Charles Value Chapin (1856-1941), professor of physiology, was born in Providence on January 17, 1856. After graduation from Brown in 1876, he prepared for the study of medicine with Dr. G. D. Wilcox, a homeopathic physician in Providence. In 1877 he went to New York to study at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and then at Bellevue Hospital Medical College, New York University, where he received his M.D. degree in 1879. He was house physician at Bellevue in 1879-80. In 1884 he was appointed superintendent of health in Providence, a post he held for forty-eight years. Meanwhile he was instructor in physiology at Brown from 1882 to 1886 and professor from 1886 to 1895, city registrar of Providence from 1889 to 1932, lecturer at Harvard Medical School in 1909, at Harvard-M.I.T. School for health officers from 1913 to 1922, and at Harvard School of Hygiene from 1923 to 1931.
He began his teaching of the course in physiology at Brown in 1882 with a class of juniors. In 1885 the course was shortened to two hours per week and offered to sophomores, whose lack of preparation made his teaching difficult. He taught by the time-honored tradition of dictation without the use of a text book, conducted demonstrations with the human skeleton, and offered practical hygiene rules for the students. In 1889 the course was restored to the junior year, and after Edmund B. Delabarre began to teach psychology in 1892, Chapin was able to drop the teaching of the nervous system. His title in 1892 was “Professor of Physiology and Director of Physical Culture” and he reported on gymnastics and sports. He was ill in 1892-93, and after his return, the physical culture title was dropped. As superintendent of health he established the Providence City Hospital. During his administration the death rate in Providence dropped thirty per cent and infant mortality was reduced by fifty per cent. He made important contributions in the areas of child health, immunization, water purification, prevention of contagious diseases and treatment of tuberculosis. He received many honors. He was named the first honorary member of Delta Omega Society, the honorary hygiene association, in 1927. He was awarded the Marcellus Hartley Gold Medal by the National Academy of Sciences in 1928, at the time one of eight men in the world to receive this medal. In 1930 he was the first recipient of the Sedgwick Memorial Medal, awarded by the American Public Health Association for distinguished service in public health work. He received the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal in 1935. In connection with his resignation as superintendent of health, the Rhode Island Medical Association adopted a resolution, which said, in part, “In the city, his two greatest achievements lie. First, in lifting Providence from a condition of well nigh medieval squalor in 1884 – to the hygienic and sanitary perfection of today – and second, in the founding of our City Hospital and its later organization, in which he played so important part.” In 1931 the Providence City Hospital was renamed Charles V. Chapin Hospital. Dr. Chapin died in Providence on January 31, 1941.