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American Medical Biographies/Wood, William

Wood, William (1810–1899)

Destined to be known as a scientific, thorough and deliberate man, of the highest character in medicine, this physician was born in Scarboro, Maine, October 2, 1810, the son of William and Susan Simonton Wood. The young boy received his first instruction at the hands of the mother of the well-known John Neal, of Portland, and after passing beyond her skill in teaching, attended the public schools. Being unusually bright, he learned with great rapidity, entered Bowdoin when less than fifteen, and graduated in the class of 1829. He then studied medicine at the Medical School of Maine and took his M. D. in 1833, soon afterwards going to Europe and spending most of his time in the hospitals of Paris for nearly three years. He set out for home in the winter of 1836 and encountered many storms, so that the voyage lasted seventy-two days, and the ship with all on board was given up for lost.

He began practice upon his return, and with his inherent zeal and large acquirements in medicine, ultimately obtained a large clientele. A skilled diagnostician, he made daily use of the microscope, and by this means gained an insight into the diseases of many patients who had been given up by others, who had failed to make microscopic examinations of excretions. One case in particular towards the end of his medical career is worth reporting; a gentleman highly thought of by his fellowmen was suffering hopelessly, and Dr. Wood was called in consultation. The minute that he looked at the patient, he exclaimed to the family physician, "Sir, can you not see that your patient is dying from uremia? "How long since, in the name of God, did you use the catheter?" This patient died, for he was too far gone for relief, but this incident shows the diagnostic skill of William Wood.

All that he wrote, or did in the way of operations, or what he said in discussions at the meeting of the Maine Medical Association, are lost because the transactions were not then deliberately printed.

It would not do to pass unnoticed Dr. Wood's great love for natural history. To this branch of science he gave much time and in it he was an expert. He was the founder of the Maine Natural History Society. He was fond of botany, and had a collection of medicinal plants in his fine garden. In the second story of his house he had a large room looking out on the garden and round about it books were piled in great profusion. He had more than one microscope and I have heard him say that he had as much enjoyment out of a microscope costing a few dollars, as from one of the more expensive, costing hundreds.

Dr. Wood married Mrs. Mary Stanwood Jordan and had four children. It was a matter of regret to him that his son did not become a physician.

He died from old age, in 1899, after a brief illness, leaving a most charming and agreeable memory among natural history students and medical men.

Trans. Maine Med. Asso.