American Medical Biographies/Atkinson, William Biddle

Atkinson, William Biddle (1832–1909)

William B. Atkinson, an obstetrician in Philadelphia and also one who gathered the lives of well-known American physicians into a volume of biography, was the son of Isaac S. and Mary R. Biddle Atkinson and was born in Haverford, Pennsylvania, June 21, 1832. His father's people were among the earliest settlers in Burlington, New Jersey.

His degrees of A. M. and A. B. were taken from the Central High School in Philadelphia and his M. D. from the Jefferson Medical College in 1853, after three years' study with Dr. Samuel McClellan. For several years he was correspondent for the New Jersey Medical and Surgical Reporter, the New York Medical Times, the Nashville Medical Journal, the New Orleans Medical Journal, and others. He also co-edited the Medical and Surgical Reporter with Dr. S. W. Butler in 1858, but in another year Atkinson became obstetric editor for S. D. Gross, of the North American Medico-Chirurgical Review, but the war caused its discontinuation. These duties gave him training in the art of writing to bear fruit in his book of biographies. W hen secretary of the State Medical Society of Pennsylvania he edited the "Transactions" and did the same for the "Transactions of the American Medical Association" when permanent secretary. His services here were held in high esteem by the association. The last work of this sort that he edited was the "Medical Register and Directory" of Philadelphia.

His important written work was "Physicians and Surgeons of the United States, 1878," which includes the lives of 1,873 medical men. A second edition with supplement appeared in 1880. This was the first attempt to cover the whole ground of American medical biography and has been a most useful book of reference to those interested in the lives of the medical fraternity in this country. Of positions he held many: professor of obstetrics and diseases of women in the Howard Hospital, Philadelphia; assistant to the professor of obstetrics and diseases of women and children in 1859 at the Pennsylvania Medical College, where he stayed until the entire faculty resigned and the college became defunct. In 1878 he was president of the Philadelphia County Medical Society. His retiring address, "Hints in the Obstetric Procedure," was, in consequence of its popularity, extended and published in book form. In 1881 he published "Therapeutics of Gynecology and Obstetrics." At one time he lectured on the diseases of children at the Jefferson Medical College and as inspector of the State Board of Health he issued valuable reports.

In 1867 he married Miss Jennie R. Patterson of Philadelphia who died in 1871, leaving one child, a boy. He afterwards married Miss S. J. Hutchinson and had two children, a son and a daughter. He died at his home in Philadelphia November 23, 1909.