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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 Granville Sharp Pattison, M.D


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Granville Sharp Pattison died in the city of New York, November 12th, 1851, in the sixtieth year of his age, after having occupied for nearly two-thirds of his life a conspicuous place in the public eye. It is no exaggeration to say that no anatomical teacher of his day, either in Europe or in this country, enjoyed a higher reputation. There were undoubtedly many anatomists far more profoundly versed in the secrets of the human frame, more dexterous, patient, and minute dissectors, and men better acquainted with the use of the microscope, or the study of the tissues, a branch of anatomy now known as histology. Indeed, it is not too much to assert that if he was not ignorant of histology and microscopical anatomy his knowledge was very superficial. It may, however, be said that these studies were, even at the time of his death, in their embryonic condition. Only glimmerings of light had as yet broken in upon the profession.

Pattison's forte as a teacher consisted in his knowledge of visceral and surgical anatomy, and in the application of this knowledge to the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and of accidents, and to operations. He had studied surgical anatomy under Allan Burns of Glasgow, its founder in Great Britain, and I may add in this country, where the republication of his work, entitled The Surgical Anatomy of the Head and Neck, awakened unexampled interest and enthusiasm in this department of science. His great charm in the lecture-room was the earnestness of his manner and the clearness of his demonstrations. He would throw his whole soul into his subject, and use every exertion to make himself felt and understood; and his enthusiasm never failed to infuse itself into the dullest pupil. The appointed hour always seemed too short, so rapidly and pleasantly did it pass. What added interest to the speaker was a slight lisp and a Scotch accent, which never entirely forsook him, despite his efforts to overcome them in early life. Pattison never indulged in any of those physical displays occasionally witnessed in our amphitheatres. On the contrary, he was dignified, entertaining, and instructive. He possessed that peculiar kind of eloquence which is so well calculated to enchain the attention and enlighten the mind of the medical student—an eloquence difficult to describe, but without which no teaching can be attractive or make an abiding impression upon one's auditors.

It was my lot to be associated with Granville Sharp Pattison during the session of 1850-51 in the New York University, in which I served as Professor of Surgery as the successor of Valentine Mott . One morning, in the summer previous to the session, during my residence at Louisville, a telegram was handed to me at the breakfast-table, in which I was asked whether I should be at home on a certain day the following week, the writer adding that he desired an interview with me. When the appointed time arrived I was not a little surprised to see before me a small, elderly gentleman, of medium stature, with black eyes and white hair, who introduced himself as Mr. Pattison. Up to this time I had known him only by reputation. He soon explained the object of his visit. He painted the prospects of the University of New York in the most glowing colors, spoke of his colleagues as though they were the greatest and most learned of professors, and peopled the amphitheatre at no distant period with from eight hundred to one thousand students. I shall never forget his enthusiasm. I was then in a halting frame of mind, for the University of Louisville was in danger of passing out of the hands of its trustees into the management of a board to be elected annually by the City Council, by which the school had been largely endowed. The question propounded to me required time for reflection. Pattison left the next morning, depositing with me a guarantee of four thousand dollars for my winter's labors in the event of my acceptance. At the end of a week I sent an affirmative answer. The history of my connection, however, with the University of New York, and of my return to Louisville, is related elsewhere.

At an early period of his professional life he edited an edition of Allan Burns's Surgical Anatomy of the Head and Neck and performed several important surgical operations, tying, it is said, upon one occasion, the omohyoid muscle instead of the common carotid artery. But his surgical tastes, if he ever had any, never grew upon him, and as he advanced in years the sight of blood became distressing to him.

The career of Pattison was a checkered one. He was born near Glasgow, where, at the age of seventeen, he began the study of medicine. At twenty-one he became an assistant of Allan Burns, and devoted himself to the study and teaching of anatomy. From Glasgow he came in 1818 to Philadelphia, under a promise of the chair of Anatomy in the University of Pennsylvania, then recently vacated by the death of Dr. Dorsey, a nephew of Dr. Physick.

A cloud, however, followed him to this country, and he was accordingly tabooed upon his arrival. He subsequently engaged in a duel, in which he shot his adversary in the hip, laming him for life. Despite this adventure, he was soon after appointed to the chair of Anatomy in the University of Maryland, which, in consequence of his brilliant teaching, speedily attained a high degree of prosperity. In 1828, upon the organization of the now celebrated London University, he was called to the chair of Anatomy. A serious misunderstanding soon arose between him and the Demonstrator of Anatomy, Dr. Bennett, and he left London in disgust. He returned to Philadelphia, and served as professor of his favorite branch in the Jefferson Medical College from 1831 until 1840, when he assisted in founding the Medical Department of the University of the City of New York. Like a rolling stone, Pattison gathered no moss, and consequently left no estate, although his "dear Mary," having means of her own, was comparatively comfortable after his death.

(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:

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Hosp Dep't Bottles, Tins, 

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American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

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Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016