Page:A cyclopedia of American medical biography vol. 2.djvu/443

This page needs to be proofread.


SMITH 389

saw it and wanted to know more concern- ing this craft of surgery. He asked Dr. Goodhue to teach iiim, but, " What has been your education? enquired the sur- geon, " Until last night I have labored daily with my hands." Goodhue ad- vised him to study one year then enter at Harvard, and, perhaps being used to ambitious young countrymen, thought he should see no more of him, but he turned up later at Putney, studied three years with Goodhue, then settled down, diplomaless, to doctor the people of Cornish, New Hampshire.

But ambition would not rest. He knew how little he knew and went to Harvard. There John Warren the sur- geon saw there was good stuff in him and helped him. In 1790 he graduated M. B. with a thesis on The Circulation of the Blood" and returned to Cornish, where the crudity of the local doctors became to him even more apparent than before. His earliest idea was to estab- lish a small school of medicine, but he first asked the encouragement and approbation of Dartmouth College and on their deciding to postpone giving help he went straight on to accomplish his purpose. Perhaps part of this purpose was to perfect himself still more, for he went to Edinbiu-gh, Glasgow and London and from Edinburgh sent home tliirty pounds worth of medical books and, bringing with him apparatus for teaching anatomy, and chemistry established the Medical Institute in connection with Dartmouth College, getting appointed professor of anatomy and surgery and chemistry, and getting also the A. M. degree. The lectures excited the greatest interest, and Pres. Wheelock, Smith's greatest helper, returned from a lecture to lead evening prayer in the old chapel and began by saying " O Lord, we thank Thee for the oxygen gas; we thank Thee for the hydrogen gas and for all the gases. We thank Thee for the cerebrum ; we thank Thee for the cerebellum and for the medulla oblongata."

In 1813 Yale determined to have a medical college, and Nathan Smith.


SMITH


" The New Hampshire Medical Institute," was out of swaddling clothes, so Smith left his foundling and became professor of the theory and practice of surgery, addin to this the work of practitioner and consultant and giving occasional lectures at Dartmouth and Burlington.

Like most able workers he was always being asked to do a little more and from 1821-1826 he is found giving all the lectures, save chemistry and anatomy, in the new medical school at Bowdoin College, Maine, which he had been asked to organize.

But in 1828 the burden began to tell, a severe but short illness left him debili- tated yet still he worked on until in 1829 attacks of giddiness and a slight indis- tinctness of speech troubled him and on the twenty-sixth of January this good worker died.

In some of his methods he was fifty years in advance of his time. His clear-headedness in investigation is best shown in his essay on t,yphus fever in which the gist and germ is contained of all that which Louis in Paris enunciated many yejxrs later. His operations were brilliant and successful, especially in lithotomy, then a comparatively new operation here, and he is credited with first operating in the States for staphylor- rhaphy. His ingenuity was also dis- played in the maneuver method for reducing dislocations of the hip-joint. With regard to his ovariotomy. Dr. Gilman Kimball says "in point of abso- lute merit Nathan Smith is entitled to the same honors as McDowell. His first operation was not, as intimated, an accidental one, l)ut the lesult of deliber- ate study, and done in ignorance of McDowell's first operation twelve years previously."

His writings are practically included in his "Medical and Surgical Memoirs" (1831) in which is also the one on typhus fever. For two years, 1825-6, he was co-editor of the "American Medical Review." D. W.

Nathan Smith, by fiilman Kimball, Traii.s. Am. Gyn. So<>., vol. viii, 1884.