"Peace to his Ashes."
Selected writings of A. Jackson Howe.
This paper is reproduced to show how fairly Professor Howe estimated men. It was his privilege to have known many of the great surgeons of his day of all schools and to have received instruction from some of them. He knew their strength and their weaknesses, and he accorded to each his need of praise or censure. Had Dr. Howe himself been of the dominant school of medicine, his own name would have been written with those of Gross, Warren, Parker, Mott, and Pancoast.—Ed. Gleaner.
"PEACE TO HIS ASHES."—In accordance with an expressed wish the body of Professor Gross was cremated. The statement is not published as to the disposition made of the "ash." Possibly a classic urn will be fashioned large enough to preserve for a season the family ashes. At death the physical part of the man may as well be dissipated at once with intense heat as to be years in returning to the original elements while in earth. The fumes of the cremating furnace need not necessarily contaminate the atmosphere, though residences in the vicinity of a crematory would not be likely to command high prices. A tall chimney might carry mephitic gases above breathing levels.
At his death, and for a quarter of a century previous to that event, Professor Gross was one of the most distinguished surgeons in the world. His fame did not spring from a conspicuous amount of inventive genius, but from a long professional life spent in earnest toil, the aim of the man being to become a master in surgery.
As a writer Professor Gross was voluminous, sound, and profound, yet not always elegant and pointed. His experience was large and his judgment good, hence his surgical works rose to authority. There was not a striking felicity in his style as a writer or speaker, yet his words always commanded respect and attention.
Dr. Gross was a deep diagnostician and an able operator, yet he could hardly be called adroit in any department of surgery. The editor of the New York Medical Record, in an obituary notice, says: "There are epochs in the history of medicine with which famous and undying names are inseparably associated, and there are great names belonging to special departments in medicine. But for Dr. Gross no one great operation is called by his name."
Professor Gross was never rash nor dashing, but always patient and painstaking—and he had confidence in his powers. He was generous in ascribing just dues to co-laborers in the regular vineyard, but careful to ignore ideas having origin in outside sources. He was not progressive in his professional tendencies—he died in the belief that phlebotomy had fallen into unreasonable neglect.
Death has lately cut down several American surgeons of considerable distinction. Among the number is Willard Parker, M. D., LL. D., at the ripe age of eighty-four. Thirty years ago, when I was "doing" the hospitals and clinics of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, it was my pleasure and good fortune to listen to the stirring words of John C. Warren, Willard Parker, Valentine Mott, and Joseph Pancoast, and none impressed me more deeply than those of Professor Parker. He was apt in his illustrations, though almost never elegant. Once, while lecturing upon a clinical patient who seemed to be cold, and pinched in features, the doctor said:
"This man needs to be washed inside and out, and should have his vital flues re-stoked. The crude Thomsonian possesses a few valuable ideas—with pepper tea he kindles recuperative fires; with Lobelia washes and rinses a dirty stomach as he would a soiled garment. We should not be above taking a lesson from an old granny."
Warren was more dignified, logical, and classical, but not superior as a teacher. His last good deed was to bequeath his body for dissection and anatomical demonstrations. His desiccated remains are still on exhibition in the "Warren Museum."
Pancoast was a pleasant and animated teacher of surgery; and he was an expert operator. He generally managed a climax: that provoked a round of applause. In his teens he worked as an apprentice to a blacksmith, and said that he always kept his leather apron as a memento of the experiences of earlier years.
Sims, who has been gone but a few weeks, was cast in a finer mold than any of the men just mentioned. He was gentle by nature and polished by culture—he was the right stuff to make an operative gynaecologist, a branch of the surgical art which does not demand the rough diagnostic manipulations that are inseparable from the handling of sprained and dislocated articulations. —HOWE, Eclectic Medical Journal. 1884.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.