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Kendall Historical Collection

Born in Warman, Minnesota on May 5, 1910 as Florence May Peterson, and baptized as Della May Anna Florence, she was the eleventh child of Swedish immigrants Charles August and Mathilda Kruse Peterson. She carried the name May during her pre-school years, but then afterwards, she officially became Florence. One month after her sixteenth birthday, Florence Peterson graduated as valedictorian from her high school in Mora, Minnesota. Following that, she advanced to the University of Minnesota, where she subsequently earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education in June, 1930. After a year teaching Physical Education in her native Minnesota, Florence ventured south to study physical therapy at the Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, DC, beginning there in September, 1931. While she was at Walter Reed, one of Florence's assignments was providing supplementary treatment for a young boy stricken with polio, who was a patient at the Children's Hospital in Baltimore under the care of the noted physical therapist Henry O. Kendall. On May 5, 1933, Florence and some of her colleagues visited Children's Hospital to hear Henry deliver a lecture. Although they had been distant partners involved with the same case for quite some time, this was the first occasion on which Florence and Henry met face-to-face.

Her stint as an assistant at Walter Reed was a short one, however, as Florence was among the victims of budgetary staff cuts, experiencing her own severance from the hospital on May 15, 1933. Fortunately, after only a few brief months, Florence returned once again to Children's Hospital in Baltimore, this time to accept a position on its staff. While she couldn't have known it at the time, that change would represent the most profound boost to her personal and professional life, an advancement far exceeding anything she ever could have imagined. Florence began working under Henry Kendall's direction in July 1933. In just a year and a half, they were married.

"By the time I arrived at Children's Hospital, Mr. Kendall had already established himself in the field with his treatment of patients with polio and low back pain. Our work did not evolve out of ambition, but more out of a sense of responsibility. When people referred to us as mentors and role models, I always considered it a privilege to serve in these roles." 1

That sentiment remained the hallmark of the Kendalls' work throughout their entire professional lives. Within just a few years, Henry and Florence co-authored U.S. Public Health pamphlets based on their studies of muscle evaluation and treatment procedures for polio patients. Their earliest publications also included 16 mm demonstration films. They rose to faculty positions at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University soon thereafter, and remained in those posts for decades.

In the early 1930's, the Kendalls represented one half of Maryland's four-person membership in the American Physiotherapy Association. The Association's national headquarters attempted to persuade them to establish a chapter in the state. The other two members already had declined a similar invitation, and eventually in 1939, Henry and Florence relented and agreed to the effort. Hesitant at first with their young family beginning to grow, Florence gave in to the enthusiasm of other members who urged her to serve as the first president of the new Maryland chapter.

Henry and Florence continued their work on many fronts, including state legislation. It was due to their efforts that the Maryland state legislature enacted into law a 1947 bill that legally established the professional practice of physical therapy.

Following that landmark development at the state level, Henry and Florence sought to share their expertise with the national audience. They published the first edition of their book MUSCLES : TESTING AND FUNCTION in 1949. Based primarily on their extensive work in polio research, the book set a whole new standard of detail for musculoskeletal examination and treatment. Their companion title POSTURE AND PAIN followed in 1952, in which they reported on their study of 12,000 cases to illustrate and diagnose numerous diseases and other painful conditions associated with faulty body mechanics and alignment.

"We didn't write the books to be famous. We wanted to share with others what we had learned in all our work with polio, posture, and painful conditions, especially low back pain. With both of us working full time, it was not an easy task to write a book; however it had to be done. It was bigger than either of us, but we were dedicated to sharing what we had learned." 2

Such was the measure of their concern for the better health and welfare of the world. A few years after the appearance of MUSCLES: TESTING AND FUNCTION, the Kendalls made the very difficult decision to leave Children's Hospital and set out on their own in private practice. Following this move, they no doubt were the principal inspiration for the APTA to create its new Self-Employed Section a few years later. Their home chapter in Maryland eventually honored the Kendalls in 1976 by establishing the Henry O. and Florence P. Kendall Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Practice.

Henry retired in 1971 from his clinical practice of 50 years, and the practice itself consequently came to a close. After a lengthy illness, Henry passed away in May, 1979.

In the ensuing years, Florence's dogged perseverance kept her at the head of the profession, as she continued her writing, teaching, and delivering guest lectures at countless workshops around the country. As a registered parliamentarian, Florence assisted in drafting bylaws for the APTA at both the state and national levels.

Florence received the Lucy Blair Service Award in 1971. She went on to deliver the 1980 Mary McMillen Lecture, and later became a Catherine Worthingham Fellow in 1986. She was the APTA's John H. P. Maley lecturer in 1997. The University of Maryland School of Medicine awarded Florence an honorary doctorate in 1999, topping off three others she'd already received from the University of Indianapolis, the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, and Shenandoah University.

lorence maintained her enthusiasm, dedication, and busy schedule well into her nineties. Her life of service came to its conclusion when she died on January 28, 2006 at the age of ninety-five.

Dedicated, unflappable, and always a revered icon, mentor, and friend to countless numbers of students and colleagues, Florence Kendall in person and in print surely taught, energized, and most especially inspired an entire profession of competent and knowledgeable Physical Therapy practitioners.


  1. 1 Florence Kendall, "Florence Kendall: What a wonderful journey", by Lucie P. Lawrence, PT MAGAZINE, VOL. 8 #5 (May 2000), p. 41.
  2. 2 Florence Kendall, "Florence Kendall: What a wonderful journey", by Lucie P. Lawrence, PT MAGAZINE, VOL. 8 #5 (May 2000), p. 42.

Florence Kendall approached the Health Sciences and Human Services Library in 1999 to solicit our interest in providing a permanent home for her books among the Historical Collections. As we acquainted ourselves with Florence and the stature of her work, we came to embrace the opportunity to increase our representation of the literature of physical therapy. Here was a chance to acquire the background that framed the one person who more than anyone else personifies the identity of the profession.

The timing of the gift was fortuitous, as the Library enjoyed the privilege of hosting a celebration in April 2000 to commemorate Florence's 90th birthday. Selections from the Kendall Historical Collection graced the tables of the Library's Gladhill Board Room and the Woodward Historical Reading Room. In addition, we mounted an exhibit of some of the books in our public display cases, in conjunction with Physical Therapy Month celebrations that following October, 2000. Florence again returned to the Library, to tour the exhibit and share with other visitors her many personal stories about the books themselves and the work of the various authors who wrote them.

Carl Hermann Bucholz (b. 1874), on the faculty at Harvard Medical School and orthopedic surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, was a prolific author. Bucholz wrote this work to promote the usage of helpful therapeutic exercise techniques by general practice physicians who would employ the methods in conjunction with sound clinical judgement.Some of his other titles include THE IMPORTANCE OF ACTIVE MUSCULAR EXERCISE IN THE RESTORATION OF FUNCTION, and ON THE EXERCISE TREATMENT OF PARALYSES.

Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne (1806-1875), one of the greatest of the 19th century French neurologists, applied Michael Faraday’s discovery of induced currents to the treatment of paralysis and other neurological conditions. This is a translation of his most important work, the PHYSIOLOGIE DES MOUVEMENTS DÉMONTRÉE À L’AIDE DE L’EXPERIMENTATION ÉLECTRIQUE ET DE L’OBSERVATION CLINIQUE ET APPLICABLE À L’ETUDE DES PARALYSIES ET DES DÉFORMATIONS, originally published in France, 1867.

In a more recent interpretation of electrotherapy, Toby Cohn (1866-1929), of Berlin, first published his LEITFADEN DER ELEKTRODIAGNOSTIK UND ELEKTROTHERAPIE FÜR PRAKTIKER UND STUDIERENDE in 1899. Building on the book's successful reception in Germany, this first English translation followed the second German edition of 1902. The book enjoyed a lengthy history, lasting up through the seventh German edition of 1924.

ESSENTIALS OF BODY MECHANICS IN HEALTH AND DISEASE. Originally published in 1934, this book sought to emphasize the connection between body mechanics and the prevalence of various chronic conditions, many of which often eluded accurate diagnosis. In this fourth edition of 1945, the authors cite mobilization for the war as the impetus for needing a citizenry whose healthy body mechanics would guarantee a physically fit armed forces population. This idea was very familiar to Henry Kendall, as he himself had served in the first World War. The book went on to a fifth edition in 1952.

GOLFERS TAKE CARE OF YOUR BACK. Susan M. Carpenter managed a physical therapy program called "The Back Works," which provided the basis for developing this book. After treating a professional golfer for back and shoulder ailments, she came to realize that this particular group of athletes posed unique considerations resulting from the body mechanics associated with their sport. In addition to focusing on the postural issues connected with playing golf, the book also contains many helpful techniques to promote general back health and comfort. Florence Kendall's participation in co-writing this book introduces the benefits of her expertise to a new group of readers who could benefit from her knowledge.

At the heart of physical therapy study and teaching is an inherent foundation in anatomy. These two classics have their rightful place in the Kendall Collection. The set by Johannes Sobotta (1869-1945) is inscribed to the Kendalls by editor Frank H. J. Figge, former University of Maryland School of Medicine Anatomy Department Chairman. Since its first appearance in 1904, editions of Sobotta's atlas have appeared in numerous languages, with new ones appearing as recently as the 22nd German edition of 2006. The HAND-ATLAS OF HUMAN ANATOMY of Werner Spalteholz (1861-1940) first appeared in Leipzig as three volumes published during the years 1895-1903. The book enjoyed worldwide acclaim, as many editions appeared in print during the first half of the 20th Century, in both German and English. In conjunction with being a full professor of medicine in the Anatomy Institute of the University of Leipzig, Spalteholz also was curator of the anatomical collection. Several noted illustrators contributed to Spalteholz's atlas, including Bruno Héroux of Leipzig and Albert Fiebiger of Dresden.

Ann H. Downer published the first edition of her book PHYSICAL THERAPY PROCEDURES in 1970. Each subsequent edition added updated information incorporating new technological equipment and methods, as practicing therapists began to employ these developments. This book is a "how to" instructional manual directing practitioners about the hands-on methods of using the equipment in delivering patient care. Techniques new to this third edition are myofeedback and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. This very successful book advanced through its fifth edition in 1996. Our copy includes an author's inscription to Florence Kendall which reads, "Dear Florence - you are an inspiration to all who know you. Thank you for giving of your knowledge and friendship. Affectionately, Ann."

Frank R. Ford published his DISEASES OF THE NERVOUS SYSTEM IN INFANCY, CHILDHOOD AND ADOLESCENCE in 1937, at the height of the Kendalls' career at Children's Hospital of Baltimore. This large book is an extensive compilation on the topic, certainly an optimal reference of inestimable value in their work. The book enjoyed a long and successful history, continuing up to its 6th edition of 1973.

CORRECTIVE PHYSICAL EDUCATION FOR GROUPS, a 1928 book by Lowman, Colestock, and Cooper was one of Florence Kendall's textbooks during her undergraduate days as a physical education student at the University of Minnesota. This book acknowledged the importance of detecting and correcting physical gowth handicaps among youth in the United States. It offered a comprehensive guide for physical education students and teachers, to assist them in developing and managing effective school exercise programs for the many students experiencing such handicaps. A subsequent edition appeared under this same title in 1937. The authors collaborated again in 1943 on a supplementary volume under the title FUNDAMENTAL EXERCISES FOR PHYSICAL FITNESS.

A GUIDE TO MUSCLE RE-EDUCATION delineates the work of Vera Carter of Victoria, Australia. Miss Carter's professional career parallels that of Florence Kendall, as a practitioner beginning her work with muscle treatment of polio patients in Australia in the early 1930's. Very logically, then, Florence truly identified with this book. Florence's handwritten notes inside the cover dubbed the book "Great!" and her margin notes elsewhere declaring "Yes" indicate her full agreement with many of the same principles and approaches that matched her own teachings and practice. Vera Carter taught hundreds of physiotherapy students in Australia, gaining for her in that country the same kind of professional stature and respect that we ascribe to Florence.

Robert Williamson Lovett, Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Harvard University, also held memberships in several of the major medical societies of Europe. The first edition of his LATERAL CURVATURE OF THE SPINE AND ROUND SHOULDERS appeared in 1907, and succeeded up through this fifth edition. As early as 1909, Lovett published papers on the subject of polio, followed later by works devoted to orthopedic surgery.

Another major work on the topic of scoliosis, Samuel Kleinberg's SCOLIOSIS : PATHOLOGY, ETIOLOGY AND TREATMENT first appeared in 1926. The book is comprehensive both in its inclusion of anatomical background, and in its delineation of numerous conditions of spinal curvature. Profusely illustrated with 163 photographs, the book provided the Kendalls with an excellent diagnostic and therapeutic guidebook. In addition to a London edition also published in 1951, a Portuguese edition followed later, in 1953.

Sterling Bunnell published the first edition of his SURGERY OF THE HAND in 1944. Lippincott released several subsequent editions, up to the 7th in 1970. Drawing on his extensive experience treating wounded soldiers in the second world war, and as Consultant in Hand Surgery to the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army, Bunnell compiled this comprehensive volume at an opportune time when hand surgery was emerging as an important new specialty.


Henry and Florence Kendall published the first edition of their classic work MUSCLES : TESTING AND FUNCTION in 1949. Their stated intent was not to advance new theories, but rather to interpret existing facts as they observed them demonstrated in the patient cases that they studied. Their central premise was that thorough muscle testing is the basis for accurate physical diagnosis, and provides the necessary foundation for effective treatment in neuromuscular disorders. Their research included thousands of patients, not only those paralyzed with polio, but other non-paralytic patients as well, in addition to many others with normal muscular function.

In 1952, the Kendalls published their companion volume POSTURE AND PAIN, in which they took a comprehensive look at the broader topic of body mechanics. They applied their same thorough approach to the assessment of postural flaws as the basis for many types of neuromuscular dysfunction. The second and third editions of MUSCLES began to incorporate portions of POSTURE AND PAIN, and the two works finally became fully combined with the fourth edition in 1993. Each succeeding edition incorporated new information that Florence assimilated through her continuing study and teaching, to keep the book current with evolving developments in physical therapy practice.

MUSCLES gained an international significance with its translation into eight foreign language editions. Besides the Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish editions shown here, the book also appeared in a Greek translation.

50th Anniversary Edition








The fifth edition appeared in 2005. This edition exemplifies that the techniques of muscle testing that Henry and Florence Kendall pioneered in 1949 have remained the enduring standard at the core of physical therapy scholarship and practice for more than a half century.

Last edited on: Thursday, February 9, 2017