Son of Maurice and Anne Perkins;
recipient of most of her letters
Roger Perkins was born in Schenectady, attended Union Classical Institute, and enrolled in the classical course at Union College in 1890. He was a member of the Philomathean Society and treasurer of the freshman class, played football and tennis, and received several prizes for essays. He joined the Kappa Alpha Society and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1893, he did a year of postgraduate study at Harvard, receiving an AB degree in 1894. He went on to get an MD from Johns Hopkins University in 1898.
Shortly after Perkins finished his education, he went to work as a resident pathologist at Lakeside Hospital in Cleveland. A year later he accepted a teaching position at Western Reserve University, also in Cleveland, where he eventually became head of the Department of Hygiene and Bacteriology. He remained there until 1930, with the exception of various professional travels and his service during the First World War, when Perkins served as a scientific attaché to the American Embassy to Paris as well as director of the Sanitation Division of the American Red Cross and on its commission to the Balkan states. Perkins’ public service in Cleveland included terms as the City Bacteriologist, as Chief of the Bureau of Laboratories of the city’s division of health, and as a consultant on the committee on sanitation of the Chamber of Commerce. His most significant accomplishment for the city was stopping the spread of typhoid fever by conducting the research and overseeing the measures that filtered and disinfected the water supply from Lake Erie. For his activities in the Balkans, Perkins received the order of the Crown of Romania and the Order of the Serbian Red Cross, and during the time he was working on eradicating typhoid in Cleveland, Union awarded him an honorary MA degree. He was also a member of many professional groups, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the Cleveland Academy of Medicine, the Society of American Bacteriologists, and the Association of American Pathologists.
In 1905, Perkins married Edna Brush, the daughter of inventor Charles F. Brush. The couple had four children: Charles Brush Perkins (Union Class of 1929), Roger Jr., Maurice, and John Morris Perkins. After Perkins retired, he moved Rhode Island where he remained active until he died in 1936.
Perkins was well liked and respected among the people who knew him. James A. Doull praised his detached and scientific point of view, writing, “Few men are personally more likeable than was Roger Perkins. Physically vigorous and wholesome, witty, widely read and a fine linguist, he was outstanding in any group” (Bulletin of the Academy of Medicine of Cleveland, May 1936).
The letters from Mrs. Perkins housed at Union College are nearly all addressed to her son while he was a medical student at Johns Hopkins and during his early years in Cleveland.