Who was Elizabeth Kenny honored by Google Doodle

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates Elizabeth Kenny, the Australian nurse who founded an alternative treatment for polio known as the Kenny Method.

His exercises have rehabilitated thousands of polio victims around the world and are considered one of the most effective forms of treatment before vaccines.

Sister Kenny Memorial House, which celebrates her life’s work, opened on this day in Nobby, Queensland, in 1997.

Kenny was born in 1880 in Warialda, New South Wales. She grew up in a poor farming community in rural Australia, where she received little formal education but was an avid reader who loved learning about medicine and human anatomy.

Although Kenny didn’t have the option to attend medical school, at age 17 she forged her own path by volunteering at a hospital in Guyra.

After following nurses and doctors for over a decade, Kenny gained enough working knowledge to open his own nursing clinic in Darling Downs, Queensland.

Elizabeth Kenny waving in the Queen Mary / World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna.
Elizabeth Kenny waving in the Queen Mary / World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna.

In 1911, she found her first case of polio. She was unaware of the standard treatment at the time, which forced polio patients to stay in casts for months, which in turn caused muscle atrophy.

This has left many polio victims permanently paralyzed.

With his new perspective, Kenny realized that the affected muscles were stiff, not permanently damaged.

So she cured her patients by applying warm, moist compresses to the affected limbs, before having them perform gradual muscle-strengthening exercises.

To the medical community’s surprise, their method worked! From then on, the exercises became known as the Kenny Method and news of this effective treatment spread far and wide.

Kenny traveled to America in the 1940s to open rehabilitation centers such as the Sister Kenny Institute in Minneapolis, which became a world-renowned center for treating polio.

Her alternative method was so effective that she received honorary degrees from Rutgers University and the University of Rochester. President Franklin D. Roosevelt even invited her to lunch to discuss his own treatment.

Impressed by the number of polio victims that the Kenny Method has rehabilitated, President Harry Truman authorized Kenny to enter the US as she wished without a visa, a high honor previously bestowed on only one other non-US citizen.

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