American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

Surgical Set collection from 1860 to 1865 - Civilian and Military

Civil War:  Medicine, Surgeon Education & Medical Textbooks

 Dr. Michael Echols  &  Dr. Doug Arbittier


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 Johnson Eliot, M.D. (1815-1888)

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Name: Johnson Eliot
Death date: Dec 30, 1883
Place of death: Washington, DC
Type of practice: Allopath
Journal of the American Medical Association Citation: 2:79

Born in the city of Washington, District of Columbia, on the twenty-fourth of August, 1815, Johnson Eliot was a son of Samuel and Mary Johnson Eliot, Jr., of Boston, Massachusetts. Upon his father's side he traced his ancestry back to Sir John Eliot, of Devonshire, England, in 1373.

When only thirteen, after a common school education, he apprenticed himself, very much against the wishes of his widowed mother, to Charles McCormick, a druggist of Washington, and continued in the drug business for about fifteen years, when he disposed of his store and in 1839 was appointed hospital steward at the Naval Hospital, Washington, District of Columbia, serving under Surgeons Foltz and Jackson. During the same year he began to study medicine under Dr. Thomas Sewall (q. v.), matriculating in the medical department of Columbia College, District of Columbia (now George Wbshington University), and graduating in 1842 with a thesis entitled "Humoral Pathology."

Immediately upon graduation he was appointed demonstrator of anatomy there by Dr. Thomas Miller, professor of anatomy. He was zealous and faithful in the discharge of his duties; this position he resigned in 1849 to become one of the founders of the Medical Department of Georgetown University and the same year professor of anatomy and physiology, three years later resigning the physiology chair but continuing to fill that of anatomy. At this time the material for dissection was very scarce and the rivalry between the two colleges often led to personal conflict.

When the chair of surgery in Georgetown Medical Department became vacant in 1861, he accepted the position and very soon forged his way to the front rank of the surgeons in this section of the country.

At the call of President Lincoln, he was among the first local surgeons who volunteered their services, starting for the battlefield of Bull Run with a pass to the front signed by Secretary of War Stanton, not waiting for a commission. Here he busied himself with the sick and wounded of both armies, amputating when necessary, dressing wounds, undertaking to deliver letters and notes from the unfortunates to their home folks.

A thorough anatomist, a bold and deliberate operator, he was one of the pioneers in ovariotomy, and among some of his brilliant operations may be mentioned three cases of removal of the superior maxilla, two cases of amputation at the hip-joint, a case of removal of seven and a half inches of the humerus, and also one of the early successful excisions of the head of the humerus, simultaneous li- gation of the carotid and subclavian arteries for aneurysm of the arteria innominata, two cases of removal of palatopharyngeal sarcoma, ligation of the subclavian artery, simultaneous amputation of both legs.

Among his appointments Dr. Eliot was phy- sician-in-charge of the Washington Small-pox Hospital from 1862-4; consulting surgeon and one of the directors of St. John's Hospital, Columbia Hospital for Women, Children's Hospital, Central Dispensary and Emergency Hospital, surgeon-in-charge of Providence Hospital, dean of the medical faculty of Georgetown University from May 12, 18S6, to the re-organization of that body in 1876, and professor of surgery from 1861 to 1876, when he was elected emeritus professor of surgery, but continued his clinical teachings until his death. In 1869 the honorary A. M. and In 1872 that of doctor of pharmacy was conferred on Dr. Eliot by Georgetown University. He was a member of the Pathological Society, Medical Association of the District of Coli'«nbia. Medical Society of the District of Columbia, and president of the latter in 1874.

He married, November 30, 1850, Mary John, daughter of John Llewellin, Esq., of St Mary's County, Maryland, who with six children survived him. While reputed to be wealthy he died a comparatively poor man, as he lacked business tact and his charitable work knew no bounds. His death was caused by pneumonia after a short illness of eight days, in 1888.

His publications were few; he delivered a a number of introductory and valedictory addresses to students and presented the following before the Medical Society of the District of Columbia: "Bright's Disease," "Knotted Funis," "Stimulants Hypodermically," "Report of a Large Calculus from a Horse," "Cystic Degeneration of the Thyroid Gland," "Hepatic Abscess," "Amputation of the Finger for Neuralgia Following Whitlow," "Excision of the Elbow," "Strangulated Hernia," "Excision of the Inferior Maxilla," "Ovariotomy," "Palato- pharyngeal Sarcoma." The following paper was published in the American Journal of the Medical Sciences, 1877, vol. Ixxiii, p, 374: "Simultaneous Ligation of the Carotid and Subclavian Arteries for Aneurysm of the Innominate Artery." George M. Kober.

Med. and Surg. Reporter, Philadelphia, 1884, v»l. 1.


ELIOT, JOHNSON, Washington, D. C., descended from colonial settlers of Massachusetts and Maryland, was born in Washington, D. C., Aug. 24th, 1815. From 1828 to 1839 he was engaged in the drug business; in the latter year he began the study of medicine under Dr. Thos. Sewall— being at the same time steward in the naval hosp.-—matriculated in the med. dep't of Columbia univ., and in 1842 received from that institution his degree of M. D.

Immediately upon graduation he was appointed demonstrator of anatomy, in Columbia Univ., and in 1850 was appointed prof, of anat. in the Univ. of Georgetown. In l861 he resigned the chair of anatomy and accepted the chair of surgery, in the same institution, retaining the latter until 1876, when he was made emeritus prof, of surgery and prof, of clinical surgery. For the past sixteen years he has been dean of the university. He is a member of the D. C. medical soc., president in 1874, at present (1877) one of the board of censors; of the Ь. C. med. asso., at one time vice-president, and has been annually since 1852 a delegate to the conventions of the Am. med. asso. Since 1864 he has been surgeon to the metropolitan police force; was in 1861-62-63-64 physician to the city small-pox hosp., and is at present attending surgeon to the Providence hosp.; consulting surgeon to St. Ann's infant asylum, Columbia Hosp. and children's Hosp. He received from Georgetown Univ., in 1869. the honorary degree of A. M., and in 1872 a doctor of pharmacy. He married, in 1850, Mary John, daughter of John Llewellin, Esq., of St. Mary's Co., Maryland.

(The personal edited research notes of Michael Echols, the source of which may or may not be completely documented)


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Civil War Medical Collections 


Direct links to all medical & Civil War collections on this site                         

American Surgical Sets:

Pre-Civil War:  1 | 2  -   Post-Civil War:  3  -  Civil War 1861-1865:  4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8   INDEX

Medical Text-Books:

1 | 1a | 2 | 2a | 3 | 3a | 4 | 4a | 5 | 5a | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 9a | 10 | 11 | 12    INDEX

Surgeon General's Office Library printed catalogues: 1840 | 1864 | 1865
Medical Lecture Cards: 1 | 2 | 34 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21    INDEX

Medical Faculty and Authors:


Navy Surgeon Exams:

1863 Navy Surgeon Applicant Exams with Biographies   INDEX ONE | INDEX TWO

Surgeon CDVs, Images:

Army: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8    INDEX

Navy: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8   

Hosp Dep't Bottles, Tins, 

U.S. Army Pannier:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

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