Solomon Carter Fuller (August 1, 1872–January 16, 1953) was a pioneering African-American physician and psychiatrist. Born in Monrovia, Liberia, he completed his college education and medical degree in the United States. He studied psychiatry in Munich, Germany. He returned to the United States, where he worked for much of his career at Westborough State Mental Hospital in Westborough, Massachusetts.
In 1919 Fuller became part of the faculty at Boston University School of Medicine. He made significant contributions to the study of Alzheimer's disease during his career. He also had a private practice as a physician, neurologist and psychiatrist.
Early life and education
Solomon Fuller was born in Monrovia, Liberia. His father Solomon had become a coffee planter in Liberia and an official in its government. His mother, Anna Ursala James, was the daughter of physicians and medical missionaries. His paternal grandparents, John Lewis Fuller and his wife, had been slaves in Virginia. John Fuller bought his and his enslaved wife’s freedom and they moved to the city of Norfolk, Virginia. The couple emigrated from there to Liberia in 1852, a colony set up in West Africa by the American Colonization Society beginning earlier in the century. They helped establish the nation developed by African Americans and liberated African slaves.
His mother set up a school to teach her son Solomon and area children. Fuller also studied at the College Preparatory School of Monrovia.
He had a keen interest in medicine since his maternal grandparents were medical missionaries in Liberia. Fuller moved to the United States to study at Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina, graduating in 1893. Later he attended Long Island College Medical School.
He completed his MD degree in 1897 from Boston University School of Medicine. It was a homeopathic institution open to students of all races and genders. He pursued further research at the psychiatric clinic of the University of Munich, Germany, studying under Emil Kraepelin and Alois Alzheimer.
Fuller spent the majority of his career practicing at Westborough State Mental Hospital in Westborough, Massachusetts. While there, he performed ground-breaking research on the physical changes that take place in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. In 1909 Fuller was a speaker at the Clark University Conference organized by G. Stanley Hall, which was attended by such notable scientists and intellectuals as anthropologist Franz Boaz, psychiatrists Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, philosopher William James, and Nobel laureates Ernest Rutherford and Albert A. Michelson.
In 1919 he Fuller left Westborough Hospital to join the faculty at Boston University School of Medicine. He served as a professor until 1933. He continued in private practice as a physician, neurologist and psychiatrist for many years before his death in 1953.
When the Veterans Administration opened the Tuskegee Veterans Administration Medical Center after World War I with an entirely black staff, Fuller was instrumental in recruiting and training black psychiatrists for key positions.
For most of his life, Fuller lived in nearby Framingham, Massachusetts, with his wife, the noted sculptor Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller. They had three children.
Legacy and honors
- The Dr Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center, located at 85 E Newton Street in Boston, is named after him. It forms part of the Boston Medical Center, the primary teaching affiliate for Boston University School of Medicine.
- In the early 1970s, the American Psychiatric Association established a Solomon Carter Fuller Award lecture at its annual meetings.
- Fuller Middle School, named after him and his wife, a noted sculptor, is located in Framingham, Massachusetts. The school's history reads:
"The Fuller Middle School was established in September of 1994. The school is named in honor of Dr. Solomon Fuller, a psychiatrist, and his wife Meta Fuller, a sculptor. The Fullers, a pioneering African-American family, lived on Warren Road near the current location of the Fuller Middle School during the early part of the twentieth century. Dr. and Mrs. Fuller were leaders in their professions and in the Framingham Community during their lives. The roles they played during their lifetimes serve as models for the students of the school named in their memory."
Works by Solomon C. Fuller
- "A Study Of The Neurofibrils In Dementia Paralytica, Dementia Senilis, Chronic Alcoholism, Cerebral Lues And Microcephalic Idiocy.", The American Journal of Psychiatry. Volume 63 Issue 4, April 1907, pp. 415-468-13.
- "A Study of the Miliary Plaques Found in Brains of the Aged", American Journal of Insanity 28(2) (1911).
- "Alzheimer's disease (senium praecox): the report of a case and review of published cases", Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease: July 1912 - Volume 39 - Issue 7 - pp 440-455.
- with Henry I. Klopp, "Further Observations on Alzheimer's Disease," American Journal of Insanity 69 (1912): 26, 27.
- "Anatomic Findings of General Paresis and Multiple Sclerosis in the Same Case." Boston Soc. of Neurology and Psychiatry. Arch. Neurol. and Psychiat 5 (1921): 757-1921.