John Milton Scudder, M. D.
John Milton Scudder, M. D.
His Leadership - Author and Journalist - His "Magnum Opus." - Man and Teacher - Creed - His Death
Other tomes: Specific Medication - EMJ1874
John Milton Scudder was born September eight, eighteen hundred and twenty-nine, in the little village of Harrison, Hamilton County, Ohio. His father, John Scudder, cabinet-maker, died in 1838 when young Scudder was between eight and nine years of age, and the little family of mother and three children, left in but moderate circumstances, had to figure closely for the wherewithal to live. While still very young, John went to work in a button factory at Reading, Ohio, receiving the munificent wage of fifty cents a week. There he acquired that habit of work which became a dominant trait all through his fruitful life. Even at his tender age he had two prime objects in view—to aid his mother in the support of the little family and to acquire a sound collegiate education. The first he fulfilled to the letter; and he grasped the latter, when, at twelve years of age, he had accumulated a sufficient store of money to enter the Miami University at Oxford, Ohio. After leaving college he perfected himself in the arts of cabinet-making and painting, pursuing the former occupation during the winter and the latter during the summer. One of our engravings shows him a sturdy, handsome young man in the artisan's garb, a master of the brush, bucket, and putty knife. He was a laborer worthy of his hire. Idleness was no part of his creed, nor could he ever tolerate sloth and shiftlessness in others. His next move was to open a general store in his native town. Then, on his twentieth birthday, he married Jane Hannah. Of this union came five children, but two of whom survived infancy. The deaths of the three babies, due as Scudder firmly believed to improper treatment, changed the life-work of the latter from the pursuits of arts and, crafts and from the mercantile hustle to a career of medicine. Placing himself under the preceptorial guidance of Dr. Milton L. Thomas*, a pioneer and enthusiastic Eclectic and father of Prof. Rolla L. Thomas, M. D., he entered the Eclectic Medical Institute at Cincinnati, and in 1856 graduated with honor as valedictorian. of his class. So well had he applied himself to study and so proficient had he shown himself that the Faculty at once selected him for the position of Professor of General, Special, and Pathological Anatomy. From that time onward his professional career as practitioner, teacher, and author made him one of the most conspicuous men in the annals of American medicine.
* Milton L. Thomas, M. .D., father of Professor Rolla L. Thomas, M. D., (Dean of the Eclectic Medical College of Cincinnati, and preceptor of Professor John M. Scudder, M. D.), was born in Warren County. Ohio, September 11, 1821. His early years were passed chiefly at Madison, Indiana. At the age of fifteen he learned the silversmith's trade at Booneville, Missouri. He began the study of medicine at Madison, Indiana, in 1844, and then entered the Louisville Medical College of Kentucky, from which he graduated. He subsequently embraced Eclecticism and graduated from the Eclectic Medical Institute. Settling In Morgan County, Indiana, he began practice in 1847. In 1849 he removed to New Haven, Ohio, from whence he went to Cincinnati, and finally to Harrison, Ohio, where for years he practiced successfully and was accounted one of the most skillful of practitioners. His wife was Susan J. Rybolt. Dr. Thomas survived his distinguished pupil one year, dying at Harrison, Ohio, April 24, 1895.
In conjunction with his college duties Dr. Scudder at once entered into practice in that old portion of Cincinnati known as Fulton. His success, both as a practitioner and money-maker, was phenomenal. He formed partnerships in order to handle the immense business; Dr. O. E. Newton being the most noteworthy of his partners. At one time his office was crowded with patients and the income from practice ran into the three tens, but love of his school overreached his love of riches, and he relinquished this lucrative practice with its golden opportunities for the perilous task of leadership in a hazardous effort to strengthen a tottering institution. His whole attention was now given to his alma mater, the Eclectic Medical Institute, which he meant to save and place upon a par with the best medical colleges of the world. How well he succeeded is now a part of history.
Dr. Scudder's whole strength and soul was now thrown into his chosen work. With the shrewd and discerning eye of the business man and with unselfish devotion to his profession he quickly saw in the financial mismanagement of the college and the internecine strife in the Faculty a wreck ahead for Eclecticism. He threw himself into the breach, took charge of the college and the Journal, and though the Civil War was coming on and decimating the ranks of the students he successfully guided the well-nigh sinking craft through perilous waters and brought her ashore unscathed and without dishonor. From the time he grasped the helm she has steadily ridden forth, spreading the gospel of Eclecticism in medicine; and from that day until the hour of his death John M. Scudder was, without question, the foremost Eclectic physician of his time.
From 1858 to 1860 Dr. Scudder filled the chair of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children, and in 1860 was transferred to the chair of Pathology and Principles and Practice of Medicine, a position he held until 1887, when, failing in health. Dr. Thomas was given that chair and Dr. Jeancon Pathology, while Professor Scudder lectured upon the allied topics of Hygiene, Physical Diagnosis, and Specific Diagnosis until his death in 1894.
Dr. Scudder's wife having died, he married her sister, Miss Mary Hannah, on February 4, 1861, by whom he had five boys, of whom three graduated in medicine at the Eclectic Medical Institute. Dr. John King Scudder (born May 16, 1865) is the present secretary of Faculty of the Eclectic Medical College, editor of the Eclectic Medical Journal, and ex-president of the National Eclectic Medical Association; Dr. William Byrd Scudder (born December 13, 1869) was Professor of Diseases of Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat. He died at Redlands, California, April 19, 1905. Dr. Paul Scudder (born June 18, 1868) is a practicing dentist in Cincinnati, and Dr. Harry Ford Scudder (born December 29, 1871), formerly Demonstrator of Anatomy in the Eclectic Medical Institute, is now a practicing physician in Redlands, California. The only surviving child of the first marriage is Mrs. Mattie Twachtman, widow of the impressionist artist, John H. Twachtman. Both Mrs. Twachtman and her son are also artists of repute.
HIS LEADERSHIP.—The role of leader is but poorly adapted to the majority of men. Tact, aggression, and an intricate knowledge of human nature are absolutely necessary to success if one would aspire to that position. Dr. Scudder was by nature fitted for leadership. When placed at the head of the Institute he found much to be done. He did not wait for others to take up the burden. Bending under the load he aimed his steps directly toward a sure footing and a sound foundation. Financial obligations were to be met, the Journal must be rejuvenated, and text-books were sorely needed. All these tasks were cheerfully undertaken and rapidly and faithfully executed. The wary, who had felt the neglect of the careless and incompetent on the one hand and the sting of the designing and dishonest on the other, now looked with confidence and hope to the new leader. He never betrayed the trust. All that he asked for was work and co-operation; work and plenty of it for himself that. should bring resulting good to Eclecticism. He demanded of others that they also should work. He believed in the gospel of work; for the idler he had no pity and no alms. The result was that discordant elements dropped their petty differences, trust displaced distrust, and the business of teaching medicine went on with renewed vigor. Around him he gathered a Faculty of workers, with not a drone among them,—such a Faculty as few medical institutions anywhere had ever known and one that dwelt together harmoniously for more than a quarter of a century.
THE AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST.—As an author and journalist Dr. Scudder was prolific and untiring, and his efforts were crowned with extraordinary success and his influence was far-reaching. He took over the Eclectic Medical Journal when, almost moribund, that publication through loss of subscriptions and lack of collections came near to extinction. Assuming the editorial pen and the financial management he soon snatched it from the brink of the grave of oblivion and into the editorial columns he threw his powerful personality. Physicians who had lost hope again rallied to its support and the "dark days of Eclecticism" passed. This publication he edited from 1861 to his death in 1894.
With equal vigor he shouldered the task of preparing textbooks which should embody living, up-to-date matter. In doing this he shattered some of the cherished idols of the earlier Eclectics who were less progressive and who rested content upon the pioneer methods and publications. His first book came out in 1858 and bore the title of "A Practical Treatise on Diseases of Women." In 1860 followed, (in conjunctive authorship with Dr. L. E. Jones), "Materia Medica and Therapeutics." This work at once became popular and in repeated editions and revisions was, until a very recent date, the standard Eclectic work upon the subject. His splendid "Eclectic Practice of Medicine," still a classic, was issued in 1864 and has undergone many revisions which kept it up to date, until it was entirely rewritten and superseded by Thomas' "Eclectic Practice of Medicine," issued in 1906. "Principles of Medicine" appeared in 1866; "Diseases of Children" in 1867; and "Specific Medication" in 1871. (available here) "The Reproductive Organs and Venereal Diseases" came from the press in 1874, and lastly his greatest work in our estimation, outside of many of the valuable Journal articles and editorials, "Specific Diagnosis" came out in 1874. Many of these books have undergone repeated revisions and numerous editions were required to fulfill the great demand for them. For elegance of diction, clearness of statement, and practicability they stand unsurpassed among American textbooks of medicine. The Eclectic physician who has not a copy each of his Practice, Specific Medication, and Specific Diagnosis is the loser, for no works are so valuable in revealing the unfolding of modern Eclecticism. Besides these professional works Dr. Scudder also published a work on "Domestic Medicine" which was widely popular, and for a short period he issued a Journal of Health for the laity and a literary magazine titled The Eclectic.
It was in the journalistic field, however, that Dr. Scudder exerted his greatest influence and displayed his versatile talents, and few similar publications have made so marked an impression on medical thought and progress as did the Eclectic Medical Journal during his editorship. Though wielding a sharp pen there was no gall in his messages. He was a valiant antagonist, attacking methods rather than men. His adversary, though often hard hit by his ready wit and pungent humor, seldom felt that a personal thrust had been given, and therefore did not bitterly resent. Occasionally, which was rarely, when attacked personally. Dr. Scudder did not deign to reply; to him, then, "silence was golden." But most antagonists, and he had many, antagonized his views: seldom the writer. When personally attacked business or professional jealousy usually goaded his adversary and the cause of the attack was plainly apparent. No man ever more ably advocated and defended a beloved cause than did Dr. Scudder labor for Eclecticism; and no rival schools of medicine ever had a more fair adversary and critic.
HIS "MAGNUM OPUS."—When Professor Scudder entered the field of Eclectic Medicine he found a heterogeneous conglomeration of crude medication inherited from the fathers. Even though so extremely crude, yet was this primitive medicine a marked improvement, in point of safety at least, over that which it was intended to supplant. In fact, it was the great substitutive effort which was a necessary part in the evolution from crudities of the earliest days to the more or less finished pharmaceuticals of the middle period. Crude herbs, leaves and flowers, barks and roots were still employed in nauseous infusions and decoctions. Crude syrups and tinctures and other spirituous preparations of various and variable strength—the products of office pharmacy at the hands of those unskilled in such arts—were beginning to supplant the less agreeable aqueous preparations. Resinoids came and well-nigh wrecked the school, and then passed on. The time was ripe for more certain and more elegant medicines and more direct and pleasant medication. The early reform aims of the Eclectic fathers had been largely accomplished, and the results of years of work must needs be sifted and crystallized into something more than a mere substitutive practice. As has been well written, "No great policy dominated Eclecticism in 1860." Dr. Scudder saw and grasped the opportunity; and whatever else he accomplished—his work in putting the college on a firm and progressive basis, the preparation of text-books and the rehabilitation of the Journal—it must stand forever that his great work in life was the formulation and introduction of the principles and practice of Specific Medication, the study of which, upon the suggestion of Professor John King, had its inception when Dr. Scudder assumed the chair of practice in 1859, and which he gave to the world, first in Journal articles, ten years later (1869). This theory and practice is too well-known to the readers of to-day to require more than mention and to declare that it is now universally adopted and practiced by all progressive Eclectics. This innovation, so revolutionary, made a startling impression. It came as a thunderbolt out of a clear sky. A few, with prophetic vision, saw its wonderful possibilities, but antagonists were not found wanting who attacked it with volcanic fury.
No great innovation ever met with universal acceptance or quiet acquiescence. Our most bitter antagonists are sometimes found in our own households. When Harvey published his immortal "de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis," none was more fierce in his antagonism than his old colleague, college mate, and friend, Riolan. The reception of Jenner's experiments was no less welcome even to those who knew him best. So with Scudder and Specific Medication. He was assailed by former friends and admirers, and professional rivals lost no opportunity to disparage his great work. He was even accused of being a half-convert to Homeopathy and some even doubted his therapeutic sanity. Receding not one inch from the stand he had taken he risked all and lived to see the day when his work was almost universally appreciated and appropriated, and those who did not fully accept his views, at least lapsed into silence. Little wonder is it then that John M. Scudder is almost canonized by the followers of the school which owes its very existence and growth to his epoch-making studies in direct medication.
To successfully accomplish the great change the best and most active yet kindly medicines were required. In order to study the effects of drugs as applied to disease expression Dr. Scudder took a bold stand for honest medicinal preparations, and to insure their integrity he copyrighted the labels of the Specific Medicines for their own sake and not with a view to profit; for from this innovation he never received a single cent. Such a course was the only one open to secure reliable pharmacals, for one of the misfortunes that threatened the integrity of Eclecticism was the foisting of worthless and unrepresentative medicines upon the profession by unscrupulous and avaricious manufacturers under the guise of being special Eclectic preparations.
THE MAN AND TEACHER.—Dr. Scudder was in all respects a remarkable man. In what the world calls success he was especially favored, for he acquired a competence that relieved him of the necessity of toil quite early in his career. In that which the world often overlooks in computing success he was even more fortunate, for his life-work was one of doing good to others. His whole aim throughout his busy life was to make the practice of medicine more definite and more humane. In his brief editorial on page 111, he declares himself unequivocally on this point. He was ever a student and scholar, a perfect type of the cultivated gentleman. Though somewhat aristocratic in appearance, he was the most democratic of men. Not only did medicine absorb him, but he found time to become admirably well versed in religion, art, and travels. Touring Europe several times had its broadening effect upon him. In his later years he was especially handsome—the fairly rounded figure, the immaculately clean person, silvery white hair and beard, and rich, ruddy complexion, made him a conspicuous figure, and one to impress others with admiration. There was a friendly gleam in his eye, revealing his intense humanity, and at times a mirthful twinkle that bespoke the fullness of wit and humor. In debate he was a clean and direct speaker, always effective, and never personal. As a lecturer he was a model for emulation, and as a teacher had but few equals. He had an exceedingly easy, fluent, and characteristic style, and the faculty of drawing vivid pictures of the topic under discussion. He always lectured without notes, and one following him could clearly see the characteristics of disease's unfold themselves, and as if plainly written in schedule form, could carry away with him a complete outline of symptomatology and treatment. The student could not fail to be impressed with a good working knowledge of the subject. Even when in poor health he exhibited a cheerful demeanor before the class and delivered his lectures in a most happy manner, as if he thoroughly loved and enjoyed the work. His control over his classes was admirable, and without any effort on his part to secure order and attention. Student, as well as teacher, had the fullest enjoyment. When he lectured every man was in his seat; and his good-natured but searching quizzes were keenly enjoyed and appreciated by the students.
As a diplomat and business manager, few if any could excel Dr. Scudder. He had firmness to an exalted degree, and could easily smooth over little difficulties that arose in the ranks. As a rival he was powerful and aggressive, yet so pleasant that he seldom excited anger. That he was a good judge of human nature is attested by his selection of men for Faculty positions who would attend to their own affairs only, and to this discretion is due the freedom of the college from internal bickerings and petty warfare. He was the soul of honor, and his word was as good as a bond. His friendship was well-worth having, and in relation to this let us quote from one who enjoyed long years of intimate association with him:
"Professor Scudder was a friend only to those who would work, provided they were able to do so. His had been a busy life, he had little sympathy for a sluggard. His life had been one of exacting self duties, and he expected and demanded the same of others connected with, him. I do not know of an instance where he helped a person who would not work to help himself. He believed in making those about him work, and set an example to men inclined to take their ease. He asked those who came to him for favors to be willing also to show favors to themselves by self denials, and he was not to any man a closer friend than he was willing to prove to himself. Dr. Scudder accumulated his money by persistent attention to business and to his professional duties, and he would not distribute it to men who refused to work and economize as he had done. Some persons thought that he was too careful in this direction, some felt aggrieved that he did not lavish his savings in this or that direction where he was shown opportunities to do so. It was not, however, his nature to help those who refused to think for or to help themselves, and he made it a rule to divorce personal friendship from business problems.
"And yet Professor Scudder served many who could not otherwise have succeeded in life, and who could give no better security than to show themselves capable of grasping a problem, and who demonstrated their ability to work. He was an admirer of industry and perseverance, and preferred to select his friends from among those who were congenial and energetic. He would advise whoever went to him for advice, but he asked business security from those who solicited assistance in a business way, and he never, to my knowledge, thrust his opinions upon persons who did not solicit them."
HIS CREED.—Professor Scudder was strongly and sanely religious, and was a member of the Swedenborgian Church, to which he contributed liberally. We can give no better view of his religious convictions than has already been written by his friend and colleague. Prof. John Uri Lloyd:
"He hoped for a conscious hereafter, and did not believe in a personal, eternal punishment in the sense that some profess to do. His opinion was to the effect that mankind has a work to perform in the hereafter, and that the change from this world to the next is simply the transferring of the spirit energies from the lower to a higher plane. Perhaps no better view of his belief can be expressed than is voiced by himself in an unpublished editorial, which, written some time ago, seems to have been either neglected or intentionally placed aside to serve a useful purpose after his death.
"It is as follows:
" 'What do you believe? An old student and old friend, in a recent letter, puts this question; having reference to theological belief. What I believe is not so much the question with me as what I know. I do not believe as most other people. I surely am not a sectarian protestant, or catholic, a theosophist, a mohammedan, or buddhist. I believe in the scriptures of all peoples, the religions of all peoples, in all that works for goodness in all peoples. I know that right, justice, and liberty should be the heritage of all men, and that the largest charity should be given to all God-serving, suffering creatures.
" 'There are ways of knowing things supposed to be unknowable other than by revelation, and its interpretation by those who know less than I do. I know that the universe is, practically, limitless, and that it is pervaded by a sentient life, which people call God. I know there are millions of globes very like ours, with inhabitants and interests very like ours. There is use for all intelligences in this vast number of worlds; and science has assured me of the fact that nothing is ever destroyed or lost, neither material nor force. Is it possible that the intelligence developed in man, the mind, should be an exception to this?
" 'There are other things I do not know, but only hope for. Among these is where I shall go when I leave this world. I hope then in God, for I shall yet praise Him; when or how I do not know; but the good Lord will find my place, and I shall be satisfied with it. For a man can not reasonably look for more than his right place and his right work and his just deserts.' "
HIS DEATH.—After the stroke of illness that came to Dr. Scudder in 1887, when he had worked to the danger line, he never re-gained his former strength. He needed rest and a change of climate. While giving up some of his duties a nature such as his could not be altogether idle. Finally, however, he went to Daytona, Florida, where it was hoped a temporary residence would make living easier for him. In the quiet of the evening of February 17, 1894, having retired early, apparently in his usual health, death came to him like the lightning's stroke. The great heart was paralyzed, and the spirit of John M. Scudder had stepped into that great beyond, into the place which he was sure the good Lord would have for him, and where he "should yet praise Him." The next morning the wires flashed and a dark pall fell upon Eclecticism.
Dr. Scudder's sudden death was mourned throughout the length and breadth of the land, in which his influence and teaching was so widespread and beneficent.
It was the sad privilege of the writer, with others of the younger men of the college Faculty, to help lay him in his grave in the modest little acre of the dead in his native town of Harrison.
"He, being dead, yet liveth."
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.