Dr Ralph Moore Tovell

Personal Details

Dr Ralph Moore Tovell

31/12/1901 to 07/01/1967

Place of birth: Sydenham, Ontario

Nationality: American

CRN: 715529

Education and qualifications

General education

Schooling unknown; Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario

Primary medical qualification(s)

MD, Queen’s University of Ontario, 1926

Initial Fellowship and type


Year of Fellowship

AB, Queen’s University of Ontario, 1924; MSc(Anes), University of Minnesota, 1939 with a thesis on ‘Anesthesia for Gynecologic and Obstetric Procedures’.


Other qualification(s)

AB, Queen’s University of Ontario, 1924; MSc(Anes), University of Minnesota, 1939 with a thesis on ‘Anesthesia for Gynecologic and Obstetric Procedures’.

Professional life and career

Postgraduate career

After qualifying Tovell served an internship at the Kingston, Ontario General Hospital before further training in obstetrics at the Lying-In-Hospital in New York. However, in 1929 he became one of the very first residents in anesthesia, accepting a post as Fellow at the Mayo Foundation, and staying on as an Associate until 1936 when he became Director of the Department of Anesthesia at the Hartford Hospital, Connecticut. His brief to develop the department led to it publishing widely, training over 200 anesthesiologists, becoming internationally known and attracting vistors from around the world. He joined the US army in 1942 and served as Senior Consultant in Anesthesiology in Europe throughout WW2, and continued in a number of defence related roles thereafter.

Professional interests and activities

As well as developing his own department and his army service, Tovell made major contributions to the organsiations of the specialty in the USA, doing much to develop the American Society, notably serving as its President (1941), being one of the founders of ‘Anesthesiology’ and later serving as its Editor. In addition, he helped to create the Section of the American Medical Association (Chairman 1948), was a founder of the American Board (Director 1938-49), and was a leading light of the Academy (President 1955). His work brought many honours: in the USA the Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Service Award of the ASA, and Merit Award of the Horace Wells Club of Connecticut ; and from abroad the Medaille de la Reconnaisance Francaise, Hewitt Medal FARCS, and Honorary Fellowships of both the RSM and AAGBI.

Other biographical information

Born and educated in Canada, Tovell became a naturalized US citizen in 1940.

Author and Sources

Author: Prof Tony Wildsmith

Sources and any other comments: Little DM. Obituary: Ralph Moore Tovell 1901-1967. Anesthesiology 1967; 28:307-8. I would thank Queen’s University, Ontario and Renee Ziemer of the Mayo Clinic Historical Suite for information regarding Tovell’s degrees, and the Wood Library Museum for the photograph. The above obituary quotes Tovell’s date of birth as ‘1901’, but further research throws doubt on that. The 1911 Canadian Census quotes ‘Dec 1902’, and all other official documents (including US citizenship) traced on-line state ‘Abt 1902’. However, Dr Dickie Fairer has presented his collection of death certificates (made for a ‘cause of mortality’ in anaesthetists study) to the College, and Tovell’s certificate states his dob as 31/12/1902.