Gurney Smith, M.D.
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Smith, Francis Gurney
Francis Gurney Smith, obstetrician and physiologist, was born in
Philadelphia, March 8, 1818. His father, of the same name, a prosperous
Philadelphia merchant, was one of six brothers, all of whom lived to be
octogenarians and celebrated their golden weddings; his mother was Eliza
Muckie; Francis was their fifth son. He graduated in arts at the
University of Pennsylvania in 1837, taking an M. D. at the same
institution, with the thesis "Delirium cum Tremore" in 1840; he studied
medicine with his brother, Thomas M. K. Smith, of Brandywine, Delaware.
In 1841 he became resident physician in the Pennsylvania Hospital for
the Insane, but resigned in nine months to practice with his brother; he
returned to Philadelphia, however, in 1842, to a practice, principally
in obstetrics and diseases of women. The same year he was appointed
lecturer on physiology by the Philadelphia Association for Medical
Instruction; his private class, with J. M. Allen, numbered over one
In 1852 he was elected to the chair of physiology in the Pennsylvania
Medical College, retaining this position until 1863, when he succeeded
Samuel Jackson (q. v.) as professor of the institutes of medicine at the
University of Pennsylvania; failing health forced him to resign in 1877
when he was made emeritus professor.
With Francis West, John B. Biddle and John J. Reese, he was a member of
the first medical staff of the Protestant Episcopal Hospital, named in
the reports of 1853; from 1859 to 1864 he was on the medical staff of
the Pennsylvania Hospital; from 1861 to 1863 he was medical director of
the Christian Street Military Hospital, and left this post, under
orders, to attend sick and wounded officers in the city.
Smith was the first president of the Philadelphia Obstetrical Society
(1868-1872); in 1875 he founded the first physiological laboratory in
the University of Pennsylvania.
He translated and added to Barth and Roger's "Manual of Auscultation and
Percussion" (1849) ; he wrote with John Neill
"Handbook of Anatomy"; "Handbook of Chemistry"; edited three American
editions of the fourth English edition of "Carpenter's Principles of
Human Physiology," also the eighth English edition.
In 1856 Smith had Alexis St. Martin under observation, and published the
result of his experiments in the Medical Examiner, of which he was
editor, 1849-1856; this appeared also as "Experiments upon Digestion,"
16 pages, Philadelphia, 1856.
In 1884 he married Catharine Madeleine, daughter of Edmund G. Dutilh, of
Philadelphia; they had three sons and a daughter, the eldest son, Robert
Meade, became a physician and physiologist. Francis Gurney Smith, Jr.,
as he was always called, was a vestryman of St. James Protestant
Renal calculi produced pyelitis; nervous
symptoms succeeded; he went abroad twice,
consulted physicians, but was unimproved. He
died April 6, 1878, at his home in Philadelphia.
personal edited research notes of Michael Echols, the source of which
may or may not be completely documented)