Inventing Baby Formula on Boston Harbor
From the floating hospital to infants worldwide


Back in the 1890s, Reverend Rufus B. Tobey was struck by the sight of poor women and their sick children taking in the cool ocean breezes on Boston's waterfront on sweltering summer evenings.

Tobey proposed taking these children and their mothers out on the harbor to enjoy the sea air. When the Boston Herald published the minister's suggestion, enough money was raised to outfit a boat. On July 25, 1894, the Boston Floating Hospital sailed. Each day, mothers and their children received therapy, medical care, and health care education. For 33 years, the hospital and research facilities were located aboard a ship.

Before the development of milk pasteurization in 1921, children often became sick from spoiled milk. Dr. Alfred Bosworth, a research chemist on board the Floating Hospital, believed that human milk was superior to cow's milk for feeding infants. He developed a milk-substitute baby formula, Similac, which feeds millions of infants worldwide, but has recently become controversial. Mothers in the third world, encouraged to use formula instead of breastfeeding, cannot afford milk substitutes.

In 1927, the hospital ship was destroyed by fire. Fortunately no patients were aboard. In 1931 the Tufts New England Medical Center's Floating Hospital opened at its current site (750 Washington Street, Boston) to continue on land its mission to care for children. All this stems from an idea on a hot summer night.


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