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From the Archives: Dr. Alan Hart / Lucille Hart

April 17, 2020

  • Image: Dr. Alan L. Hart, 1942; Lucille Hart, 1909

Watzek Library

Dr. Alan L. Hart’s life and career was devoted to medical science, including groundbreaking research in radiology and tuberculosis treatment. As a fiction novelist, Hart wrote five books on the subject of medical practice, opening the door of socialized medicine and medical research to the public. He traveled, taught, and spoke on the medical profession for over 40 years. Beyond his medical career, Hart was also a social pioneer as he underwent one of the first female-to-male gender transitions in the United States in 1917.

Born in 1890, Hart moved from Kansas to Oregon and attended Albany College, the predecessor to Lewis & Clark. After graduation Hart entered the University of Oregon Medical College, now OHSU. The only female in her class, Hart was awarded the Saylor medal for highest standing in all departments.

Following graduation, Hart sought professional help from Portland physician Dr. J. Allen Gilbert, who treated Hart both psychologically and medically. In late 1917 Hart secretly underwent transition surgery, changed his name to Alan, and set out to live the rest of his life as a man. Dr. Gilbert published the account of Hart’s transition in 1920, identifying Hart anonymously as patient “H”.

Early in his career Hart experienced discrimination and setbacks. His former sexual identity was outed. Covered by the press, these instances forced Hart to move often in search of work and privacy. By the late 1930s Hart had established himself in the medical profession and became the Idaho State tuberculosis officer. Having developed an x-ray process tool for early TB diagnosis, Hart’s work brought the state’s death toll rate to one-fifth of what it was, saving thousands of lives.

Hart held medical degrees from Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University. He was successful as a novelist. Married twice, he was with his second wife for 37 years. Lewis & Clark Special Collections holds documents witnessing the life and accomplishments of this remarkable alum. In 2003 historian Brian Booth worked with Lewis & Clark Special Collections to publish an account of Hart’s life as The Life and Career of Alberta Lucille / Dr. Alan L. Hart with Collected Early Writings. A digital collection of selected material from the Alan L. Hart / Lucille Hart collection can be viewed here. A guide to the complete archive can be viewed here.

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