Dr. Virginia Apgar: Pioneering Obstetrician Also Had This Hidden Musical Talent
At one point, it led her to amateur thievery.
Dr. Virginia Apgar was honored with a commemorative Google Doodle for her work in neonatology, anesthesiology, and teratology. But besides saving millions of babies with the Apgar test and working to eradicate German Measles, Apgar had another past-time: violin.
Apgar was raised in New Jersey in the early 20th century by a musically-inclined family. Her surviving brother (the other died early on from tuberculosis) played the organ and the piano while she learned the violin. It was a talent she continued to develop throughout her life. Apgar eventually even learned how to make instruments!
Her profession — which spanned from working with patients to teaching in lecture halls at Cornell University’s School of Medicine to advocating for vaccines in front of the Supreme Court — took Apgar to lots of different US cities for work and travel. Oftentimes, she would join local amateur chamber quartets.
In the 1950s, a friend introduced her to the art of instrument-making. Together, the two made two violins, a viola, and a cello. In fact, Apgar stole a shelf from a colleague’s maple cupboard so she could have the perfect violin-making materials. Her friend referred to the thievery as the “phone booth caper.”
That wasn’t the only quirk Apgar had. She never married and cited never finding a man who could cook well enough as the reason. She was also an enthusiastic gardener and enjoyed fly-fishing, golfing, and stamp collecting. (In 1994, the US Postal Service created her own honorary stamp!) If that weren’t enough, in her late fifties, Apgar took started taking flying lessons with the eventual goal of flying under the George Washington Bridge.
As a woman who was known for her tireless dedication to her work, it’s a wonder in itself that Apgar found the time to have one hobby, let alone six. But her work ethic showed, and the research Apgar conducted built a strong foundation for modern-day infant care.