American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

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Valentine Mott, M.D.

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Dr. Valentine Mott, distinguished surgeon , who was born at Glen Cove, Oyster Bay, Long Island, in New York on August 20, 1785.  His father Dr. Henry Mott, who was also a native of Long Island, and lived to be eighty-three, was for many years engaged in the practice of the medical profession in the City of New York.  The family in Long Island were Quakers, and it was not until Valentine had reached middle life that he laid aside altogether the customary straight coat of the sect.  His portrait, as a young man, painted by Inman and engraved by Durdan, which represents him as he always was, of a fine personal appearance, has a decided Quaker costume.  Mott was instructed in the classics by a private teacher at Newtown, Long Island, and at the age of nineteen entered Columbia College, New York, to pursue the full course of medical studies, while he became partially acquainted with the duties of the profession by his attendance at the office of his relative Dr. Valentine Seaman. 

He received his degree of Doctor of Medicine in 1806, when he visited Europe for the purpose of availing himself of the ample opportunities of medical and surgical study afforded by the hospital practice and eminent instructors in the science in Great Britain.  He frequented the great hospitals of London over which John Abernethy, Sir Charles Bell, and Sir Astley Cooper presided, and received particular instructions from the last mentioned, in anatomy and surgery; while he was assisted in his medical attainments by Currie and Haighton.  He also took a course of study in the University of Edinburgh, during his two years abroad.  Mott returned to New York in 1809, with the prestige of his foreign acquisitions and a good repute already acquired for practical skill in his surgical operations.  He was immediately appointed Professor of Surgery in Columbia College; and when, after four years, that medical school was merged in the College of Physicians and Surgeons, he still continued his professorship until 1826.  In 1826, he resigned the college and with his friends, Doctors Hosack, Mitchell, Francis, and others, established the short-lived Rutgers' Medical College, which was broken up in 1830.  Besides continuing as a lecturer, Mott gained a high reputation in his general practice for his boldness and success in the performance of difficult original operations. 

In 1834, Dr. Mott, suffering from a nervous system disorder, visited Europe for the restoration of his health.  During this six year visit to Europe, Mott traveled through Great Britain, Central Europe, Greece, Egypt and Turkey, and on his return published in New York, in 1842, a volume, descriptive of his journey, entitled "Travels in Europe and the East."  In 1849, Dr. Mott was elected President of the New York Academy of Medicine, and on occasion of his induction in that office was welcomed by an address from the retiring President, Dr. John W. Francis.  On the death of Dr. Francis,,, in 1861, Dr. Mott delivered a eulogy or discourse on the life and character of that friend and companion,  Dr. Mott was chosen President of the Binghamton (New York) State Inebriate Asylum, an institution founded in 1858, for which he delivered an address, which has been printed.  Dr. Mott, received a shock of the assassination of President Lincoln's, from which he never recovered.  On Wednesday April 26, 1865, Dr. Mott passed away.  Dr. Mott left behind him, as a memorial of his labors and studies one of the most extensive and valuable museums of relative anatomy - the occupation of his entire professional life-ever brought together by a private individual.  Unhappily this vast collection, on the eve of being deposited in a suitable locality, was utterly destroyed by fire in the disastrous conflagration in New York, in May, 1866, which, beginning in the Academy of Music, spread to the adjoining Medical College, where the Museum was temporarily placed.

MOTT, Valentine, surgeon, born in Glen Cove, L.I., 20 August, 1785 ; died in New York city, 26 April, 1865. He was descended from an English Quaker who settled on Long Island about 1660, and was the son of Henry, a physician, who practised for many years in New York city. The son received a classical education at a private seminary at Newtown, L. I. and at the age of nineteen entered the office of his kinsman, Dr. Valentine Seaman, under whose instructions he remained till 1807, at the same time attending the medical lectures at Columbia college, which gave him his degree in 1806. He then went to London, became a pupil of Astley Cooper, studied practical anatomy by the method of dissection, visited the hospitals, and attended the lectures of the chief masters of surgery in that city, afterward spending more than a year at Edinburgh under the instructions of eminent teachers of the university. Returning to New York city in the autumn of 1809, he rapidly attained a reputation and practice. In the winter of 1810 he delivered a private course of lectures on surgery, and shortly afterward he was made professor of surgery in Columbia college. In 1813 the medical faculty withdrew from connection with the college, and was merged in the College of physicians and surgeons, and in 1826 the trustees of this institution gave offence to Dr. Mort and his associates, who formed a new school under the auspices of Rutgers college, and subsequently connected themselves with the college at Geneva, New York, but were compelled to close their institution in 1830 on account of a decision regarding the legal right to confer degrees. Dr. Mott then returned to the College of physicians and surgeons, as professor of operative surgery and surgical and pathological anatomy. In 1835 he resigned in order to rest from exhausting labors and repair his health by travel. He was already recognized in Europe as one of the first surgeons of the age. After a visit to London and a tour on the continent, he returned to the United States at the end of sixteen months. Finding that his health was not fully restored, he returned to Europe, and made annual excursions from Paris into various countries till 1841, when he came back to New York completely reinvigorated. In Paris he spent much time in the hospitals, and became interested in a new branch of orthopedic surgery. He intended to open an institution at Blooming-dale for the treatment of orthopedic cases on his return, but was dissuaded by his friends. When visiting Constantinople he removed a tumor from the head of the Sultan Abdul Medjid, and was invested for this service with the order of the Medjidieh, he was the principal founder of the New York university medical college, and became professor of surgery and relative anatomy, and president of the faculty on its establishment in 1841. In 1850 his lectures were interrupted by a third visit to Europe. From 1852 till his death he was emeritus professor and lectured occasionally to the classes every year. He never committed to memory or wrote out his lectures, but spoke from carefully digested notes, with the dissection before him. He drew his subject-matter and illustrations largely from his own experience, and paid little attention to theories. After his return from Europe in 1841 he was again surgeon to the New York hospital till 1850. He was subsequently for fifteen years senior consulting surgeon to Belle-rue hospital, and for different periods served in the same capacity for St. Luke's, the Hebrew, St. Vincent's, and the Women's hospitals. Dr. Mort early gained a world-wide reputation for boldness and originality as an operative surgeon. Through life it was his constant practice before every novel or important operation first to perform it upon the cadaver. When but thirty-three years of age he was the first to place a ligature around the innominate artery for aneurism of the right subclavian artery. The neighboring arteries became involved, and the patient died from secondary haemorrhage, due to ulceration on the twenty-third day. Dr. yon Graefe, of Berlin, repeated the operation three years later, with the same result, and it was not till 1861 that Dr. Andrew W. Smyth performed it and insured the recovery of the patient by tying also the common carotid and the vertebral arteries. In 1821 Dr. Mort excised the right side of the lower jaw for osteo-sarcoma, having first ligated the primitive carotid artery in order to prevent haemorrhage, and afterward he thrice removed the bone at the temporo-maxillary articulation. He performed a successful amputation at the hip-joint in 1824. In 1827 he ligated the common iliac artery for a large aneurism of the external iliac artery, placing the ligature within half an inch of the aorta. The artery had been secured once before for the arrest of haemorrhage, with a fatal result, but never for the cure of aneurism. Another of his original operations was cutting out two inches of the deep jugular vein, which was imbedded in a tumor. He was also the first surgeon to tie both ends of that vein, and the first to close with fine ligatures longitudinal or transverse wounds in large veins, even when slices had been cut out. He tied the common carotid artery forty-six times. In 1828 he removed the right clavicle, on which a large sarcomatous tumor had formed that had contracted adhesions with important structures on every side. In this, his "Waterloo operation." as he called it, he tied the jugular vein in two places and not less than forty arteries. Although the patient recovered, it was thirty years before any surgeon had sufficient confidence in his dexterity, strength, and knowledge of surgical anatomy to attempt a similar operation. In 1830 he effected a cure for hydrorachitis or cleft spine, removing a tumor in the lower part of the back, and later performed the same operation at the neck. From an early period in his practice he was remarkably successful in rhinoplastic operations, and in many instances restored the form of cheeks and lips that had been badly mutilated through the excessive use of mercury. Immobility of the lower jaw, caused by the same practice, engaged his attention soon after his settlement in New York city, and he finally devised an instrument on the screw and lever principle for prying open the jaw, after a preliminary operation with the scalpel, which he put into use in 1822. He was the first to remove the lower jaw for necrosis. He was one of the foremost lithotomists of his day, operating by the lateral method with the bistoury. He removed one stone that weighed more than seventeen ounces, and operated 165 times altogether, losing only one patient in twenty-seven. His amputations numbered nearly a thousand. Dr. Mott possessed all the qualifications for a great operator. His keenness of sight, steadiness of nerve, and physical vigor were extraordinary. He could cut with one hand almost as well as with the other, and developed a dexterity in the use of the knife that has never been surpassed. He cultivated and refreshed his knowledge of surgical and pathological anatomy by constant dissections and post-mortem examinations, and collected a large museum of morbid specimens, at a period when the law obstructed these practical methods of study that are now allowed and protected. Although the most intrepid operator of his age, performing, as said Sir Astley Cooper, "more of the great operations than any man living, or that ever did live," yet he was a friend and advocate of conservative surgery, and never performed an operation without weighing the question of its necessity with much deliberation. His success in capital operations was due not simply to his surgical knowledge and skill, but in a large measure to his care in the after-treatment of the patient and to a knowledge of therapeutics that brilliant operators rarely possess. In addition to his surgical practice, Dr. Mott's services as a physician were often sought. He invented many admirable surgical and obstetrical implements, and till the end of his life was eager to adopt in practice the inventions and improvements of others in surgery or medicine. The introduction of anaesthetics was facilitated by his early and frequent use of them. His health and vigor lasted till the end of his life, and in his old age he was still able to perform difficult surgical operations. In 1864 he went with other physicians to Annapolis to investigate and report on the condition of prisoners of war released from Confederate jails. Dr. Mott received the honorary degree of M. D. from the University of Edinburgh, and in 1851 that of LL.D. from the regents of the New York state university. The medical societies of several states of the Union, the Imperial academy of medicine of Paris, the Paris clinical society, and the medical and chirurgical societies of London and Brussels each made him a fellow, as well as King's and Queen's college of physicians of Ireland, which has elected only twenty new members within two hundred years. He was for a long period president of the New York academy of medicine, and at the time of his death was president of the New York inebriate asylum. Shortly after Dr. Mott's death his museum of anatomical specimens was destroyed in the fire which consumed the Medical college on 14th street, and many of his most valuable surgical plates and preparations were consumed. His widow succeeded in gathering some mementoes of his laborious life, and placed them in a building at 64 Madison avenue, now known as the Mort memorial, which was incorporated in 1866, and is now under the special care of his son, Professor Alexander B. Mort. It contains a library of nearly 4,000 volumes, exclusively on medical and surgical topics, and is free to all medical students and physicians on application.P o . o Dr. Mort created a trust in his will by virtue of which one gold, one silver, and one copper medal are bestowed upon the three graduates of the New York university medical college for the best dried anatomical specimens. After returning from Europe in 1841 he published "Travels in Europe and the East" (New York, 1842). His published papers on surgical topics number only twenty-five, though some of them are of great length and illustrated with numerous drawings. Literary composition was distasteful to him. In 1818, with Drs. John Watts and Alexander H. Stevens, the other professional attendants at the New York hospital, he established the " New York Medical and Surgical Register," which was intended to chronicle the more important cases, on the model of the "Dublin Hospital Reports," but the publication was continued only for one year. He supervised the translation by Dr. Peter S. Townsend of Alfred L. M. Velpeau's " Surgical Anatomy," adding a preface and copious notes and illustrations from his published cases and reports, filling several hundred pages. The curvilinear incision in resections of the bones and operations on the jaws, to which Professor Velpeau attached much importance, was mainly originated by Dr. Mott, though not credited to him in the French treatise. In 1862 he prepared, at the request of the United States sanitary commission, a paper on the use of anaesthetics for the use of army surgeons, and subsequently a tract on the means of suppressing haemorrhage in gun-shot wounds, which was intended as a guide for the use of soldiers on the battle-field. Several of his professional papers were published in the "Transactions " of the New York academy of medicine, and one was presented to the Royal medical and chirurgical society of London, treating of a rare congenital tumor of the skin called pachydermatocele, first described by him. He published a " Sketch of the Life of Dr. Wright Post." His inaugural address as president of the New York academy of medicine was printed; also an address entitled "Reminiscences of Medical Teaching and Teachers in New York" (New York, 1850); "Address before the Trustees of the New York Inebriate Asylum at Binghamton";" Anniversary Discourse before the Graduates of the University of New York" (1860); and a "Eulogy on John W. Francis, M. D." (1861). Dr. Samuel W. Francis published "Mott's Cliniques," being an abstract of his later clinical lectures (New York, 1860). See "Memoir of the Life and Character of Mort, Facile Princeps," by Samuel W. Francis (New York, 1865);" Eulogy on the Late Valentine Mott," by Alfred C. Post (1865); and "Memoir of Valentine Mott," by Samuel D. Gross (Philadelphia, 1868).--His son, Valentine, physician, born in New York city, 22 July, 1822: died in New Orleans, Louisiana, 20 September, 1854, was graduated at the medical department of the University of the city of New York in 1846 and then became his father's assistant and prosector. His health becoming impaired, he went to Palermo, Sicily, where he was the first to introduce chloroform and ether in connection with operations in surgery, and attained to great reputation. Subsequently he was identified with the rebellion in Sicily and was made surgeon-general of the insurgent forces. Dr. Mott was also active in the field as colonel of cavalry, and at one time, at the head of 900 men, cut his way through a superior force of the regular troops, reaching Palermo after losing one third of his soldiers. He opposed the surrender of that city, and when its capitulation was decided upon he escaped by means of an English vessel. On his return to the United States he was elected professor of surgery in the Medical college of Baltimore, and was the first to establish a public clinic in that city. His health again compelled him to travel, and he sought relief in California. There the news of the new insurrections in Italy reached him, and he at once started for the field of action, but was stricken with yellow fever while passing through New Orleans and there died.


From  Bellevue Hospital:

1847 Mott, Valentine 1865.

M. D., Columb., 1806; LL. D., elsewhere; Prof. Surg., Columb., 1811-13 ; Coll. Phys. & Surg., 1813-26; Rutgers Med. Coll., 1826-30; Prof. Op. Surg. & Surg. Anat., Coll. Phys. & Surg., 1831-37; Pres. & Prof., Surg. Univ., City N. Y., 1841-50; Emeritus, 1852-65 ; Pres., N. Y. Acad. Med., 1849. In London and Edinburgh, 1806-9, at St. Thomas's, St. Bartholomew's, & Guy's Hospitals, under Abernethy, Sir Charles Bell, and Sir Astley Cooper. Ligated the arteria innominata two inches from the heart for aneurism of the right sub-clavian, first time in history of surgery, and patient lived 28 days, 1818; operated for osteosarcoma of lower jaw, first time, and removed lower jaw for necrosis, 1821; introduced his original operation for immobility of lower jaw, 1822; exsected entire right clavicle for malignant disease, 1828 (patient living in 1865); first to be successful in ligating primitive iliac for aneurism; tied common carotid 46 times; exsected lower jaw in different portions, cutting out two inches of the deep jugular vein inseparably imbedded in a tumor, and tied both ends of the vein. Author of " Mott's Velpeau," 4 vols., 820 pp., 8, N. Y., and of the following papers: "Relative Anatomy of Sub-clavian Artery with Scaleni Muscles"; " Memoirs on Injuries of Skull and Brain," illustrated by cases; "Essay on Pulsation in Epi- gastrio"; "Memoir on Tying the Arteria Innominata"; several papers on " Exsection of the Lower Jaw in Various Portions and Articulation on one Side," with plates; " The Utility of Tying the Common Carotid for safe Removal of Large Tumors," etc. ; "Removal of Thyroid Body weighing Four pounds, with Entire Success"; " Original Nasal Operation " (successful), with plates ; " Distal, Anticardial or Bras- dorean Operation on the Right Carotid for Aneurism of the Innominate "; " Successful Amputation of the Hip-joint," with plates; "Papers on Ligatures of Carotids, Sub-clavian, External, and Internal Iliacs"; "Successful Exsection of Clavicle for Enormous Osteosarcoma Ulcerated and Bleeding"; " Memoirs on a Peculiar Tumor of the Skin," illustrated by drawings and cases; " Letters to Amussat on the Effects of the Admission of Air into the Veins in Surgical Operations"; "Paper on Tying the Left Sub-clavian under Scalenus Anticus, attended with Peculiar Circulation, Recovery"; " Memoirs on the Removal of Enormous Tumors in the Neck in Small Children," with cases and draw-ings; " Treatment of Ununited Fractures." Died in N. Y.
City, 1865, .et. 79; cause, typho-malarial fever, followed
by gangrene of leg. Father of Alexander Brown Mott.

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


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American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

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