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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Nathan Ryno Smith, M.D


Additional lecture cards at: University of Maryland 1833


Nathan Ryno Smith, born in 1797 of distinguished New England parentage, was the son of Nathan Smith the Elder, founder of medical schools at both Dartmouth and Yale. The younger Smith earned his M.D. at Yale in 1823, and later ventured southward to Philadelphia, where he accepted an invitation to assume the Chair of Anatomy at the new Jefferson Medical College. But in 1827, a vacancy in the Chair of Surgery at the University of Maryland beckoned him still farther away from his native New England, and he happily remained here for the rest of his life and career. Nathan Ryno Smith, whose commanding presence and gentlemanly manner earned him the nickname "The Emperor," guided the medical school's Department of Surgery for the next fifty years. During that time, he devoted thirty years to the development and perfection of what he considered to be his greatest surgical accomplishment, the invention of his anterior splint. He completed the creation of this instrument in 1860 and published this work in 1867, describing its uses and applications.


Nathan Ryno Smith, M.D. (1797-1877) lectured on "Surgery." Dr. Smith spent 50 years at the Medical School, and was affectionately known as "The Emperor" by his students. His removal of a goiter from a patient was the first procedure of its kind in Maryland and only the second thyroidectomy in the country. Smith was widely recognized as the inventor of the anterior splint for fractures of the lower extremities. Perfected in 1860, the splint was used extensively during the Civil War. Smith himself regarded the invention as his most important contribution to medicine. He was also founder of the Philadelphia Monthly Journal of Medicine and Surgery, later named the American Journal of the Medical Sciences.


Nathan Ryno Smith. He was born, May 21, 1797, in the town of Cornish, on the banks of the Connecticut River in New Hampshire. His father, Dr. Nathan Smith, had practiced his profession in that town before his appointment to the chair of Physic and Surgery in Yale College, in 1813, when the medical department of that seat of learning was founded. The early education of the subject of this sketch was received at Dartmouth, New Hampshire, and, in 1813, he entered Yale College as a freshman, graduating there, in 1817, at the age of twenty. After completing his academic course, and before beginning his professional studies, he spent about a year and a half in Virginia. On his return from Virginia he began the study of medicine in Yale College, where his father then held the chair of Physic and Surgery, and there, in 1823, he received the degree of Doctor of Medicine. The following year he began the practice of his profession in Burlington, Vermont, and the next year was appointed to the professorship of Surgery and Anatomy in the University of Vermont, the medical department of which was organized mainly through his own exertions, aided, however, by his father, who, while still discharging the duties of his chair in Yale, spent some weeks in Burlington, as the colleague of his son. The winter of 1825-6, he spent in Philadelphia, qualifying himself the better for his position as a teacher by attending the lectures and observing the modes of instruction at the University of Pennsylvania. Soon after going to Philadelphia he made the acquaintance of Dr. George McClellan. That gentleman was just then associated with other physicians in laying the foundation of the Jefferson Medical School. Such was the impression made upon him and his colleagues by the ability and professional knowledge of Dr. Smith, that they invited him to unite with them in their enterprise and tendered to him the chair of Anatomy in the new school. He held that position for two sessions. Dr. Smith never returned to New England to reside; nor was his connection with the Jefferson School of long duration.


The chair of Anatomy in the School of Medicine of the University of Maryland becoming vacant by the resignation of Professor Granville Sharp Pattison, in 1827, the position was tendered to Professor Smith, and accepted. He entered upon his duties that year as a teacher, and was soon engaged in extensive surgical and medical practice. On the decease of Professor John B. Davidge, in 1829, Professor Smith was at once transferred to the chair of Surgery. About 1838, Professor Smith accepted an appointment to the chair of Practice of Medicine in the Transylvania University at Lexington, Kentucky, which required his attendance four months in the year. At the close of each session there, he returned to Baltimore. He continued that course for a few years, and then dissolved his connection with the Western institution. It was in the position which he filled for nearly fifty years as Professor of Surgery in the University of Maryland, that his life-work was done; and it is in association with that school that his name will live in the annals of American Surgery. It was there, in his early connection with it, he prepared his work on the Surgical Anatomy of the Arteries, which brought his name prominently before the profession; there he gave to surgery his Lithotome; there he invented the apparatus which he regarded as his chief contribution to surgical appliances—his Anterior Splint; and there, as his last offering to science, he published his work on Fractures of the Lower Extremity.


In 1867, when he had completed his seventieth year, he visited Europe, merely for relaxation and recuperation. He returned home in October of that year, strengthened and refreshed to some degree. But painful disease and the infirmities of age began to press upon him, so that he was compelled to devote less attention to his professional work; yet he did not entirely withdraw from practice until the last few months before his death. Finally, July 3, 1877, a few weeks after he had completed his eightieth year, life's labors ended, and he slept in death. Professor Smith left but one son, Dr. Alan P. Smith, who is also engaged in medical and surgical practice.

(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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Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016