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American Medical Biographies/Wyman, Morrill

Wyman, Morrill (1812–1903)

Morrill Wyman, inventor of the operation of thoracentesis and son of Rufus Wyman, a physician of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, later the first superintendent of the McLean Insane Asylum, was born in Chelmsford July 25, 1812.

He graduated from Harvard College in the same class as his brother Jeffries (q.v.) in 1833, and received the M. D. from the Harvard Medical School in 1837. He studied with Dr. William J. Walker, of Charlestown, before graduating from the school and after graduation served as house officer at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He began practice in Cambridge in 1838 and continued until a few years before his death, which occurred January 31, 1903, at the ripe age of ninety-one.

For a few years during his early life he was adjunct Hersey professor of the theory and practice of physic in the Harvard Medical School. From 1875 to 1889 he was an overseer of the University and in 1885 was given the LL.D. of Harvard. He was consulting physician to the Massachusetts General Hospital, to the Cambridge Hospital, in the establishment of which he was especially prominent, and to the Adams' Nervine Asylum in Jamaica Plain, a part of Boston.

In 1839 he married Elizabeth Aspinwall, daughter of Capt. Robert S. Pulsifer, a Boston shipmaster, and was survived by a son and daughter.

In 1846 he published a volume of 400 pages on ventilation which was an authority for many years; in 1868 appeared "Progress in School Discipline" from his pen.

On February 23, 1850, he removed a large quantity of fluid from the chest of a patient suffering from pleural effusion, making use of an exploring needle and a stomach pump. He repeated the operation a few days later with success, and on April 17, of the same year, operated on a patient of Dr. Henry Ingersoll Bowditch (q.v.). Bowditch was convinced of the value of the operation, described it and gave it popularity, assigning, however, the credit of the invention of thoracentesis to Wyman. In 1863 Wyman delivered the annual discourse before the Massachusetts Medical Society on the subject: "The Reality and Certainty of Medicine," an excellent supplement, to Oliver Wendell Holmes' address in 1860 on "Currents and Counter-Currents in Medical Science."

Wyman was the author of a brochure on "Autumnal Catarrh (Hay Fever)," published in 1872, in which he described two forms of the disease of which he was a victim annually.

He was dearly beloved by many generations of students at Harvard College to whom he was not only the college physician, but adviser and helper in time of need.

Harv. Grad's. Mag., June, 1903.
Mem. by H. P. Walcott.
Mem. meeting, Boston Med. & Surg. Jour., vol. clxix.
Bull. Harv. Med. Alumni Asso., April, 1903.
History Harv. Med. School, T. F. Harrington, 1905.
Boston Med. & Surg. Jour., vol. clxviii.