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American Medical Biographies/Wyman, Walter

Wyman, Walter (1848–1911)

Walter Wyman, Surgeon-General of the United States, was born at St. Louis, Missouri, August 17, 1848, his parents being Edgar Wyman, LL.D., and Elizabeth Hadley Wyman. His ancestors were among the pioneers of New England.

He attended St. Louis University and Amherst College, graduating from the former in 1866 and from the latter in 1870. From this latter institution he received the degree of A. B. at graduation, and that of A. M. in 1889. He attended the Medical Department of Washington University, and graduated in 1873, receiving the degree of M. D. He later received the honorary degrees of LL.D. from Western University of Pennsylvania in 1897, the University of Maryland in 1907, and Amherst College in 1911.

Dr. Wyman entered the Marine Hospital Service as assistant surgeon October 21, 1876. He was promoted to the grade of surgeon Oct. 1, 1877, and became surgeon general May 27, 1891.

Early in his official life he became interested in public health matters. As a result of this interest, laws were enacted to improve the physicial conditions affecting sailors in the merchant marine. In 1876 he advocated the use of the "prairie schooner" as a means of affording sailors the benefit of the high, dry climate of the Southwestern plateau. In later years he was instrumental in the establishment of a sanatorium for consumptive sailors at Fort Stanton, N. M. Perhaps his most important services to his country were the development of a national system of quarantine already begun and the fostering of scientific research in matters pertaining to the public health.

Dr. Wyman was a member of many societies, in a number of which he held important offices. He was president of the American Public Health Association in 1902 and of the Association of Military Surgeons in 1904. He was vice-president of the American National Red Cross in 1904 and of the American Medical Association in 1905.

Other societies to which he belonged included the American Academy of Medicine. American Medical Editors Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Climatological Society.

He was chairman of the International Sanitary Bureau of American Republics, and in this capacity did much to unify maritime quarantine practice.

He was also chairman of the Committee on International Quarantine of the Pan-American Medical Congress in 1896, and of the Section on Public Health of the International Congress of Arts and Sciences in 1904. During the International Congress on Tuberculosis in 1908 he was president of the Section on State and Municipal Control of Health Matters. For a long period he was director of the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis and the National Association of Mental Hygiene.

During his public life he contributed many scientific and popular articles relating to health matters. Lists of these under appropriate headings may be found in the Index Medicus and other catalogues.

Dr. Wyman was unmarried. He died, of Bright's disease and diabetes, complicated by carbuncle, at Providence Hospital, Washington, D. C., November 21, 1911.