American Medical Biographies/Harlow, John Martyn

2781508American Medical Biographies — Harlow, John Martyn1920Walter Lincoln Burrage

Harlow, John Martyn (1819–1907).

John Martyn Harlow was born in Whitehall, New York, November 25, 1819, son of Ransom and Annis Martyn Harlow, and at the time of death was eighty-seven years old. He fitted for college at the Methodist Collegiate Institute at West Poultney, Vermont, and at the Ashby Academy, Ashby, Massachusetts. In 1840 he began to study medicine and surgery at the Philadelphia School of Anatomy, and studied afterwards at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, graduating at the latter place in 1844.

In 1845 he began to practise in Cavendish, Vermont, where he remained for fifteen years, until obliged to retire on account of ill health. It was while at this place that he took charge of the case which gave him a worldwide fame among medical men, of a usually fatal wound of the brain. A young man who was tamping a hole in a rock, with an iron bar an inch in diameter and three feet seven inches long, had the bar blown through his skull by the premature discharge of a blast. The explosion drove the bar completely through his head, and high in the air. Fortunately the bar was round in shape and smoothed by use. The event occurred on the thirteenth of September, 1848, and the victim of the accident lived until May 21, 1861, when he died in San Francisco, California.

Dr. Harlow published an account of this remarkable case, entitled, "Recovery from the Passage of an Iron Bar through the Head," and the skull and bar are now in the Warren Museum of the Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Returning to Philadelphia, Dr. Harlow passed nearly three years in travel and study, and resumed practice in Woburn in the autumn of 1861, attaining a large practice and holding the following offices of trust: member of school committee, president of the Woburn National Bank, member of the Massachusetts Senate and of the Governor's Council, trustee of the Woburn Public Library and of the Massachusetts General Hospital.

He died in Woburn, May 18, 1907. He was married twice—first to Charlotte Davis, of Acton, who died about 1887; then to his second wife, Frances Kimball, of Woburn, who survived him. There were no children.

Obit. Boston Transcript, May 18, 1907.