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The American practitioner online

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was as sweet incense before the altar of a fond fathers' devotion, and the
sacrifice was a broken heart. Dr. Yandell could never thereafter see a
sick or wounded boy and an anxious father at his bedside except
through tears.

In 1867 he was elected to the chair of the Science and Practice of
Medicine in the University. In 1869 he was made Professor of Clinical
Surgery, a chair which he held till the close of his earthly work.

It will be admitted by the thousands of physicians who were priv-
ileged to sit at the feet of the master in the University, that great as he
was in other functions, here he was pre-eminent. As a teacher of clin-
ical surgery he probably had no equal in the world. Tall, Apollo-like
in form, graceful, handsome, not self-conscious, with flowing chestnut
locks, deep, brown, penetrating eyes, a face limned and lined by
thought, and so muscled as to express all the gamut of emotion from
smiles and tears to tempestuous passion, with a rich, sonorous baritone
voice which modulated to every mood, and with gesture, pose, and
action suited to the word, he was an orator of overwhelming power.

I first saw him and heard him speak in the fall of 1870. He was
then 44 years of age. The place was the old amphitheater, in what is
now the sky parlor of our city hospital. How eagerly we of the fresh-
man class watched for the signs that betokened the entrance of the
famous man ! Anon there was a creaking of doors, a scurrying of feet,
and a shrieking of unlubricated castors as the invalid car was trolled
in by the clinical assistants. On this wretched carriage lay a still more
wretched man — wrecked by a disease acquired through sin ; a picture
of emaciation, weakness, sufiering, and despair.



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A few paces behind walked the great surgeon, flushed with fame
and in the heyday of health and splendid manhood. We were all ears
as the master, in a few direct, simple words, proceeded to outline the
features of the case.

An awkward incident in the examination of the patient provoked a
laugh from some of the thoughtless students. Instantly the professor
raised himself to his full height, and, with a look and a gesture,
remanded the disturbers to silence. Several anxious seconds passed
before he spoke. Said he :

** If I were old and poor and sick and wretched, and had come to this
clinic for relief, and had heard that hollow, heartless laugh, I would think
less kindly of doctors than I had thought before.

'* Nobody comes to the public hospital but the poor, the friendless, and
the vvretched. This unhappy man, the victim of his own sin, has come
here to die. What is it to be prostrated by such a disease ? It is suffering
upon suffering, and death. I would not have that loathsome disease for
all the influence and power of the kings and potentates of the old world ;
for all the shining wealth that ever passed through the golden gate of the
peaceful ocean!"

We need not add that order was restored and maintained till the end
of the lecture.

As a surgeon Dr. Yandell was pre-eminent. In operating he cut
to the line and to the required depth with geometrical precision. His
dissections were artistic, and he found his way through the labyrinthine
surgical spaces with a certainty and safety to the patient which savored
of magic. His dressings were beautiful. They showed a nicety of
adjustment which betokened the mechanical gift in high degree ; while
his treatment of wounds, surgical and accidental, was characterized by a
scrupulous cleanliness, which in early post-bellum days was nothing
less than a prophecy of the since splendid triumphs of aseptic surgery.
But, great as Yandell was as a surgeon, he was no less so as a physician.
Throughout the greater part of his career specialism was unknown.
The successful doctor had to be an all-round man. Yandell had drunk
deep at those fountains of medicine whose presiding deities were Paget,
Sir Andrew Clark, Louis Laennec, and their kind. He had learned
well the science of diagnosis, the natural history of disease, and the art
of therapy. He traced disease to its lurking place with the trained eye,
educated touch, and logical acumen of the master, and established treat-
ment with rare judgment and sound common sense.



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302 The American Practitioner and News.

His gentleness, tenderness, and sympathy in dealing with the sick
are proverbial all over the wide field of his great practice.

To the afflicted he was a ministering angel, making light to shine
in dark places. To the poor he was especially kind and attentive.
He gave to them the best that science had in store for them, and opened
his purse liberally to their needs when he found them in extremity.

** Such lived not in the past alone,
But thread to-day the unheeding street,
And stairs to sin and famine known
Sing with the welcome of their feet ;
The den they enter grows a shrine,
The grimy sash an oriel burns,
Their cup of water warms like wine.
Their speech is filled from heavenly urns.*'

How often have I heard him say :

" No great and lasting practice was ever built up whose foundations
have not been laid among the poor."

Dr. Yandell was a wit, and could have entered this field of literature
in successful rivalry with Douglas Jerrold, Artemus Ward, Josh Bill-
ings, Mark Twain, and their like. Here are some specimens. Writing
from San Antonio, where Mexicans and Mexican usuages predominate,
he says :

" After seeing some friends, I spent the remainder of the time in the
Mexican eating-house; and, Parvin, let that supper do for us both. As
Colonel Charley West, an old army friend, said to his son, a lad of ten
years, in a letter written to him just as we had surrendered the last musket
to you fellows :

*'*My son, if in the future time, when you have grown to be a man,
anybody should ask you to join in a revolution, of course you will very
probably do as you please ; but I beg you to remember that it is the opinion
of your father that he has revolved enough for the entire family.* I feel
just that way about a Mexican supper ; at least of one composed of * enchi-
lada * and ' tamallis,' I have eaten enough — and yet it was but a taste —
for the present editors and all future editors of the American Practitioner ;
and I wish here to be put on record to that effect.

" You never ate enchilada, did you, Parvin ? Well, don't. An enchilada
looks not unlike an ordinary flannel-cake, rolled on itself and covered with
molasses. The ingredients which go to make it up are pepper, lye-hominy,
pepper, onions chopped fine, pepper, grated cheese, and pepper. The
hominy is first beaten into a paste or dough, and this is flattened to the



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thickness of an ordinary batter-cake, and then turned several times upon
itself, the pepper, onions, pepper, cheese, and pepper being placed between
the folds, and over all is poured a sauce or gravy of pepper. In point of
looks the enchilada is, as I have intimated, not uninviting. In point of
taste it is a cross between bicarbonate of soda and capsicum, with a good
deal of 'chaw' in it. One mouthful would go round an entire family in
Louisville. The tamallis when placed on the table presented the appear-
ance of a lot of huge shuck cigarites which had been soaked in water.
They were composed of the same lye-hominy paste, shaped into cylinders
a little larger than and about as long as your finger, containing some kind
of forced meat. Each cylinder is wrapped and then boiled in a corn shuck,
and served in this envelope. A friend who was with me, and who declared
he was not particularly fond of the dish, though he often ate it, soon
iad a pile of wet shucks by his plate six inches high. I think he ate
a dozen of the things. I was satisfied with a small part of one. The
^ciallis tasted to me very much as I suppose boiled macaroni thickened
^^h. bread soda would do. My opinion is that no man can eat enchilada
and tamallis long and remain honest. The three staples of Mexican
cookery, as I observed it, are pepper, corn, and pepper; the corn is sand-
^^ched between the pepper. The corn is first husked by being soaked in
^ye Or lime-water, and then briskly rubbed and beaten on a flat stone— a
process which produces a paste or dough, or meal, meaner than any lye-
^^iny you have in Indianapolis.

The vein of his rare wit and humor is again brought to light in an

ewOtial letter wherein he describes some incidents pertaining to the

pinner which was given in Philadelphia in 1879, in celebration of the

fifty-first anniversary of the entrance into the medical profession of

Dr. Samuel D. Gross. He writes :

" Some of our brethren in Philadelphia determined to celebrate, by a
dinner, the fifty-first anniversary of Prof. Gross' entrance into the profes-
sion. The number of subscribers was limited to one hundred. Invitations
were issued to a few of the friends of Dr. Gross living outside Philadelphia.
I was of the number. I left home Tuesday afternoon, and, after an entirely
uneventful ride, reached Philadelphia on Thursday morning. Seven o'clock
that evening was appointed for the banquet. Rain set in early in the fore-
noon, and by evening had reached such proportions that it might fairly be
termed, in the language of a Texan, a *root soaker.' I thought the water
fell in a more than ordinary quiet way, more soberly, as it were, than usual ;
and when turning the corners, as it filled the gutters, it seemed to go more
at right angles than I had been accustomed to observe elsewhere. Whether
all this be just as I put it, no one can gainsay that the ' City of Brotherly
Love ' is a very wet place on a rainy day.

*' Professor Agnew took the chair at eight o'clock. A moment before he
took away my appetite by telling me that I was expected to reply to a



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304 The American Practitioner and News.

toast. A timely notice that one is to get on his legs is allowable. No
notice at all until you are called on is even better ; but to knock the epigas-
trium entirely out of a man just as he takes his seat to fill the aching void
left by a two days' journey is a coarse cruelty which should be inflicted on
no man. It turns bread to stone and converts the meat into a serpent.
Don't you remember the group of unhappy-looking people you've seen at
banquets; the men who ate nothing and drank less, and with whom you
couldn't, no matter what effort you made, keep up a talk, wha wouldn't
listen to you, and who gave you no opportunity of listening to them ; the
gloomy-looking chaps who seemed to wish they were at home in their little
beds? Well, they are the men expected to speak, and who have been told
so just as they took their seats.

Dr. Yandell was a connoisseur in the things which make to the
comfort of the inner man.

He was most admirably fitted at any medical society for the chair-
manship of the " committee on nutrition and stimulation."

He was a royal host, and loved nothing better than to wine and dine
his friends. None knew so well as he what to give them to eat and
drink, though he was himself, nevertheless, a very small eater and a
moderate drinker. A Chesterfield in manners, he made everybody feel
at home, and added to the good cheer his unrivaled gift for serious
discourse and delightful anecdote. Whenever a dignitary was to be
entertained by the city, Yandell always headed the committee of enter-
tainment. His fame as a conversationalist was co-extensive with the
English-speaking people.

Says. Mr. Watterson :

" During fifty years Dr. Yandell was the intimate of most of the famous
men of his own country, and of many of the famous men of the world. He
was often abroad, and always a welcome guest in the European capitals,
where his distinguished bearing, no less than his extraordinary charm,
even more than his fame as a surgeon, made him a welcome guest in all
companies."

The banquet ended, he could make an after-dinner speech which
might invoke admiration and provoke envy in a conclave of gods and
demi-gods. Here is what he said at the Gross dinner in response to a
toast to Kentucky and Kentuckians:

*' I feel, Mr. Chairman, that it is an honor to be called on to speak on
such an occasion and for such a people — a people who have given to states-
manship a Clay, a Lincoln, and a Breckinridge; to arms a Johnston, a
Preston, and a Buckner ; to surgery a McDowell ana a Dudley. A goodly
company ! Stately names ! Would you think me as exceeding the limits



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The American Practitioner and News. 305

of good taste if I added, and chief among all these is that of him who bears
the mark of our guild, Ephraim McDowell ? For, sir, will not the labors of
the statesman give way to the pitiless logic of events, the voice of the orator
grow fainter in the coming ages, and the deeds of the soldier eventually
find place but in the library of the student of military campaigns, while the
achievement of the village surgeon, like the widening waves of the inviolate
sea, shall reach the uttermost shores of time, hailed of all civilizations as
having lessened the suflFering and lengthened the span of human life !

" Again, would you think me very far wrong were I to couple the vic-
torious issue of the late war and the operation of ovariotomy as in different
fields the two most stupendous events of modem times ? Sir ! both are
to be credited to Kentuckians.

**Mr. Lincoln effected the one, and Dr. McDowell accomplished the
other. Nor yet, in my opinion, do the two achievements admit of compari-
son. Powerful cabinets, far-seeing ministers, renowned captains, a daring
and multitudinous soldiery, a rich, a steady, a united and a persistent people
contributed to the success of the former. Its glory was won amid the
blare of trumpets, the groans of men, the shock of contending armies.
The glory of the other belongs to but one man, is single and indivisible,
was won amid the smiles of fair women, and by the cunning of a single
hand, which, unaided and alone, plucked victory from an enemy which,
before McDowell's time, had defied all that was subtlest in art and repulsed
every assault of science.**

What a happy comparison, what logic in development, what elo-
quence in statement, what political insight, what a moral, what a
sympathy with suffering woman, what a commendable pride in his
beloved profession and its beneficent uses !

In 1870 Dr. Yandell, in conjunction with Dr. Theophilus Parvin,
established The American Practitioner, which at once took a command-
ing position in medical literature, and continued to influence medical
opinion for sixteen years (1886), when it was combined with the
Medical News. As an editor Dr. Yandell was conscientious and pains-
taking. His excerpts contained always the very pith of the papers
from which they were taken. He never opened his columns to contro-
versy, and never published long-winded, abstruse, and theoretical
papers. He was a pungent and witty paragraphist, and his serious
editorials were graceful, timely, and instructive. One of his own
scientific papers, published in the second volume of the Practitioner,
has become classic in medical literature. It is an analysis of 415 cases
of tetanus. The work was done with the assistance of the late Prof.
R. 0. Cowling, then a young graduate in medicine. The conclusions
to which this analysis led have been quoted in every work in general
surgery that has appeared since the year 1870.

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3o6 The American Practitioner and News.

In 187 1 Dr. Yandell was elected president of the American Medical
Association, the highest honor that can be conferred upon an American
physician. He presided at the subsequent meeting with so much
grace, dignity, and ability that the celebrated Dr. Bowditch, of Boston,
publicly expressed the wish that he might be made president of the
Association for life.

In 1870, after the death of his father. Dr. Yandell again visited
Europe, where he wrote another series of sprightly and instructive
letters, which were published in his own journal of that year. In 1886
he was made a Fellow of the Philadelphia College of Medicine. In
1887 he was appointed Surgeon General of the troops of Kentucky.
In 1889 he was elected President of the American Sutgical Association.
His address as retiring president of that body, at its meeting in Wash-
ington, D. C, 1890, was on Pioneer Surgery in Kentucky. It is
exquisitely written, and recites the great deeds of Brashear, McDowell,
McCreary, and Dudley.

It was now the beginning of the last decade of the century ; Yandell
was an old man. Though erect in body, and sage and eloquent in
conversation, he felt, and those who loved him could see, that the fiery
splendor of his wonderful soul must ere long ** fall into abatement and
low price."

He seldom went out after night, was less attentive to practice, had
less confidence in himself in operating, and wrote but little. He con-
tinued, however, to find solace in his books, bower, or fireside, and
leaned more and more upon the bosom of his model household, where
loving hearts and willing hands were ever ready to do his every behest,
to lighten the burthen of accumulating years, and make smooth and
beautiful the sunset declivity of his devoted life.

His last appearance upon the rostrum was the occasion of the
delivery of the Doctorate Address of the University medical class of 1892.
This address was his swan song, his last contribution to medical litera-
ture. In it the philosopher, the sage, the scholar, the teacher, and the
philanthropist work in harmony and lull power. Listen to these words
of beauty and deep meaning:

** Temperament is the thermometer by which the tone of the brain is to
be ascertained. By the eye, the curling locks, the complexion, the pulse,
all the movements of the individual, we are to determine whether the brain
is like soft metal or the Damascus blade, the dull, spongy charcoal or the
glittering gem. Developed in one region and having the true temper, and



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moral influences favoring, a Howard is formed to make * the circumnaviga-
tion of charity.' Developed in another region, and allowing a bad educa-
tion or the spirit of a barbarous age to confirm and strengthen the bad
tendency, an Attila comes forth to desolate and to curse. The twig is bent
by nature, certain tendencies are innate ; education, in its broad sense, may
control, improve, subdue, almost eradicate. The predisposition is given, is
sometimes inherited, sometimes comes as the wind blows, we see not
whence. It was before the propitious gale of benevolence that Howard
pursued the voyage of his illustrious life. Ambition is the headlong cur-
rent by which warriors and statesmen, the mighty men of the earth, have
been swept along the tumultuous sea of human aflfairs.

"This principle finds further and stronger illustration in the lives and
characters of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. One can not be said to have
been worse or better than the other. Both were highly though not equally
gifted, but they diflFered widely in their passions, powerful in both, though
not the same in both. Caesar, like Antony, was touched by the charms of
Egypt's dazzling Queen, and bowed for a moment to their supremacy — but
it was only for a moment. It was but an episode in his eventful life, from
which he quickly returned to its grand story. The heady current adown
which he sailed was not to be stayed or turned aside from its course. The
spur by which his daring spirit was goaded almost to madness Mark
Antony's peaceful bosom scarcely knew. With Caesar ambition was a
whirlwind drawing all other passions into its desolating path. With Mark
Antony it was a fitful breeze, now gusty and loud, now softer than the
whisper of love. The orator who had inflamed the Roman people by his
eloquence yielded himself an easy captive to a more bewitching eloquence,
and for another Helen bade * Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch of the
ranged empire fall ! ' "

This luminous passage surpasses in grace of diction, solidity of
thought, and philosophic insight, perhaps, any thing ever before written
by this brilliant man. Huxley or Emerson might well have been proud
of it. At this time old age was well upon him; his intellectual flashes
were fitful, and his bodily strength was giving way under the weight
of his eventful years. His feet had reached the margin of the bank
whose gentle slope was to conduct them to the dark river.

" But on the river's farther side
He saw the hill-tops glorified ;
A tender glow, exceeding fair,
A dream of day without its glare.
From out that darkness where he trod,
He gazed upon those hills of God.
He paused as if from that bright shore
Beckoned his dear ones gone before,
And stilled his beating heart to hear
The voices lost to mortal ear."



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3o8 The American Practitioner and News.

He speaks ; hear him :

** If the Ego, the I, is, it must always have been ; and if it is, and always
has been, it must always be. * Naught from nothing comes * is a maxim
which will stand while logic lasts and worlds circle their orbits. And to
say that the soul of man, be his body evolved as it may from the distant
protozoon or protophyte which was the beginning of life on this globe, to
say that the sublime phenomena of this soul are but a series of vibrations
in the specialized and highly diflFerentiated protoplasm of the cells of the
brain, is as monstrous as it would be to say that the suns and the planets
dropped full-orbed out of the inane. No, gentlemen, we are, we have been,
and we shall be.

" ' Our birth is but a sleep, and a forgetting;
The soul that rises with us, our life's star.
Hath had elsewhere its setting, and cometh from afar ;
Not in entire forgetfulness.
And not in utter nakedness.
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God who is our home.*

** We are here without our will, but not without responsibility. Life,
with certainty of trial and trouble, but with possibility of success and hap-
piness, is before you. Quit you like men ! Be strong! Give careful heed
to the ineflFable teachings and example of the Great Physician, and so live
and practice and ornament the high ofl&ce which is your calling, that, as
your souls expand by study, thought, and experience, they may come to be
the better fitted for endless unfolding in the infinite beyond. There,
through the aeons of eternity, with fit environment, the deathless spirit of
man shall approximate more and more to that perfection which is God :
* For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved,
we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the
heavens.' "

" No perfect whole can our nature make,
Here or there the circle will break.'*

Our hero had faults. He never tried to hide them, however, or if
he did, the disguise was too thin to shut out the penetrating gaze of
envious mediocrity. Yandell's sins of omission, commission, weak-
nesses, and eccentricities have been sufficiently advertised by his
enemies.

" He who ascends to mountain-tops will find
The loftiest peaks o'ercast with clouds and snow ;
He who surpasses or subdues mankind
Must look down on the hate of those below.*'

He was a severe critic at times, a good fighter, and a fair hater.
Like a stag at bay, he sometime turned upon his pursuers and gave



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them a merciless goring; but the battle over, none was readier to accept
the terms of peace, to make up, and forgive.

" No further seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,

( There they alike in trembling hope repose,)
The bosom of his Father and his God."

But if Yandell was a good hater, at times cruelly severe in his
criticisms, and a robust fighter, giving and taking hard blows, his heart
was warm as a woman's, and his loves were like showers in summer or
sunshine in autumn. He loved with a great heart and with a constancy
that knew no change. His reverent regard for his * Great master.
Dr. Gross,' attests this truth. This love began when Gross was a
professor in the University, young, inexperienced, and unknown to
fame, and when Yandell was his student and assistant. The love was
returned by the master in good measure, but the pupil loved him with
unswerving fidelity and increasing intensity for the better part of a
lifetime.

And when the master died. Dr. Yandell crystallized his memory in



Online LibraryUniversidad de Buenos Aires. Facultad de Derecho yThe American practitioner → online text (page 35 of 109)