History of PT

Future of PT

Pediatric Physical Therapy

Case Studies


Credits and Acknowledgements


Last updated: 25-may-07

History of Physical Therapy

1881 | 1894 | 1914 | 1917 | 1920 | 1942 | 1946 | 1956 | 1967 | 2007 | The Future of PT

1881 The Sargent School, the first school of modern physical education/physical therapy opens in Boston.

1894 First US polio epidemic in Rutland, Vermont, with 123 children infected, 50 becoming disabled, and 10 resulting in death. 1914 RW Lovett creates the “Vermont Plan” to treat the state’s polio epidemic. His assistant Wilhelmie Wright, trains assistants in her system of “manual muscle Early rehab programReconstruction Aides WWItesting,”a method for evaluating muscle function.

1917 When the U.S. declares war on Germany, the Division of Special Hospitals and Physical Reconstruction is created within the Army Medical Department.Mary McMillan

1920 Organizational meeting for American Women’s Physiotherapeutic Association held in New York. Mary McMillan elected first President by ballot.

1942 Public Law 828 recognizes women PTs as wartime members of the Army Medical Department, with “relative” rank of 2nd Lieutenant.

1946 American Physiotherapy Association changes its name to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).Pool therapy for child with polioChild with polio receiving PT

1956 Salk vaccine for polio is introduced in massive vaccination program. PTs play a crucial role in field testing the vaccine prior to mass distribution, and in continued treatment of children afflicted with polio.

1967 The APTA creates policy to approve the training of Physical Therapist Assistants (PTAs).

2007 Currently 111 of the physical therapy programs in the US are entry level doctorate programs.


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Center on Human Development and Disability, Clinical Training Unit, University of Washington,
Box 357920, Seattle, WA 98195-7920