The Life of William James Mayo – Founding Father of the Mayo Clinic and the Mayo Stands

William Mayo is one of the three founding fathers of the Mayo Clinic, together with father William and brother Charles. They are known not just for creating the Mayo Clinic, but also for developing stainless steel Mayo stands, tools that are still used all over the world today. The Mayo family lived in Rochester, which was hit by a terrible tornado on August 21, 1883. Luckily, the family was unharmed, but an emergency hospital was instantly set up in the town’s dance hall. The two Mayo brothers instantly became involved in treatment the members of the community.

The Development of the Mayo Clinic

The Sisters of Saint Francis were asked to assist after the tornado, providing nursing care. After the crisis, they approached the Mayo family to ask whether they would be willing to help plan for the foundation of a hospital and attract talented physicians. The two brothers and their father did more than that, setting up the Mayo Clinic within its hospital, where they worked together with the Sisters of Saint Francis to perform surgeries.

William J. Mayo had three children, who all died in infancy. In July 1939, Dr. Will died of stomach cancer. Interestingly, throughout his medical career, Dr. Will had focused on this type of cancer. William was buried with his children, near his parents, in the Rochester Oakwood Cemetery.

Interesting Facts about the Mayo Brothers

There are some fascinating little titbits of information about the Mayo Brothers that every medical professional who has ever used a Mayo stand should be aware of. These include that:

  • A stamp of brothers Charles and William was released on September 11, 1964.
  • That both brothers were Freemasons, members of Rochester Lodge #21, the Grand Lodge of Minnesota.
  • The Mayo House is one of our country’s listed historic places.

Mayo Predictions

One other important thing to be aware of is that the Mayo family was a family of visionaries. In September 1931, William Mayo was interviewed by the New York Times. They asked him to predict what the world would look like in 2011, as part of the 160th anniversary of the paper. Mayo said that average life expectancy, which was just 60 in 1931, would rise to over 70. He was right.

He said that most infectious and contagious diseases would have been overcome. He also stated that the major health issues would be cancer, nervous system disorders, kidney and blood vessel illnesses, and heart disease. He was right again. He didn’t just guess this, however, but used scientific methods in his calculations. However, as much as it was an educated guess, it remained a guess. But he was absolutely right. By 2020, the average life expectancy was 78 years in the United States, and it was over 80 in countries like Japan. And his predictions about diseases have also mainly been right, and particularly those of more common causes of death. The only thing he seems to have missed is the obesity epidemic.