Rare Book Profile: W.W. Keen’s The Treatment of War Wounds

William W. Keen’s The Treatment of War Wounds (Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders Company, 1917) is a report of recent innovations in military medicine, not a personal memoir. William Williams Keen (1837-1932) was a pioneer in American neurosurgery. In his nearly 70-year career as a general surgeon, he saw and influenced major changes in medical practice and education. He wrote or edited over 650 books and articles, many influential, and introduced several new surgical procedures.

William Williams Keen (1837-1932) was born and raised in Philadelphia, studied chemistry and physics at Brown University, then returned to Philadelphia to enrol in Jefferson Medical College in 1860. At the end of his first year, he became temporary surgeon to the Fifth Massachusetts Regiment. His first battle was the First Battle of Bull Run. He returned to Jefferson, receiving his medical degree in 1862. He then returned to the army as acting assistant surgeon and served at the U.S. Army Hospital for Diseases of the Nervous System in Philadelphia. After the war, Keen studied in Europe for two years, and then returned to Philadelphia, where he established a surgical practice and lectured on pathological anatomy at Jefferson. In the following decades, he maintained his practice and served on the faculties of various Philadelphia institutions, including Jefferson Medical College (1866-1875 and 1889-1907), the Philadelphia School of Anatomy, which he founded (1875-1889), the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he worked with painter Thomas Eakins. Keen also participated in a secret operation to remove a malignant sarcoma from Grover Cleveland’s jaw in 1893, and was consulted about Franklin D. Roosevelt’s paralysis in 1921. He was the first surgeon in the U. S. to remove a brain tumor successfully, and he published the first American article on the clinical use of Roentgen rays.

In addition to his service in the Civil War, he was a consultant to the Army in the Spanish-American War, and a medical officer in World War I. World War I presented new problems in sheer scale and the introduction of new weapons. These challenges were met with innovations in organization, transportation, anti-infective agents, materials, and procedures.

The Health Sciences Library’s copy is bound in its original plain red ribbed cloth with the title in gilt on the spine and upper board, with a 16-page catalog of other medical publications at the end.

Rare materials are available to individuals or groups by appointment on Wednesday mornings and Thursday afternoons, or at other times by arrangement. To schedule an appointment, contact Emily Epstein, emily.epstein@ucdenver.edu or 303-724-2119.

[Emily Epstein, Cataloging Librarian]