Page:A cyclopedia of American medical biography vol. 2.djvu/78

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KANE


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KANE


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Kane, Elisha Kent (1S20-1S56),

Elisha Kent Kiinc, explorer, scholur, scientist, was born on the third of Febru- ary, 1S20, in Walnut Street, Philadelphia, the eldest of the seven children born to John Kent, jurist, and Jane Leiper Kane. The spirit of adventure and daring seems to have been in him from his cradle and the embryo scientist was unappreciated by worried schoolmasters and received as a boy that which is often reserved for old savants, a good many hard knocks. He had the free life of a country lad and when sixteen was sent to the University of Virginia, but functional heart trouble interfered considerably with his work. He had the good luck to study natural science under Prof. Rogers, engaged just then on the geology of the Blue Moun- tains, and accompanied him in his jour- neyings. An attack of rheumatism and drawing nigh to death was his next campaign, then a determined effort for an M. D. degree, which he took with highest honors from the University of Pennsyl- vania after studying under Dr. William Harris. Boyish in appearance, not yet twenty-one, he was made resident physician in the Pennsylvania Hospital, Blockley, and found time to explore still further than his colleagues the nature of a new substance found in the renal se- cretion which M. Nauche of Paris had named Kyestein and announced as a final test in cases of suspected utero-gestation. The result of the Blockley Hospital re- search was published in the "Medical Intelligencer," March, 1S41, but Kane shortly after wrote a thesis on the sub- ject in which, as Dr. Samuel Jackson said, that which was still a matter of controversj^ was investigated and per- manently settled.

In 1843 Kane became assistant surgeon in the United States Navy. He served in China, on the coast of Africa, in Mexico


(where he was wounded), in the Mediter- ranean and on the first Grinnell Arctic expedition in the search for Franklin. The ships met with many disasters and Kane's medical skill did much to help and hearten the scurvy-stricken crew. He also joined the second expedition in 1853 with Dr. Isaac I. Hays as surgeon. The Advance touched at various Greenland points to obtain Esquimaux recruits and finally reached 78° 43' north, the highest point attained by a sailing vessel. In 1855, after tremendous hardships includ- ing desertion by a Danish crew, Kane was obliged to abandon the ship and by indefatigable exertions succeeded in moving his boats and sick some sixty miles to the open sea. He reached Cape York and successfully arrived at Uper- navik in August. The explorer and his companions were enthusiastically re- ceived here. Arctic medals were author- ized by Congress and the Queen's medal presented to officers and men. Kane had the Founders medal of 1856 from the Royal Geographical Society and that of 1858 from the Soci6t6 de Geographic. The chart exhibiting the discoveries of the expedition was at first issued without Kane's name attached to any land or sea it embraced, but Col. Force, exercising his authority in the distribution of honors, had Kane's Sea printed on a body of water be- tween Smith's Strait and Kennedy Channel.

His health had been terribly broken by hardships endured, and in the hope of recovering he went to England where London fogs did not improve matters. He set out, crippled by rheumatism, on a painful journey to Cuba where his mother and brother joined him, but after a few weeks of pleasure in their com- pany and much pain in his body, this heroic young navigator set out in that