Dr. Dudley Joy Morton
Dr. Dudley Morton; Father of the Morton’s Toe
In the first half of the twentieth century, the most famous doctor in theUnited States, regarding problems of the human foot, was Dudley J. Morton, M.D. During that, time such publications as Readers Digest, Time Magazine, and The New York Times regularly quoted and cited him. He was repeatedly written about in dozens of newspapers around the country, His medical books and articles on the foot were the leading authorities of their time. He was born on March 27, 1884 inBaltimore,Maryland, on his family’s farm. In 1907, Morton graduated from Hahemann Medical College in Pennsylvania
During World War I, he went to France and served as a surgeon with the famous American Ambulance of Paris. When he returned from the war, Dr. Morton became a research associate at the American Museumof Natural History in New York, where he served as an anatomist. While at the museum, he concerned himself with the evolutionary development of the human foot. This is where he started to establish his reputation. His numerous papers and studies in the early and mid-1920s revolved around his study of primates (monkeys)
Two Important Papers
While on the faculty of the Yale University School of Medicine, where he was an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery, he published the two papers that would present, for the first time, what Morton’s Toe was. The first paper appeared in 1927, in the prestigious Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. The paper presented Morton’s theory of the short first metatarsal bone and its harmful effects on the foot. Another paper was also published in 1928, in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery that described, for the first time, another condition of the first metatarsal bone known as “Hypermobility of the First Metatarsal Bone. Both of these conditions are responsible for a lot of problems, not only of the foot but throughout the body.
During his life Dr. Morton wrote no less than seven books. The most important of these books was his 1935’s The Human Foot . It was written as a textbook for the medical community. The basis of the book came directly from his 1927 and 1928 papers written for the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery in conjunction with his years of research as an anatomist, anthropologist, and an evolutionist. His years of work at the American Museum of National History, Yale, and Columbia were also reflected in the book. In The Human Foot, Morton laid out, step-by-step, via evolution and inheritances, why we have foot problems and what to do about them. He explains (as noted previously) that the two major causes of foot problems were the short first metatarsal bone and hypermobility of the first metatarsal bone. By the time that book was published, Dudley Morton was on his way to becoming one of the leading authority of the foot in the medical world.
Oh Doctor, My Feet!
If The Human Foot made Morton famous in the medical profession, it was his 1939 book, Oh Doctor, My Feet! written for the average person, that made him a household name. After the release of Oh Doctor, My Feet! there was no question that Dr. Dudley J. Morton was considered by both the public and the medical community as the leading authority in this country regarding foot pain. In that book, Morton explained to the average person why their feet really hurt, and what to do about it. The book was so celebrated that Reader’s Digest asked Dr. Morton to write an article about the book, in their April 1939 issue. In the first paragraph of the Reader’s Digest article, Morton wrote:
“Aching, pain galled feet are among the commonest afflictions besetting mankind. Seven of ten persons suffer from foot alignment of varying severity ranging from the nagging discomfort of corns to total disability from broken down feet.”
Morton went on to say that then, as now, millions of dollars are spent annually on corrective shoes or other devices that are of questionable benefit in healing the foot. As always, he stated the two principal reasons for foot problems are the short first metatarsal bone and or the hypermobility of the first metatarsal bone. He continued to explain how to treat these conditions by putting a pad or a platform under the first metatarsal bone.
The book was also written about in the New Yorker Magazine and was reviewed in dozens of newspapers across the country, from the New York Times to the Oakland Tribune (see chapter 10). At about the same time, The American Medical Association also published an article for physicians that were written by Morton based on Oh Doctor, My Feet!. Dudley J. Morton was one busy guy in 1939.
Throw Them Out!
In January 1942, Morton presented a paper at the Academyof Orthopedic Surgeonsin Atlantic City. According to the New York Times, Morton made quite a sensation when he stated that 90% of arch supports that prop up thousands of feet ought to be thrown out the window. And, that the term “weak arches” should disappear in any discussion about the feet. Morton went on to say that, other than high heels, shoes are not normally responsible for most foot problems. He also said that fallen arches are not the cause of most foot problems; but the real problem is due to poorly distributed weight across the five metatarsal bones (i.e. Morton’s Toe ) Time magazine, in their January 26, 1942 issue, also reported about Morton’s at this meeting. From 1928 on, Morton was an associate professor of anatomy, at the College of Physicians and Surgeons,Columbia University in New York. He not only taught and did research at Columbia, he also was on staff at Columbia Presbertyrian Hospital, where he treated patients. He stayed at Columbia for sixteen years until he resigned on June 30, 1944.
In December 1949, the Reader’s Digest again published another article about Dr. Dudley J. Morton. This time it was a highly enthusiastic profile about him entitled “Something Wrong with Your Feet.” Paul de Kruif, who was a very famous author in his own right, wrote the piece. De Kruif was most noted for his book, Microbe Hunters that first published in 1926, and which is still in print today. De Kruif, who was a patient of Morton’s, testified that arch supports failed him, while Morton’s simple Toe Pad worked. He relates the story of how Morton discovered the importance of the short first metatarsal bone while looking at hundreds of x-rays, and how he developed the treatment for Morton’s Toe. He then goes on to say how, Morton received the scientific recognition he deserved, not only in theU.S. but overseas as well. De Kruif concluded The Reader Digest article by saying with admiration:
“Thus thanks largely to Dr. Morton’s pioneer work, one of the most common of foot defects need no longer cause widespread suffering”.
The Last Work
In 1952, with Dudley Dean Fuller, a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering (what is the story with these guys name Dudley!), Morton wrote his last book called Human Locomotion and Body Form: A Study of Gravity and Man. It was well received and was republished over seas by an English publishing house. There were of course, chapters on the short first metatarsal bone and hypermobility of the first metatarsal bone. But the book also reflected Dr. Morton’s thirty-plus years of work on evolution that supported his belief that the only way humans could eventually stand erect and walk was because of inheritance over millions of years.
The Final Years
However, Morton, like many men of his time, was a chain smoker. His grandson, Chris, clearly recalls watching ball games on TV with his grandfather, as Dr. Morton lit oneSalemcigarette after another. Unfortunately, it was this chain smoking that finally led to his death from cancer in May 1960 at the age of seventy-six