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Thomas Spencer Wells autograph letter to Horatio Storer on Ovariotomy + 7 letters on gynecology by others
1865. Important 19th-Century A.Ls.s. on Abdominal Hysterectomy and Ovariotomy STORER, Horatio R. (1830-1922). Collection of 8 A.Ls.s. to Storer from 8 different physicians, October 8, 1865-November 19, 1878. Various sizes. 16pp. in all, plus postmarked cover to one letter, and a small sepia-toned photograph of a portrait of Benjamin Waterhouse (very faded, chipped and creased). Creased where folded, otherwise fine. A fascinating collection of letters written to one of the foremost American gynecologists of the nineteenth century, mostly pertaining to his successful operation for abdominal hysterectomy-the fourth such operation performed in the United States. The D.A.B. cites Storer as the establisher of the specialty of gynecology, "not hitherto recognized as a distinct branch of medicine," and he was a founder of the Journal of the Gynaecological Society of Boston, the first journal devoted exclusively to the diseases of women. He published many books on gynecological and related topics, including several on abortion, to which he was opposed. His major surgical achievements were the operation for abdominal hysterectomy and the performance, in 1868, of the world's first cesarean-hysterectomy. Storer's correspondents included some of the most distinguished names in American and English surgery: T. Spencer Wells (1818-97), whom Ricci (p. 477) called "the greatest ovariotomist of the preantiseptic age" (see G-M 6056); Edmund Randolph Peaslee (1817-78), author of Ovarian Tumors; Their Pathology, Diagnosis and Treatment, Especially by Ovariotomy, 1872) and performer of the second double ovariotomy in America (1850); Washington Atlee (1808-78), who operated successfully on vesico-vaginal fistula (1860; see G-M 6047), and who together with his brother John performed the first abdominal myomectomy (1844); Willard Parker (1800-1884), the first American to operate for appendicitis (1867; see G-M 3564); Isaac Hays (1796-1879), longtime editor of the American Journal of the Medical Sciences; Henry Austin Martin (1824-84), who was the first to write on the use of adhesive plaster in surgery. The collection also includes letters from James[?] Dana and J. A. Menzies, who are not noticed in our references. In 1866 Storer published his account of the "Successful Removal of the Uterus and Both Ovaries by Abdominal Section" in the January number of the American Journal of the Medical Sciences. No fewer than five of the eight letters in this collection refer to Storer's operation, the report of which he must have circulated prior to its publication in the journal, as three of these five letters were written in late 1865. Isaac Hays, the editor of the journal that published Storer's paper, wrote to him on October 8 to refer him to Koeberle's performance of the first successful extirpation of the uterus and ovaries (1863; see G-M 6052). Washington Atlee, in his letter of November 19, discussed an unconfirmed report of a hysterectomy performed by Dr. Land, noted that his own brother John had never removed a uterus, and referred Storer to the account of Baker Brown's fatal case in the October 1865 number of the American Journal of the Medical Sciences. Willard Parker, in his letter of November 29, stated that he had never performed abdominal hysterectomy but had once removed a prolapsed uterus through the vulva. The more important of the remaining two letters referring to Storer's operation was that of E. R. Peaslee, written on March 8, 1866; it praised Storer's report as "a most interesting and a very able paper" and one that "must convince all candid minds that extirpation of the uterus is sometimes a justifiable operation." The remaining letter in this series was written on March 5, 1866 by James[?] Dana, who described himself as having "been now almost forty years out of medical practice." Of the three letters that do not mention Storer's operation, the most valuable by far is that of Spencer Wells, who wrote to Storer on April 17, 1867 to discuss his own unsatisfactory experience with use of cautery in ovariotomy, and to report his current success rate after the completion of over 200 ovariotomies. Wells wrote his letter on the blank verso of a printed "Table of Cases to Accompany Mr. Spencer Wells's Fourth Series of Fifty Cases of Ovariotomy," which provides the pertinent data for fifty cases of completed ovariotomy performed between December 1865 and March 1867. Wells reported on 500 such cases between 1856 and 1872, with an overall mortality rate of 25%. In his letter, written when he had completed 207 operations, he gave the mortality rates for the first and second hundred (34% and 28% respectively), as well as the overall rate (31%) and his success rate with the seven operations completed since. Wells also mentioned Storer's "clamp shield," an instrument designed to shield the clamps used in the pre-antiseptic era for the extra-abdominal treatment of the ovarian stump after ovariotomy. Wells had not yet been able to obtain one of these shields, and asked Storer to write to the manufacturer to "stir him up." H. A. Martin's letter, written on November 19, 1878, was a request for a photographic negative of the portrait of Benjamin Waterhouse, which Martin planned to reproduce in an article on Waterhouse and the introduction of vaccination in America; a copy of the photograph is included in this collection. The final letter in this collection was from J. A. Menzies, a British physician in Naples, who discussed the illness of Storer's daughter and the problem of halting the spread of syphilis. D.A.B. (Storer). Ricci, Development of Gynaecological Surgery and Instruments, pp. 447 (Peaslee); 469; 563 (Storer); 477-82 (Wells). Rutkow, History of Surgery in the U.S., GY20 (Atlee); GSp142 (Martin); GYp42-45 (Peaslee). Speert, Obstetrics & Gynecology in America, pp. 180-81 (Storer); 129 (Peaslee).
      [Bookseller: Jeremy Norman's Historyofscience.com ]
Last Found On: 2013-03-23           Check availability:      ABAA    

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