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American Medical Biographies/Brown, Buckminster

Brown, Buckminster (1819–1891)

Buckminster Brown, orthopedist, was the son of Dr. John Ball Brown (q.v.) and grandson of Dr. John Warren (q.v.). He was born in Boston, July 13, 1819. His father had introduced subcutaneous tenotomy in New England and managed a private orthopedic infirmary where patients came for treatment from all over the country. Buckminster was to follow in his father's footsteps, so when he had received his M. D. from the Harvard Medical School in 1844 he went abroad to study the new specialty of orthopedics in London under J. Little; in Paris under Guerin and Bouvier, and in Germany under Stromeyer. On his return to Boston in 1846 he established himself in general practice, in the course of a few years gravitating to the exclusive practice of orthopedics. He was associated with his father in the infirmary and was surgeon to the House of the Good Samaritan for nineteen years. Although handicapped by poor health, having had Pott's disease when a boy, and in consequence leading a shut-in life, he carried on, in spite of his deformity, an arduous and exacting practice for fifty years. Patience characterized his work, his favorite quotation being "Genius is the talent for taking pains." Of a refined and sensitive nature he shrank from publicity, devoting himself to his patients and his books. Dr. C. C. Foster, his assistant for ten years, said of him; "His mechanical ability was very great and his surgical dexterity equally remarkable. His operating and his whole handling of a case were characterized by a certain delicacy and finish that I have seen in no other man's work." Also, "His sense of touch was also very keen and he learned much through the ends of his fingers. To watch him as he manipulated a contracted tendon or a carious spine was an object lesson."

He published, with his father, in 1850, "Reports of Cases Treated at the Boston Orthopedic Institution." In 1853 appeared "A Case of Extensive Disease of the Cervical Vertebræ," and in 1859 he made an address, "Ectopia Cordis," before the Suffolk District Medical Society. In 1847 appeared "The Treatment and Cure of Cretins and Idiots" and an essay on the "Pathology and Physiological Effects of Ethereal Inhalation." His best work was in club-foot, where his persistency with the clumsy methods of the day enabled him to obtain success which less painstaking surgeons did not gain.

Dr. Brown married, in May, 1864, Sarah Alma Newcomb, daughter of Joseph Warren Newcomb, and great-granddaughter of Gen. Joseph Warren.

He died at Auburndale, Massachusetts, December 26, 1891, leaving in his will his collection of specimens to the Warren Museum at the Harvard Medical School, and a large sum of money to found the first professorship of orthopedic surgery in Harvard University. He was an active member of the American Orthopedic Association and the Boston Society for Medical Improvement.

N. Y. Med. Jour., J. Ridlon, M. D., 1892, vol. lv, p. 272.
Trans. Amer. Orthop. Asso., C. C. Foster, M.D., 1892, Phila., 1893.
Emin. Amer. Phys. & Surgs., R. French Stone, 1894.
Personal Communication, E. H. Bradford, M.D..
Bos. Med. and Surg. Jour., vol. cxxvi.
Biograph. Encyclopedia of Mass.