After opening a practice in Rochester, Minnesota, in 1864, Dr. William Worrall Mayo made frequent trips to the East Coast to visit leading hospitals for information that he could adapt on the frontier. When he returned home from one such trip in 1869, he announced to his family that he had seen a new microscope that would be ideal for his patients. It cost $600 – a staggering amount at the time.
Louise Mayo was her husband’s partner in every sense of the term. Self-taught in botany, the source of many 19th century medications, she often looked after his patients when he was out of town. Possessed of more financial acumen than Dr. Mayo, she made sure his bills were paid on time. It was Mrs. Mayo who gave the blessing to his idea: “Well, William, if you could do better by the people with this microscope and you really think we need it, we’ll do it.” The Mayos mortgaged their home to buy the microscope.
Will Mayo was a schoolboy at the time and his brother, Charlie, was a toddler. Their parents’ dedication and sacrifice, in this instance and many others, made a lasting impression in shaping the brothers’ values. As Dr. Charlie later said, “The biggest thing Will and I ever did was to pick the father and mother we had.”