Emile Frederic Holman was born in Missouri in 1890 and then moved with his family as a teenager to southern California. He entered Stanford University as a math major in 1907; he dropped out for a semester to learn shorthand and typing in order to support himself. Upon his return, he performed stenographic work for Stanford's founding President, David Starr Jordan. After graduation, Holman stayed on as Secretary to President Jordan until 1914 when Holman went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Thereafter, began a key period of education at Johns Hopkins University.
Of some note, Sir William Osler wrote a letter recommending Holman for admission to The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; Holman received his M.D. degree from Hopkins in 1918. He then became Assistant in Surgery in the Surgical Hunterian Laboratory, the research lab of the noted surgeon, William Stewart Halsted. He continued in Halsted's residency program until 1923, serving as the last resident surgeon at the time of Halsted's death in 1922. His loyalty to Professor Halsted was legendary; it was Holman who first brought the principles of the Halstedian residency to the west. In 1925 he returned to Stanford as Associate Professor of Surgery and in 1926 he was named head of the Department, a position he held for 29 years until his retirement from the faculty in 1955.
Dr. Holman is perhaps best known for his pioneering work in vascular surgery and, in particular, the physiology of arteriovenous fistulas. This research won him the coveted Samuel D. Gross prize from the Philadelphia Academy of Surgery in 1930 and the Rudolph Matas Medal in Vascular Surgery from Tulane in 1954. He was elected a member of The Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars in 1970. His co-authors over the years are a literal compendium of the substantial physicians and surgeons of the 20th century. Less well known were his fundamental ideas and observations on skin grafting. In 1924 he published a paper of his early work in the identification and characterization of the phenomenon of rejection of transplanted skin (from a parent to a child), particularly the accelerated rejection of second transplants from the same donor. These observations were not pursued, though many believe formed the basis for Medawar's work a quarter of a century later. His astute observations were recognized at the International Congress of The Transplantation Society in 1972 nearly 50 years after his paper was published. He died on March 19, 1977.