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American Medical Biographies/Bradford, Joshua Taylor

Bradford, Joshua Taylor (1818–1871)

Joshua Taylor Bradford, ovariotomist, was born in Bracken County, Kentucky, December 9, 1818, a son of William Bradford of Virginia, who in 1790 emigrated to Bracken County, his mother being Elizabeth Johnson.

Joshua was educated in Augusta College and studied medicine with his brother, Dr. J. J. Bradford, graduating from Transylvania University in 1839.

From the beginning he directed his attention to surgery, and in all probability received much of his inspiration from Benjamin Winslow Dudley (q.v.), his surgical teacher in the Transylvania University. Soon after graduation, he successfully performed an ovariotomy. Lunsford Pitts Yandell says: "And it was not long before he became the foremost surgeon of Kentucky, and of all the West, in that affection. Nor is it too much to say that at the time of his death he stood first among surgeons everywhere—in Europe and in our own country—as an ovariotomist. Not that he had done the operation oftener than any other surgeon. Such is not the fact. It has been performed much oftener by Atlee, Wells, Dunlap, and others; but by none with the measure of success that crowned his operations. In the hands of the surgeons just mentioned the recoveries were respectively 71, 73, and 80 per cent. With Bradford the cases in which he operated successfully amounted to 90 per cent."

But it was not alone in this operation that Dr. Bradford proved himself to be a surgeon of the highest order. In whatever cases he was called to operate he exhibited the same coolness and dexterity, the same fruitfulness in resources, and the same thorough knowledge of his art. It is understood that he meditated a work on operative surgery, but he was not permitted to carry out his purpose.

He continued to practice in Augusta, where he was raised, and not being ambitious preferred the charms of his "Piedmont" home to the allurements of professional life, which goes far towards explaining the comparative obscurity into which he lapsed. Strange to say, unlike McDowell, Dudley and others, he was almost lost to the medical literature of Kentucky which is not altogether to the credit of his followers. He twice declined the chair of surgery and but a short time before his death was again urged to accept the same chair in Cincinnati.

He excised the os calcis and cuboid, New York Medical Times, February, 1862. Most of his cases were reported in the Cincinnati Lancet, "Gross' Surgery," New York American Monthly, American Chirurgical Review, Louisville Semi-monthly News. His cases of ovariotomy have been published by Dr. E. R. Peaslee of New York.

Two articles by him are:

"Selections from a Report on Ovariotomy," read before the Kentucky State Medical Society, at its annual meeting at Louisville, April, 1857. "Complete Rupture of the Perineum of Ten Years' Standing, Successfully Operated On." Reprinted from Cincinnati Lancet and Obstetrics, 1869.

Yandell thus describes him: "In manners he was dignified, urbane, cordial and gentle. Of an imposing presence he was a man to attract notice and command respect in any circle; and his warm feelings, varied attainments, and social nature made him one of the most charming of companions."

He died on the thirty-first of October, 1871, in the fifty-third year of his age, the disease which terminated his life being abscess of the liver.

History of Kentucky, Collins, vol. ii.
Biog. Encyclop. of Kentucky, J. M. Armstrong, Cincinnati, O.
Presidential Address, Lewis Rogers, M.D., Trans. Ky. State Med. Society, 1873.
Proc. Kentucky Med. Soc., Louisville, L. P. Yandell, 1873.