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REPORT ON AMERICAN MEDICAL NECROLOGY.
By J. M. TONER, M.D.,
CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEE.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ORIGIN OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON
BELIEVING that a brief sketch of the origin and development of the Committee on Necrology of the American Medical Association, drawn from the published Transactions, would possess some interest, and possibly furnish information of use in any future legislation upon its duties, the following facts have been collated.
The first suggestion relative to collecting and publishing memoirs of our leading medical men was maile at the meeting of the Association in 1818, in the city of Baltimore, on which occasion Prof. J. R. W. Dunbar, of that city, read a letter from Dr. Stephen W. Williams, of Deerfield, Mass., advocating the propriety of taking measures for preserving a record of the lives of the eminent physicians of the United States, and submitted the following resolution:
“Resolvedl, That the constitution be so amended as that a permanent committee be appointed on Medical History and Biography.”
This resolution was laid over for future consideration May + (vol. i. p. 45). At the meeting in Boston, Mass., in 1819, “ The proposed amendment to the constitution, introduced at the last annual meeting by Dr. Dunbar, which provides for the appointment of a standing comınittee on “ American Medical Biography' was considereil, but laid on the table” (vol. ii. p. 46). Dr. L. A. Duyas at the same meeting, however, proposed amendments to the constitution, providing for fourteen standing committees, among which was one on “ American Medical Biography.” (Laid over under the rule; vol. ii. p. 42.)
At the meeting in Cincinnati in May, 1850, these proposed
amendments came up, but all resolutions contemplating alterations of the constitution were, by the following resolution, on the motion of Dr. Roberts, laid upon the table:
Resolved, That all proposed alterations of the constitution be and they are hereby laid on the table for the present.”
This of course carried with it the proposition for a committee on American Necrology (vol. iii. p. 46).
Confidently expecting the anthorization of such a conimittee, Dr. S. W. Williams had prepared a report, and forwarded it to the meeting at Cincinnati in 1850, which was presented to the society by the secretary, and it was ordered to be printed. (See vol. iii. p. 47.) This paper contains sketches of forty-six physi. cians and makes forty eight pages in the volume, and is entitled “ A Brief Notice of some of the Physicians of the United States who have died within a few years."
Such is a connected record of the proceedings which gave rise to the first necrological report made to this Society.
The question of appointing a committee on necrology after this seems to have rested until 1853, when a resolution was again offered by Dr. S. W. Williams, in the following words:
“ As we are constantly called upon to deplore the ravages of death among the illustrious and worthy members of our profession throughout the United States: Resolved, That a standing committee be appointed by the Association to procure memorials of the eminent and worthy dead among the distinguisheid physicians of our country, and present them to this Association for publication in the Transactions.”
Dr. C. C. Cox, of Maryland, moved an amendment not confining the memoirs to distinguished members of the Association).
On motion of Dr. James E. Morgan, of Washington, D. C., the resolution and amendments were laid on the table (vol. ri.
The railroad disaster at Norwalk, Conn., on Friday, May 6, 1853, by which the lives of forty-four passengers were lost, among whom were seven physicians, members of the American Medical Association, returning to their homes from the meeting in New York, wrought a change in the views of the members on the subject of collecting memorials of deceased physicians. This will be seen by reading the report of the action of the committee appointeil by the meeting held by the members still remaining in New York on the day after the accident (vol. vii. p. 19).
But still more conclusively is it shown by the action of the Association when Dr. J. B. Johnson, of Missouri, read a letter from Dr. Stephen W. Williams, of Laona, Winnebago County, Ill. (to which place he had removed from Deerfield, Mass., in 1852, and where he died July 8, 1855), again calling the attention of the Associatiou to a certain preamble and resolution offered by him at the first meeting through Dr. F. Campbell Stewart, of New York, but read by Dr. Dunbar, and laid on the table. He begged the society to call up the subject through his friend Dr. Johnson, of St. Louis. On motion of Dr. Johnson the resolution was taken up and adopted, as follows:
“Resolved, That a standing committee be appointed by the Association to procure memorials of the eminent and worthy dead among the distinguished physicians of our country, and present them to the Association for publication in the Transactions" (vol. vii. p. 30).
The account of the railroad disaster at Norwalk, Conn., with biographical sketches of the seven members who lost their lives in that accident, is given in vol. vii. p. 601.
Although the resolution providing for a committee passed in 1854, no committee seems to have been appointed until the meeting of the following year, in Philadelphia, at which Drs. P. A. Jewett, of Connecticut, Thomas F. Betton, of Pennsylvania, C. J. Blackburn, of Kentucky, William M. Boling, of Alabama, and Zina Pitcher, of Michigan, were appointed a committee to procure memorials of the eminent and worthy dead (vol. viii. p. 42). At the meeting held in Detroit in 1856, the committee, with Dr. Jewell as chairman, was continuerl, and requested to make a report of such sketches as they had been able to collect. No report, however, appears in the Transactions of that year.
In 1858 Dr. C. C. Cox was appointed to report on American Medical Necrology (vol. xi. p. 39). He was reappointed on this committee at the meeting at Louisville in 1859, though he made po report (vol. xii. p. 33). The doctor, however, at the meeting in New Ilaven in 1860, made a report on American Medical Necrology, which was ordered to be printed (vol. xiii. pp. 30– 38), and may be found in full at page 787, and the committee was continued. The war coming on, the meetings of 1861 and 1862 were not held.
At the meeting in Chicago in 1863, Dr. Cox read his second report on Necrology (vol. xiv. p. 22; report printed, p. 171; com