Dr. Arthur E. White, 78, a retired physician who was an authority on physical rehabilitation and therapy and a retired colonel in the Army Medical Corps, died of a heart ailment Oct. 19 at Alexandria Hospital. He lived in Mount Vernon.

Dr. White served in the Army from 1932 to 1956. During World War II, he commanded hospitals in England and France. He commanded three hospitals in Japan during the Korean War. His last assignment was at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. His decorations included two Legions of Merit and the Bronze Star.

After leaving the Army, he practiced medicine in Northern Virginia until retiring in 1974. In addition to maintaining offices in Arlington and Alexandria, he served for a time on the staff of the National Orthopaedic & Rehabilitation Hospital.

He was a past president of the American Academy of Physical and Medicine and Rehabilitation, a fellow of the American College of Physicians and a diplomate of American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Dr. White, who moved here in 1954, was a native of Oklahoma. He earned bachelor's and medical degrees at the University of Oklahoma. He also did postgraduate work at Columbia, Cornell, and Northwestern universities and at the Mayo Clinic and what is now the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute.

His wife, Florence G. White, died in 1972. His survivors include a son, Walter, of Mount Vernon; a daughter, Anne Sagaris of Seattle, and a grandchild.