Friday, August 12, 2011

Dr. Samuel Gross

One of the most famous surgeons of the 19th century grew up on a Pennsylvania farm. At the age of six, Samuel Gross announced his intention to become a surgeon. Brought up among the Pennsylvania Dutch, he knew almost no English at the age of 15. He began to study and eventually became fluent in English, German, Greek, Latin, French and Italian. At 17 he began the study of medicine under a country practitioner. At the age of 23 he was awarded his M.D. degree from the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

Five years after graduation, Gross added “teacher” and “author” to his accomplishments.He began to lecture and to write medical books and published the first English-language book on pathological anatomy. Many Civil War doctors, North and South, studied under Dr. Gross.

A tall man with a handsome face, Gross was known as a painstaking and skillful surgeon. He was a natural teacher, earnest and enthusiastic. He married an accomplished woman of English descent and their son Samuel later followed in his father’s professional footsteps.

Gross was one of the earliest to create an American medical literature of importance, including a textbook on surgery used by physicians throughout the Civil War. A copy of the manual was captured by Confederate troops early in the war and reprinted for the use of the Southern surgeons.

Dr. Gross’ knowledge and wisdom gave a strong base to 19th century American medicine. He founded two medical journals, was the founder and first president of the American Surgical Association and the first president of the Alumni Association of the Jefferson Medical College. His surgical demonstrations are depicted in Thomas Eakins’ painting, “The Gross Clinic.”

Age in 1861: 56


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