Rare Book Profile: Samuel Gross’s A Manual of Military Surgery; or, Hints on the Emergencies of Field, Camp and Hospital practice (2nd edition).

S. D. Gross’s A Manual of Military Surgery (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1861) was written for use as a handbook in the field by Union surgeons in the American Civil War. Its author served as a surgical consultant to the United States Surgeon General.

Samuel David Gross (1805-1884) was one of the most highly esteemed American surgeons and medical educators of his time. Born into a rural Pennsylvania Dutch family, he apprenticed with two local physicians as a teenager, then left home for formal education in schools in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. He earned a medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1828. He opened a general practice in Philadelphia, where he also translated a number of French and German medical works into English. After a few year, he married and moved his practice to Easton, Pennsylvania near his family home. He added a small laboratory to his house, where he conducted human and animal dissection, as well as research on a variety of subjects.

In 1833, one of his former teachers helped him obtain a position demonstrating pathology at the Medical College of Ohio in Cincinnati. He was promoted to Professor of Pathological Anatomy two years later. Shortly after that, he moved to the position of Chief of Pathologic Anatomy in the Medical Department of the Cincinnati College. The college folded in 1839, and Gross joined the faculty of the Louisville Medical Institute as Professor of Surgery, where he remained for 16 years, establishing a dog laboratory, practicing medicine, and lecturing. He co-founded the Louisville Medical Review and the North American Chirurgical Review, and contributed to the Institute’s reputation as a major medical center.

In 1856, Gross accepted an appointment as Professor of Surgery at Jefferson Medical College, where he remained for the rest of his career. He was the first alumnus to join the faculty. He was active in several medical associations and served as the twentieth president of the American Medical Association. Over the years, Gross published many books and articles on anatomy, pathology, surgery, and diseases. He also wrote a number of medical biographies and histories. Gross is perhaps most famous as the subject of Thomas Eakins’ iconic 1875 painting The Gross Medical Clinic, instructing students while performing surgery in the Jefferson Medical College amphitheater. Gross died in 1884 at the age of 78.

A Manual of Military Surgery was published in 1861 as a handbook for Union field surgeons. In 1862, an unauthorized reprint was issued by J.W. Randolph in Richmond, Virginia, who justified the piracy by pointing out that no other such works were available. “The book trade between the two sections of the continent having been interrupted, it has rendered it impossible for Dr. Gs publishers to furnish the work to the Southern Public.” The Confederacy didn’t publish an original surgical manual until 1863.

The Health Sciences Library’s well-worn copy of A Manual of Military Surgery is the second edition, published in Philadelphia in 1862. It is bound in the original publisher’s brown cloth with gilt-stamped spine.

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]

New Exhibit – Picture This: Photographs in 19th Century Illustration

chininum plate1

While they continued to use lithographs, engravings, and woodcuts, nineteenth-century authors and publishers took advantage of advances in photographic and printing technology to improve the accuracy and quality of illustration. A sampling of medical publications from the Health Sciences Library’s Rare Books Collection is featured in the exhibit case on the 3rd floor, between the elevator and the Special Collections Room.

[Emily Epstein, Cataloging Librarian]

Rare Book Profile: William Beaumont’s Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice, and the Physiology of Digestion.

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William Beaumont’s Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice, and the Physiology of Digestion  (Plattsburgh: F.P. Allen, 1833) marks a breakthrough in the understanding of digestive physiology.  Some of Beaumont’s  revelations include the fact that digestion is primarily chemical rather than physical, and the effects of factors such as spices, temperature, exercise, and emotions. Beaumont’s attitude toward and treatment of his subject also raises ethical issues in human experimentation.

William Beaumont  (1785-1853) was born in Connecticut. He apprenticed in medicine in Vermont, and served as an army surgeon’s mate during the War of 1812. He briefly practiced medicine in Plattsburgh, New York after the war. He reenlisted in 1819 and was posted as surgeon to Fort Mackinac, in the Michigan Territory.

At the American Fur Company store near Fort Mackinac In 1822, a young French-Canadian trapper named Alexis St. Martin was accidentally shot at close range by a musket loaded with duck shot.  Beaumont was summoned. St. Martin’s injuries were serious, and he was not expected to survive. Over the next two years, St. Martin recovered from his injuries, but despite Beaumont’s best efforts, the hole in his side did not close. According to Beaumont, St. Martin was healed by early 1824, but “the aperture remained; and the surrounding wound was firmly cicatrized to its edges,” leaving a hole into his stomach (a gastric fistula).

The hole in his side left the trapper unable to continue his profession.  Beaumont contracted the illiterate young man to work as his servant, doing menial chores.  When Beaumont was transferred to Fort Niagara in 1825, St. Martin accompanied him, and his duties expanded to include serving as the subject of experiments, many of them painful.  A month later, St. Martin returned to Canada. In 1829, Beaumont was stationed in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. St. Martin, with wife and children in tow, returned to work for him, and research resumed until St. Martin left in 1831. In 1832, Beaumont took St. Martin to Washington, D.C.,  and continued experimenting until spring of 1833, when St. Martin left for Quebec ,and Beaumont went to Plattsburgh to prepare his book for publication.

Beaumont was posted to St. Louis, Missouri in 1834. He wanted St. Martin to join him there, but was unwilling to bring St. Martin’s family.  Five years later, Beaumont resigned from the Army to avoid transfer to Florida, and he practiced medicine in St. Louis until 1853, when he died of a head injury from slipping on the icy steps of a patient’s home.  St. Martin lived until 1880. When he died at the age of 86, his family left his body out to rot, then buried it in an unmarked grave to prevent researchers from retrieving him for further study.

The Health Sciences Library owns two copies of the first edition of Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice. Both were rebound by the library’s former director, Dr. Frank B. Rogers.  One copy once belonged to the University of Pennsylvania Library.

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]  beaumont woodcut