American Medical Biographies/Musser, John Herr

Musser, John Herr (1856–1912)

John H. Musser, eminent clinician, teacher and writer, was bom at Strasburg, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the twenty-second of June, 1856. He was the son of Dr. Benjamin Musser, the son of Dr. Martin Musser, the son of Dr. Benjamin Musser; his mother was Naomi Musser; thus his forebears back to his great grandfather were physicians, as was a son, John H., who followed him.

He was educated at the Millersville State Normal School, and the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, where he graduated in 1877. He married Agnes Harper in 1880, by whom he had five children, the three oldest surviving.

He was a resident of the Philadelphia Hospital (Blockley), and then a successful quiz-master and bedside investigator; he soon acquired all the traditions of the older school as typified in the then professor of medicine Alfred Stillé (q. v.). He was first assistant professor of clinical medicine in the University of Pennsylvania 1889–98; professor of clinical medicine 1898–1912. He was the director of the department of research in medicine in the University of Pennsylvania, and in 1911 refused the didactic chair of medicine, as his greatest ambition ever lay in clinical lines, and a large consulting practice left no time for the pressing duties of the chair.

He inaugurated and remained the directing head of the Social Service Department of the University of Pennsylvania Hospital.

Musser had both unusual opportunities and a rare gift for making friends, and was constantly active as a member of numerous medical societies, especially in the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, in the Association of American Physicians, and in the American Medical Association, of which he was president in 1903.

He was the author of "Medical Diagnosis" (five editions) of "Practical Treatment" and editor of "Diseases of the Lungs and Pleura," in Nothnagel's Practice, Vol. IV, as well as a System of Therapeutics with A. O. J. Kelly.

His early and steady progress in diagnostic skill was manifestly due in large measure to his zeal for autopsies in his Blockley days and later. He was pathologist to the Presbyterian Hospital, and a president of the Philadelphia Pathological Society. His clinical work was done at Blockley Hospital, at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and at the Presbyterian Hospital.

Musser in an illustration of the possibilities which lie within the grasp of the average life of a man of good mentality who consistently and persistently turns his energies in one specific direction and says "This one thing I do and I am determined to do it well." He thus became by successive degrees a leading consultant in a great metropolis, a well-read scientific physician, an acceptable teacher, and a pathologist to a grade rarely found in the ranks of our general practitioners.

His sterling character and his rare qualities as a friend cannot be portrayed in a brief biography.

Troubled for some years with a weak heart, he died after a brief acute illness the third of April, 1912.