901, he was appointed the chair of pediatrics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, a position he held until 1922. Dr. Holt was a longtime board member of the Rockefeller Foundation for Medical Research (The Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research). In 1909, he was a motivating force in the creation of the Association for the Prevention of Infant Mortality. Dr. Holt was instrumental in the regulation and the certification of the New York milk supply. He was one of the founding members of the American Society of Pediatrics and was twice the Society’s president. He was a founding editor of the two U.S. pediatric journals, The Archives of Pediatrics (1884) and American Journal of Diseases of Children (1911). He was Treasurer and Vice President of the New York Academy of Medicine and President of the Child Health Organization (1919) which became the American Child Health Association in 1923. Dr. Luther Emmett Holt was a physician, researcher, teacher, author, and public health reformer whose influence was felt around the world.

In 1923, Dr. Holt, through his work with the Rockefeller Foundation of Medical Research, accepted a position as a visiting professor at the Peiping Medical Union for one term.

On January 14, 1924 while working in Peiping, China, Dr. Holt died of a heart attack. His remains were brought back to the United States and he is buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow Westchester County, New York with his wife Linda Mairs Holt. His gravestone tells of his devotion to his profession. It reads, “Physician-Teacher-Untiring worker for the Health of Little Children”.

For more information about the Holt family in Webster, please visit the Webster Museum website.


  • Dunn, Esther, Webster Through the Years, Webster Town Board, Webster, NY, 1970, pgs 206-208.
  • The Webster Museum, Well Known Websterites, accessed June 2020.
  • Find a Grave Luther Emmett Holt, accessed 2020.
  • Ancestry, accessed 2020.
  • Hoolihan, Christopher, Atwater, Edward C., An Annotated Catalogue of the Edward C. Atwater Collection of American Popular Medicine and Health Reform: A-L, University of Rochester Press, Rochester, New York, 2001, p 480.
  • Dunn, Peter M., “Dr Emmett Holt (1855–1924) and the foundation of North American pediatrics”, BMJ Journals, accessed June 2020.
  • Wikipedia, Luther Emmett Holt, accessed June 2020