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Lewis Atterbury Stimson, M.D.

Edward L. Keyes, M.D.


Ube fjnicftcrbockec iprcss

New York






Ifn HDemoriam

Lewis Atterbury Stimson, M.D.

Dr. Stimson's eyes first saw the light in Pater-
son, New Jersey, on the twenty-fourth day of
August, 1844; and he closed them in his last slum-
ber on the Shinnecock Hills, the seventeenth day
of September, 191 7; — thus terminating a career
of something more than the allotted threescore
years and ten — years of continuous achievement
and service.

A heritage of character and capacity came to
him from ancestors on both sides, many of whom
had left behind them distinguished reputations
for good citizenship along civic and military lines.

The Stimsons were among our earliest settlers,
coming over as they did in the second Massa-
chusetts Bay Colony. Certain of them were
soldiers in the Indian Wars of the seventeenth
century, and in the French and Indian Wars of
the eighteenth, while others served through the
Revolution. Among these was George Stimson,
who fought with the Continentals throughout the
entire war from Ticonderoga and Bunker Hill



through Valley Forge to Yorktown. Dr. Stim-
son's great-grandfather, having become impover-
ished by giving away his private fortune to help
finance Washington's army at Cambridge, left
his home in Dedham to open up and take charge
of the great Livingston tract in the Catskills,
whereto he travelled over the mountains with his
young son. Dr. Stimson's grandfather, who grew
up to become a clergyman and ministered to the
spiritual needs of that entire section.

Dr. Stimson's father, when a very young man,
went to New York and entered the office of
Rogers, Ketcham and Grosvenor, who sent him
out to their machine and locomotive works in
Paterson, New Jersey. Here he met and married
Julia Atterbury, a lady of old Huguenot stock,
among whose ancestors were Elisha Boudinot and
his brother Elias, young lawyers living in New
Jersey at the outbreak of the Revolution, in which
they took a prominent part. These two held
the State of New Jersey from taking sides with
the King and, as members of the Committee of
Safety, had a price put upon their heads. Later,
Elisha Boudinot became a judge of the Supreme
Court of New Jersey, and Elias was President of
Congress and signed the treaty of peace with
Great Britain in 1783.

From such staunch and admirable stock sprang
this scion — a worthy issue.

The boy grew up as most boys, but venturesome
and self-reliant and with a mechanical turn of


mind. This mechanical bent was exhibited when
he, still a young boy, made a wooden quadrant
and with this home-made instrument, cooperating
with his older brother, determined from the roof
of their home the height and distance of various
church spires and other objects in the neighbor-
hood. It was, in part, the development of this
talent for mechanics that led to his success in
later years and contributed to his mastery of the
essentials in the treatment of fractures and dis-
locations, the field in which he was preeminent.

When barely fifteen, and still in roundabout
short clothes, he entered Yale College, the ''baby"
in a class of about two hundred, and he graduated
with "Dispute" rank at eighteen. In college he
was popular and appreciated and was admitted
to the best Greek Letter Societies and to one of the
elect Senior Societies. He was active in athletics
and rowed in some of the interclass boat races.

His photograph taken at that time indicates a
disposition of exceeding sweetness, and bears an
expression in which there is no guile. It reveals
in his youth one of the marked characteristics of
his whole life. Man and boy he was clean in
mind, body, and soul — through and through. No
thoughts or words that entered his mind corroded
his purity and no words from out his mouth be-
fouled the sanctity of his soul — he had a life record
unsmirched by reproach.

After graduating from Yale Dr. Stimson visited
Europe for a few months and on returning answered


his country's call, securing an appointment as
aide upon the staff of Major General Birney and
later upon that of Major General Terry. In the
carrying out of his duties he rendered excellent
service until near the end of the war, when he
was invalided home, stricken by a violent typhoid
that nearly ended his career. The details of his
military experience, as told by himself at the
insistence of his children, are published with this

Dr. Stimson married in 1866 and entered the
banking office of his father, becoming a member
of the New York Stock Exchange in 1867 and
remaining in active business until 1871. In these
material channels he manifested ability and
accumulated a modest competence; but at the
same time he was acquiring a taste for a scientific
life through close association with an intimate
friend, a doctor, with whom he followed out certain
microscopic and pathological studies that awak-
ened in him a responsive interest. It is to be
noted, however, that Dr. Stimson did not take up
the study of medicine until he was twenty-seven
years old, a rather late period to strike off on a
new path.

His medical studies were carried on chiefly in
Paris, where he formed friendships with Pasteur,
Nelaton, Robin, Cornil, and other notable profes-
sional men. His main object in going abroad
was in the interest of his wife's failing health, to
spare her the asperities of a New York winter.


He had intended to pursue his studies in Berlin
for two years, but found the arrogance of the
miHtary caste insupportable, and therefore after
two weeks he moved to Zurich and later to Paris.
This experience formed the basis for a life-long
distaste for German institutions, and was the
foundation for an equally strong appreciation of
all that was fine in French civilization. Return-
ing home he took his degree from the Bellevue
Hospital Medical College and began to practice
in 1875.

Despite the strain and concentration incident
to establishing himself in a new profession with
family responsibilities already resting on his young
shoulders, yet the physical and material interests
of his career never clouded the intellectual at-
mosphere that dominated his activities through
life. Early in his professional years when he
was deeply absorbed in that struggle which is so
essential to success in the first stages of endeavor,
and furthermore was oppressed by the conscious-
ness of the mortal illness of his wife, he found
respite in the grinding toil incident to the produc-
tion of his text-book on Operative Surgery, and
later in life he indicated the versatility of his
talent by translations from the French, which had
an individual charm due to his perfect knowledge
of the idiom, and to his admirable diction. Still
later his biographical essay on Pasteur and his
narratives of the cruises of the Fleur-de-Lys attest
the quality of his word painting. His professional


writings bear witness to industry and originality.
His surgical essays are numerous, but his most
notable contributions to surgical literature are his
Operative Surgery and his masterly treatise on
Fractures and Dislocations. To produce the former
book he rehearsed every operation upon the
cadaver, and commented with a balanced mind
upon the physical steps required to reach a given
result. His work upon fractures and dislocations
has become a classic and is now counted an
indispensable authority.

As a practitioner Dr. Stimson's contributions
to the science and art of operative surgery were
many and valuable. The best known are briefly :
(i) The ligation of the ovarian and uterine arteries
in sequence in their course in hysterectomy,
1889, a step which places the modern operation
on a safe basis as admitted by Kelly and the other
leading gynecologists; (2) the introduction and
popularization of the molded plaster splint in the
treatment of fractures ; (3) his methods of reducing
dislocations of the hip and of the shoulder; (4)
combined traction (Stimson-Hodgen) for fractures
of the femur ; (5) in the treatment of old dislocations
of the elbow, he was the first to call attention to
the importance of the newly formed bone on the
end of the humerus as an obstacle to the reduction
of the dislocation ; (6) Pf annenstiel-Stimson trans-
verse incision. Independently he called attention
to the use of the transverse incision as a means
of approach to the abdominal contents, especially


of the pelvis. Pfannenstiel's article was published
in Germany before Dr. Stimson's in this country,
and the operative approach is called by Pfannen-
stiel's name although Dr. Stimson had evidently
used the method prior to the reported use of that
method by Pfannenstiel.

And finally it seems proper to record that, at
the time of his death, he was gathering material
from authoritative sources for the purpose of group-
ing various essays by surgeons at the war-front into
a book on military surgery, treating especially
such new conditions as Shell-Shock, Trench Dis-
ease, Antiseptic Irrigation of Wounds, Effect of
Noxious Gases, Ambulance and Hospital Status,
and the like. This work was begun on his own
initiative, but was continued in cooperation with
the Committee on National Defense, at their

The professional positions held by Dr. Stimson
include membership in the French Society of
Surgery, an honor extended to very few surgeons
outside of France. In combination with Dr. Van
Buren he founded the New York Surgical Society
of which he was always an active and efficient
member. He was Vice-President of the New York
Academy of Medicine from 1893 to 1896; a member
of the New York Medical and Surgical Society;
he was successively Professor of Physiology, of
Anatomy and of Surgery in the New York Uni-
versity Medical School, and later he held the chair
of Surgery in the Cornell Medical College from


its establishment in 1898 up to the date of his
death. He was also a Regent of the State of New
York from 1893 to 1904, and in 1900 Yale gave
him the degree of LL.D.

After some years' service as attending surgeon
in the Presbyterian and Bellevue Hospitals, he
was presently invited by the Governors of the
New York Hospital to come upon their staff. He
served there faithfully as attending surgeon for
twenty-two years, carrying also during this whole
period the full responsibility of the heavy service
at their emergency branch, the House of Relief,
in Hudson Street. He was a consulting surgeon
in the New York and Bellevue Hospitals at the
date of his death, as well as of Christ's Hospital
in Jersey City.

In every undertaking. Dr. Stimson at first
approach took careful measure of the difficulties
of the situation, his realization of them often
expressing itself in a manner which appeared
pessimistic. But he always dealt with them in a
spirit of splendid optimism, brightened by an
exceptionally acute sense of humor.

In consultation his cheering words and smile
were most uplifting to the patient, but he was
guarded in his language, weighing his words with
judgment — a characteristic so marked that it
drew from one of his admirers the opinion that
''Stimson was the type of a wise conservatism."

To Dr. Stimson as an organizer the Cornell
Medical School bears witness. This school in-


deed, as is well known, owes its existence in New
York City to his power of organization; and
Stimson Hall, the gift of Dean Sage, stands among
the Cornell buildings at Ithaca a perpetual monu-
ment in his honor.

Incidentally may be mentioned here his mem-
bership in the Century Club, the New York Yacht
Club, the University Club, and the Loyal Legion
as indicating his contact with the community at
various points.

Dr. Stimson' s broad reach, extending over
many fields, covered that of the sportsman, for
one of his most fundamental traits was a whole-
someness of nature which made the world of sport
a normally attractive place to him. Over and
above his interest in golf, which was not incon-
siderable, was his absorbing affection for his
schooner yacht the Fleur-de-Lys, a beautiful toy
only eighty- seven feet on the water line and one
hundred and eight over all. In this dainty lilli-
putian craft he braved the tumult of the North
Atlantic many times, and enjoyed with genial
friends the keen delights of cruising in the Medi-
terranean and ^gean Seas, halcyon days and
heavenly nights laden down with mellow memories.

Among yachting events, most picturesque of
all stands out the great Ocean Race of 1905 for
the Kaiser's cup, when the little vessel of less
than ninety tons wallowed through the cold
smother of the envious ocean to arrive at Fal-
mouth seventh on the list, and only seven hours


behind the third boat. She had contended
gamely all the way across with the best sailing
yachts that the world had produced; and his
daughter Candace, true sport that she is, stood
by him loyally through the scant sunshine and
boisterous storms of the roaring forties. The
incidents of this trip are preserved in the charm-
ing narration of The Cruise of the Fleur-de-Lys,
which remains a permanent record of sportsman-
like endeavor and accomplishment of no mean
order. Two similar logs deal with cruises to
Iceland and in the Mediterranean. For Dr.
Stimson was no 'longshore yachtsman, venturing
out to sea in the sunlight and running to cover at
night. He loved the salt sea foam and the crinkle
of strong gusts of wind upon the water. He
navigated his boat personally and plotted out
his position more accurately than did his sailing
master on more than one occasion, and well along
past sixty years of age he climbed to the mast-
head like a boy. No gale daunted him nor was
there in the unsympathetic wave anything for
him save only pure, exultant delight.

A word may well be said here regarding Dr.
Stimson' s aesthetic sense. His love of the beauti-
ful, in Nature and in Art, was unusual. He
reveled in the glory of sea and sky and exulted
in the wonders of nature when cruising among
the blessed islands of the Grecian Archipelago.
In sharp contrast to this love of beauty stands
out the simplicity of his personal habits. His


bedroom was a cell bare of ornament or any
luxury, and his equipment was always marked by
absolute simplicity. Such contrasts of the sterner
with the gentler virtues are perhaps contrasts to
the superficial observer only — to the student of
character they mark the complete and harmonious
personality. Tenderness and force, subtlety and
stength, modesty and self-reliance, love of beauty
and downright asceticism are not incompatible
qualities, and Dr. Stimson possessed them all;
and just as his early photographs reveal the
sweetness and ideality that remained with him
always, so in later years his erect and powerful
figure, his superb head and fine, vigorous features
expressed that rugged, mihtant side of his char-
acter through which he was able to realize his

But all that has been written above is only a
prelude to what should be said, if the whole man
is to be disclosed ; what he was and what he stood
for. The citation of his dignities and of his multi-
tude of accomplishment is only, on the part of the
writer of this memorial, a condescension to the
exactions of conventionality. Thus far there has
been a modest delineation of Stimson the man,
the soldier, the scholar, the surgeon, the organizer
and administrator, the sportsman. There remains
to be shown, if haply it may be done without
treading upon sacred ground, the innermost
personality, the real man, Stimson the lover, the
teacher, the fighter, the friend ; and I shall endeavor


to introduce to you his massiveness of structure
in heart, head, conscience, and character; for he
was cast in a larger mould than that which is
used in the formation of ordinary men. And I
have a right to speak here with authority, a right
granted me by an unbroken friendship of more
than half a century, a friendship without flaw and
enduring with never a moment's interruption.

In preparing this memorial to Dr. Stimson I
have reread his own Memorial Address on his
friend and colleague. Dr. Alfred L. Loomis, and
in so doing have been impressed anew with the
fact that in this careful picture of his friend Dr.
Stimson has left an unconscious portrayal of
his own character, ideals, and standards. His
analysis is so penetrating, and his statement so
clear, that I shall quote at length certain passages
from the Memorial to Dr. Loomis in which the
likeness to his own self will be readily traced.

''A definite purpose to inspire him, an alert
intelligence to guide, a tireless activity to execute,
a will that never wavered, and a kindly, generous
heart — such were the factors that brought success.

"His character was further marked by great
practicality and directness. He was not, how-
ever, simply a fine executive, one whose highest
efficiency is found in carrying out the ideas of
others. On the contrary, he was essentially a
man of ideas, a man who did his own thinking.
But he was not an idealogue, not a sophist, not
one to spend his time in idle contemplation, nor


one to waste efforts along lines that could lead to
no definite result. While he may have had but
little of that quality which was esteemed among
the highest virtues by the old moralists, the
passionless wisdom {^oDcppoavvrf) of the philosophic
Greek, the Temperantia of Cicero, the Moderation
of St. Paul, he was wholly free from that other
which so often masquerades in its form, which
hides mental and moral irresolution and weakness
under the cloak of deliberation, the quahty which,
when unbalanced by strong practicality and
resolute will, keeps a man so alive to the force
of what can be said in favor of the other side that
a clean-cut, strongly held decision becomes an
impossibility for him, and which finally lands him
as a leader in the quagmire of impotent compro-
mise. Of that quality he had nothing. His
convictions were clear and strongly held, and
when the time came he never hesitated to express
them uncompromisingly and never flinched from
word or act that seemed required by them.

'*To every question he gave at the outset,
earnest, concentrated attention; he possessed him-
self of all available information, promptly reached
a decision, and then all his thought, all his energy
were given to embodying that decision in action,
unhampered by the persistence of any doubt or
misgiving. In a weaker man such a course would
lead to great disaster; but his preliminary con-
sideration was exhaustive, and he was not a man
to believe a thing to be because he wished it to be,


or to take a preconceived idea and twist all facts
to suit it. To those who saw only the firmness
with which he held his opinions and the energy
with which he sought to enforce them, he may have
seemed narrow and prejudiced, but those who
knew him more closely, those who had the oppor-
tunity to learn on how much careful thought and
observation those opinions were based, could not
fail to appreciate the pains he took to be right, his
breadth of view, and his calmness of judgment.

"To this thoroughness of study and prepara-
tion was added great alertness to perceive and
grasp opportunity, and great activity in profiting
by it.

''Uncompromising and persistent as he was in
the pursuit of an object, and while he would abate
no jot of a principle, he could always be reached
and moved in personal matters by an appeal,
and he was always ready to hold out his hand in
friendship or in help to an opponent whom he

"His reserve and self-restraint, although so
sedulously cultivated throughout his life that
they grew to seem an integral part of him, were
yet only a screen behind which were the live coals
of a nature glowing with interest in all about him,
keenly alive to all questions of public or private
concern, solicitous of approval, warmly affection-
ate, and emotional to an extent that was at times
childlike in its expression and ingenuousness."

To us who know and love him, is not this his


very self reflected in his portrait of his friend?
And it is for us to bear witness, for Dr. Stimson
was austere in manner, not always revealing
himself, shielding his sensitive nature and a
quality that might almost be called shyness in a
protecting armor of reserve. Inside of this re-
serve his close friends were welcomed, the stranger
and passerby never. Yet in spite of his reserve, he
always met old and young on a basis of actuality,
giving something of himself in his graphic and
individual habit of speech, and leaving in the mind
of his listener the consciousness of having received
something definite to carry away. On being
questioned once upon a religious subject he re-
plied, "No man has any religion that he can tell

I do not know how better to illustrate his gift
of reserved yet forceful expression than by quoting
here his own words written some years ago for
the Yale '63 Class Book, in which every member
of the class gives his own estimate of what life
has meant to him.

Dr. Stimson here says: "My professional life
has been busy and satisfying. While giving a
sufficient pecuniary return to meet the material
wants of my family, it has also furnished an
opportunity for the gratification of those moral
and intellectual cravings in which a more durable
source of content is to be found. At first and for
many years my work was arduous and confining,
but of late I have been free to turn aside for as


much summer relaxation, diversion, and pleasure,
as was wholesome. I have been generously
granted the good will and confidence of my col-
leagues far beyond my deserts; I have had the
opportunity of furthering the advancement in the
profession of many young men, who have given
me their kindly interest and affection in return,
and I have had my share of the gratitude, confi-
dence and support which the community bestows
so liberally upon the members of my profession.
I have been privileged to add something to the
sum of knowledge, to aid some in trouble, and to
receive the blessings of the poor. In short, my
life has been one of steady and agreeable labor in
a chosen field, with an overflowing measure of
reward and recognition. The shadow w^hich early
fell upon it has been lightened by my children,
who have never caused me a moment's pain and
have been all that a parent could desire."

This is indeed a temperate statement of his own
service. For, warm-hearted, broad-minded, and
of bountiful generosity, he was not satisfied simply
to meet the demands made upon him, but he went
out in search of opportunity, constantly widening
the scope of his beneficence, which did not stop
with the giving of material help, but included the
greater and rarer gifts of sympathetic interest and
personal labor. In estimating his character, one
of his close intimates among the Cornell instruc-
tors writes: ''He always had a cheerful and
appropriate word for everyone. I do not recall


that he ever brought his own troubles but he con-
stantly inquired about mine and made an effort,
very often successful, to relieve them. I never
could prevail on him to stay long as he always
complimented us by saying that our time was
valuable. In his short visits he always had
something of interest to me for discussion, seldom
anything of exclusive interest to himself. In this
delicate matter of personal consideration he was
perfect, and I used to marvel at his skill.

"His moral and intellectual solidity set the
standard in Cornell and has been chiefly responsi-
ble for the success the school has had. Cornell
was founded on funds secured by Dr. Stimson;
but it was built on his conception of personal

"Two men whom I know well, one a very dis-
tinguished medical man, owe their lives and
position to Dr. Stimson' s moral support. They
were once opium addictees, trying to recover.
Each got Dr. Stimson's O. K. and made good.
Most men would have failed to help them, but
the knowledge that Stimson was back of them was

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Online LibraryE. L. (Edward Lawrence) KeyesLewis Atterbury Stimson → online text (page 1 of 5)