American Medical Biographies/Dwight, Thomas
Dwight, Thomas (1843–1911).
Thomas Dwight, son of Thomas and Mary Collins Warren Dwight, was born in Boston October 13, 1843. As a very young boy he was taken abroad by his parents, making his first voyage in a sailing ship, and spent some years in Paris, where he attended school. On his return he completed his education in Boston and entered Harvard College with the class of 1866. After finishing two years of his college course, he entered the Harvard Medical School and. obtained his degree of doctor of medicine in 1867, and an A. B., as of 1866, in 1872. After leaving the Medical School, he spent several years of study in Europe. His chief interest, however, was in anatomical science and natural history and part of his time abroad was spent in that study under Rüdinger at Munich. There he obtained his first knowledge and experience of the use of frozen sections in anatomical work, and was one of the first to introduce this method into America. On his return home he continued in active practice for a number of years, but retired eventually in order to devote himself entirely to anatomy. During his active career as a practitioner, he was surgeon to out-patients at the Boston City Hospital, from 1877–1880, and visiting-surgeon at the Carney Hospital from 1876–1883. In 1883 he was appointed a member of the board of consultation of the Carney Hospital, and acted as president of the staff until his resignation in 1898.
In 1872 he was made instructor in comparative anatomy at Harvard, and in 1874 instructor in histology, and gave also some instruction in embryology. At this time he was offered the position of lecturer in anatomy at the Medical School of Maine at Bowdoin, and taught there until 1876, being professor of anatomy from 1873–1876, and in 1883 he was appointed Parkman Professor of Anatomy at Harvard.
Doctor Dwight was an excellent teacher and a strong, clear and forcible lecturer. His best anatomical work was on the anatomy of the skeleton and the joints and on the normal variations in the body. His study of variations was applied chiefly to the spine and to the hands and feet. He collected a remarkable series of specimens showing the chief variations in the carpus and tarsus, and including several unique cases of variations in these regions. He was the first to find and describe the subcapitatum as a separate and distinct element in both hands. In the foot he discovered an absolutely new element, the intercuneiform bone, and reported also two cases of the secondary cuboid bone, of which only one previous case had been recorded. His collection of spines, showing all possible variations, was practically unique. In 1907 Doctor Dwight published an atlas on the variations of the bones of the hand and foot, based on the specimens in his collection. He contributed the sections on bones and joints as well as those on the gastro-pulmonary system and accessory organs of nutrition in Piersol's anatomy. He made an extensive study, extending over several years, on the size of the articular surfaces of the long bones as a characteristic of sex, proving that the size of the articular ends was smaller in the female and could be used as a means of identification. He wrote several articles on the general range and significance of variations in the skeleton, and also on the question of mutations. One of his earliest publications was an atlas of the frozen sections of a child, which were among the first frozen sections to be made in this country.
Doctor Dwight devoted much of his time to the development of the anatomical part of the Warren Museum in the Medical School, and it was his intention to arrange the specimens so as to show the normal variations of all parts of the body.
He was president of the Association of American Anatomists in 1894 and was also one of the original members of the editorial board of the American Journal of Anatomy, and held this position until his death. From 1873 to 1878 he was an editor of the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal. Besides the Association of American Anatomists, he was a member of the American Society of Naturalists, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the St. Thomas Aquinas Academy of Philosophy and Medicine of Rome, an Honorary member of the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland, a member of the American Medical Association of the Massachusetts Medical Society and several other Medical Societies in Boston. In 1889 he received the degree of LL. D. from Georgetown University.
He was especially interested in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and became its vice-president in 1884 and president in 1887. This position he resigned in 1892, but continued to remain a member. He was chosen president of the Central and Particular Councils of Boston in 1899, and held the former office until his death. He completed a book entitled "Thoughts of a Catholic Anatomist" in the winter of 1911 and had the satisfaction of seeing it published before his death. This book contained his theories on evolution and his opinions on the relations between Catholic thought and science. His devotion and loyalty to his faith were his strongest characteristics, they influenced to a great degree his opinions and his scientific point of view, and enabled him to continue his work with courage and cheerfulness until the very end. His death occurred at his summer home, Nahant, Massachusetts, on September 9, 1911.