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American Medical Biographies/Blackman, George Curtis

Blackman, George Curtis (1819–1871)

The second child of Judge Thomas Blackman, of the Surrogate Court of Newtown, Connecticut, he was born April 21, 1819. He had his preliminary education at Newtown and Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Newburg, New York, afterwards entering Yale College and graduating in medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, 1840, immediately after practising in the dispensaries in that city. Devotion to work so impaired his health that, at the suggestion of his friends, he went to Europe, acting as ship's surgeon, in which capacity he made many trips across the ocean and spent much time in London and Paris. In the former city he had to contend with great poverty.

In 1845 he spent some months in the London hospitals, living on seventy-five dollars, the sum-total of his means.

He was well acquainted with Liston, Astley Cooper, Sir Benjamin Brodie, Sir William Fergusson, and other eminent London doctors.

By invitation he read a paper before the Royal Medico-Chirurgical Society of London which so impressed the members by its depth of research and profound knowledge of the science and art of surgery that he was at once elected a member.

He practised some time in Newburgh, New York, and in 1854 went to Cincinnati, where he was appointed professor of surgery in the Medical College of Ohio, a position he held at the time of his death.

Although a brilliant and fascinating lecturer at all times, it was in the hospital theater he was in his native element. Outside of his own field he was a timid speaker and it is told of him that at a large gathering of medical men he refused to speak, although urged, until one of those present referred to an operation that is classical, giving the credit of its initiation to an English surgeon. Blackman was on his feet in an instant. For ten minutes he blazed forth like a meteor.

The roar of applause that greeted him when he sat down showed how neatly he had been entrapped.

In October, 1861, he was appointed brigade surgeon on Gen. Mitchell's staff, being present at the battles of Shiloh and Pittsburg Landing. He was for a short time on the Ohio State Medical Board for the army and was present at the battle of the Wilderness.

Dr. Blackman was a large contributor to medical literature. At one time he was editor of the Western Lancet, and afterwards one of the editors of the Cincinnati Journal of Medicine.

He translated and edited "Vidal on Venereal Diseases" and "Velpeau's Operative Surgery." He was author, in conjunction with Dr. C. A. Tripler, army surgeon, of a "Hand-book on Military Surgery." He did not leave any original work of great importance, although for several years he was engaged on a work on the "Principles and Practice of Surgery." At the time of his death he was occupied with the Hon. Stanley Mathews on a work entitled "Legal Liability in Surgical Malpractice." For many years he was on the staffs of the Commercial (later Cincinnati) and the Good Samaritan Hospitals.

In the spring of 1856 Dr. Blackman did an ovariotomy at my father's house, in Covington, Kentucky, removing a twenty-two pound cyst which had previously been repeatedly tapped. Forty years later the lady was still sounding his praises as the greatest of surgeons.

In the season of 1866–7 he twice did Amussat's operation—artificial anus—for cancer of the rectum. One of these patients lived several months.

In 1855 he married Agnes Addington of New York and had two sons and a daughter. He died at Avondale, Cincinnati, July 17, 1871.

Cincinnati Medical Observer, 1871, vol. xiv.
Cincinnati Medical Observer, 1872, vol. xv.
Trans. Ohio State Medical Society. 1872.
Boston Med. and Surg. Jour., 1871, vol. lxxxv.
Trans. Amer. Med. Asso., 1873, vol. xxiv, 370–374.