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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 Stephen H. Weeks, M.D.

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Name: Stephen Holmes Weeks
Cause of death: surgery, complications, carcinoma, intestines; (M)
Death date: Sep 1, 1909
Place of death: Portland, ME
Birth date: 1836
Type of practice: Allopath
Practice specialities:GS General Surgery, PUD Pulmonary Diseases
States and years of licenses:ME
Hospital affiliations: Maine General Hospital, Portland
Medical school(s): University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, 1864, (G)
Professorship: Bowdoin Medical School, Brunswick-Portland: Medical School of Maine, surgery, anatomy
Journal of the American Medical Association Citation: 53:966

Stephen H. Weeks, MD, an 1864 medical graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, had a long and distinguished career. He was a man of many and varied surgical interests. Like Warren Greene, he was a member of the early surgical staff at the Maine General Hospital from 1874 until 1905. He was a professor of anatomy at the Medical School of Maine and a professor of surgery at the Bowdoin Medical College in Portland.

He became a member of the American Surgical Association in 1889, along with Drs Arthur T. Cabot, and John Homans, both of Boston, Mass. He was very active in the association and served as its vice president in 1904. His presentations and discussions of papers at this organization reflect wide surgical interests, a keen intellect, and intelligent scientific curiosity. In 1907, in a discussion on the treatment of breast carcinoma (and with most of the participants, including Dr Halsted, advocating the radical operative procedure), Dr Weeks "took issue with this statement that even the Halsted operation with a supraclavicular extension was a complete operation." He noted that his own results with mastectomy and node excision without removing the pectoral muscles were better, and that he only "sometimes removed the muscles." This would have been a most bold assertion for a surgeon from Maine, and possibly a man ahead of his time.

Dr Weeks advocated in 1899, when appropriate, interval appendectomy, which was not a popular or accepted concept then. In the 1890 proceedings discussiong long bone fractures, he suggested "fixation of joints above and below the seats of fractures"—an observation referred to as "the modern sounding statement" by Hayes Agnew, MD. That he was a thoughtful surgeon is suggested by his comments at the 1900 meeting regarding the treatment of carcinoma of the stomach. He argued that palliative gastroenterostomy rather than resection was more appropriate as "the time might come when diagnosis would improve and early operation would result in cure, but that time had not yet come."

Dr Weeks' interests and bibliography extended to a variety of other surgical problems, including gallstone disease and choledocholithiasis, renal calculi, femoral artery aneurysm, osteomyelitis, and even tic douloureux. He wrote 2 papers on the surgery of the Gasserian ganglion. In a 1901 presentation of "Fractures and Dislocations of the Spine," he advocated that cervical spine anterior dislocations should be treated with prompt laminectomy "in all such cases for the benefit of the few who might be improved" by cord decompression.  Dr Weeks presented a paper to the American Surgical Association in 1907 entitled, "Some Considerations in Regard to Brain Surgery," which included the follow-up of a craniotomy patient operated on successfully by him in 1898 at the Maine General Hospital—surely an early foray into the infant specialty of neurosurgery.

In a symposium led by Drs Chas Mayo and A. J. Ochsner in 1904 regarding "thyroidism" (or Grave's disease) and the role of surgery, it is recorded "there was a good deal of discussion, but only S. H. Weeks of Portland introduced a new note stating there were many cases in which medical treatment is the only plan we can adopt," using neutral bromide of quinine, which was "found to be a valuable remedy" in controlling the symptoms of Grave's disease based on the observations of R. Shattuck, MD, of Harvard Medical School in Boston.  Again, this is an early observation that has stood the test of time. At the same meeting, commenting on surgery for osteomyelitis of the tibial shaft, the discussion relates that, "S. H. Weeks of Portland, Maine seemed to understand the disease best of all." The discussion proceeded with his comments regarding adequate drainage.

Like many of the famous surgeons of his day, Dr Weeks was slow to embrace Dr Lister's concepts. In this, he diverged from his colleague at the Maine General Hospital, Frederic Gerrish, MD. In 1889 in a discussion of the use of drains for wounds, he said, "it is not the province of this paper to discuss the germ theory of disease," then further stated that he was "not a complete convert to Listerism."

Despite this, a catholicity of surgical interests, an inquiring and inquisitive mind, and a willingness to question the prevailing surgical wisdom earned for him a place in Maine's surgical pantheon. An example of his commitment and compassion is noted in the opening remarks on the "Sanitary Condition of the Almshouse and the Poor of the City of Portland," read at the 1870 meeting of the Maine Medical Association:

It is certainly gratifying to know that the members of the medical profession are coming to realize that the preservation of health and the prevention of disease are as important a part of their duty as the treatment and cure of disease. . . . No worthier object can engage the mind and heart of the philanthropist than that which relates to the promotion and preservation of health. . . . If health is justly deemed an inevitable possession to those surrounded by all the comforts of home and friends, and all that wealth can procure, of how much more consequence must it be to the poor, who, homeless and friendless, seek shelter within the walls of our public charities. . . . Too often it is the poor, half starved poor, half clothed unfortunate shunned, loathed, and if sick, even viewed as a culprit; while, in many cases at least, his poverty and sickness are the result of his misfortune and not his fault. It is a wise charity, therefore, that seeks to improve the physical and moral condition of this unfortunate class of our population.

(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