Author will disclose W.W. Mayo mysteries

By Jeff Hansel

The family of William Worrall Mayo is making contributions to fund research in the burgeoning field of genetic research.

Judith Hartzell, wife of W.W. Mayo's great-grandson Tom Hartzell, wrote a book called "I Started All This: The Life of Dr. William Worrall Mayo."

"The theme of the book is that W.W. lived the 'give-back' ethic," she said.


Her book's dedication lists 123 Mayo descendants who are contributing money designated for the Mayo Genomics Center. Part of the book's proceeds also will go to the permanent fund.

"We just thought that was in keeping with the kind of man W.W. Mayo was," Hartzell said. She will be in Rochester for Mayo Clinic's Heritage Days, today through Friday.

Hartzell said W.W. Mayo's reputation as a rabble-rouser is overstated. In politics, she said, he "was constantly causing fights and making people mad."

But it was his work as a physician that stood out. He was studious with an "overwhelming urge to serve the sick and the wounded," she said. Mayo, she said, kept an index listing the books, subjects and pages he had read. There were more than 1,000 listings on Mayo's index. For example, under "Co," entries included constipation, consumption, convulsions, croup, chloroform, cholera and contagion, Hartzell said.

"It's a medical record of his reading," she said. "It just shows that he was a serious student of medicine for years and years."

It allowed him to quickly find an earlier citation when he did research later, she said.

Mayo has a reputation for being impulsive, Harzell said, but he was much more focused than many give him credit for.

"When he came to Rochester, he really came alive as a doctor," she said.


While some people have said W.W. Mayo was not spiritual, he did sometimes go to church, Hartzell said. But he knew the only time farmers came to town was on Sunday. He kept office hours Sunday so he could see his patients.

"He was just so single-minded about wanting to serve the sick," Harzell said.

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