American Medical Biographies/Hanks, Horace Tracy

Hanks, Horace Tracy (1837–1900).

Horace Tracy Hanks was born at East Randolph, Vermont, on June 27, 1837. As a boy he went to the Orange County, the West Randolph, Vermont, and the Royalston, Massachusetts, academies. He taught in the last-named academy, and also in the public schools, like many New England boys who have been compelled to rely upon their own efforts in procuring a professional education, and in 1859 he was studying medicine under Prof. Walter Carpenter, of Burlington, Vermont, and attending lectures at the University of Vermont. In 1861 he graduated from the Albany Medical College. One year was spent in the Albany City Hospital, and early in 1862 he received his commission as assistant surgeon in the Thirtieth Regiment, New York Volunteers. After serving in the field for one year and participating in several of the principal battles fought by the Army of the Potomac— notably those of Fredericksburg, under Gen. Burnside, and Chancellorsville, under Gen. Hooker—he was ordered to Washington, and for a considerable time was in charge of the Armory Square Hospital.

Returning to Royalston, Massachusetts, after being mustered out, he practised in that place until 1868, when he went to New York to attend lectures at the College of Physicians and Surgeons. He decided to settle in New York, and in 1872 was appointed one of the attending gynecologists to the Demilt Dispensary.

Dr. Hanks' opportunities at the Demilt Dispensary gave to him the stimulus for work in the field of gynecology, and it was not surprising that he obtained the position of assistant surgeon in the Woman's Hospital in 1875, and that he was promoted to attending surgeon in 1889. The writer well remembers the first laparotomy performed by Dr. Hanks. It was for a medium-sized ovarian tumor in the person of a young Irish girl living on First Avenue, between Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth Streets. He will never forget the doctor's great anxiety and sense of responsibility, when the operation was completed, lest the result might not be favorable, and the joking way in which he said he would lay it all to his assistant if anything unfavorable happened. The patient recovered, and the doctor was a happy man. The incident shows one of Dr. Hanks' traits very forcibly—his intense feeling, sometimes almost amounting to doubt, as to whether he was doing all that he could in every individual case.

Dr. Hanks delivered the course of lectures on obstetrics at Dartmouth Medical College in 1878. In 1885 he was chosen as one of the professors of diseases of women in the New York Post-Graduate Medical School, and held the position until 1898, when failing health compelled him to resign.

Dr. Hanks was a consulting gynecologist to the Northeastern Dispensary, the Newark Hospital for Women, St. Joseph's Hospital, of Yonkers, and several other out-of-town hospitals. He was a member of the American Gynecological Society and of the British Gynecological Association, the New York Academy of Medicine (of which he was vice-president for three years), the New York State Medical Society, the Medical Society of the County of New York (of which he was president for two years), and the New York Obstetrical Society. He was also an honorary member of the Boston Gynecological Society.

In 1898 the University of Rochester conferred upon him the honorary degree of LL. D.

Dr. Hanks was twice married; to Miss Martha L. Fisk, whom he wedded in 1864, and who died in 1868, leaving one daughter. The daughter died in New York in 1874. His second wife, in 1872, was Miss Julia Dana Godfrey, of Keene, New Hampshire. Mrs. Hanks survived him with two daughters, Linda Tracy and Emily Grace Hanks.

For one who was so actively engaged in practice, Dr. Hanks contributed many excellent papers to the medical press. His style was forceful, clear and concise, and always carried the conviction that he had thoroughly thought out and fully mastered the subjects upon which he wrote. Among these papers are four read before the society and published in the transactions: "On the Early Diagnosis of Ectopic Pregnancy and the Best Method of Treatment," 1888; "Rules to be Followed in the Effort to Prevent Mural Abscesses, Abdominal Sinuses, and Ventral Hernia, after Laparotomy," 1890; "Secondary Hemorrhage after Ovariotomy: Can We Prevent It?" 1892; "Total Extirpation of the Uterus and Appendages for Diseases of These Organs," 1894.

In the first-mentioned paper he took a firm stand in upholding the use of electricity for the purpose of destroying the life of the fetus in the early months of ectopic gestation.

During the last two years of his life Dr. Hanks showed the effects of constant and exhausting work. In 1900 his condition became more serious, and well-marked symptoms ofacute nephritis made their appearance, which terminated his life on November 18.

Trans. Amer. Gynec. Soc., 1901, vol. xxvi.
Albany Med. Annals, 1901, vol. xxii, W. C. Spalding.
Amer. Gyn. and Obstet. Jour., New York, 1900, vol. xvii.
Jour. Amer. Med. Assoc., Chicago, 1900, vol. xxxv.
Med. Rec., New York, 1900, vol. lviii.
Med. News, New York, 1901, vol. lxxvii.