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Biography of Edward Curtis


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From New England Families Genealogical and Memorial
william Richard Cutter, A.M., New York, 1915

Page 1878

Edward Curtis, A.M., M.D., fifth son of George Curtis and third child of Julia B. (Bridgham) Curtis, was born June 4, 1838, in Providence, and died November 28, 1912, in New York City. He is buried in the North burying ground at Providence. He acquired his preliminary education in a private school in New York City, and then entered Harvard University, from which he received the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1859 and Master of Arts in 1862. He began the study of medicine in March, 1860, in the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York City. On July 5, 1861, he responded to a call from the surgeon-general of the United States army for medical students to serve in the army hospitals as dressers, with a view to appointment as medical cadets when Congress should create such a corps. He was immediately assigned to duty in the Union Hotel Hospital, Georgetown, D.C., and on September 6, 1861, was appointed medical cadet of the United States army. In the spring of 1862 when the Union Hotel Hospital was discontinued and its personnel and equipment transferred to Cliffburne barracks, on the outskirts of Washington, August 23, 1862, he was ordered to the Army of Virginia for temporary field service, and on september 6, 1861, reenlisted as medical cadet for a second year and was assigned to duty at the Satterlee General Hospital, West Philadelphia. On May 5, 1863, he was discharged as medical cadet, and appointed acting assistant surgeon of the United States army, assigned to duty in the microscopical department of the Army Medical Museum (then in its infancy) at Washington. In March, 1864, he was graduated with the degree of Doctor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and on March 30, 1864, was commissioned assistant surgeon of the United States army. June 5, 1864, he was ordered to the Army of the Potomac for field service, and served at White House, Virginia, and Appomattox Court House, until June 22, 1864, when he was assigned for service as consulting and operating surgeon at the Hampton General Hospital, Fortress Monroe. On August 7, 1864, he returned to duty at the museum, but September 20, 1864 was ordered to the Shenandoah Valley for field service with Sheridan's army, serving as executive officer to the Sheridan Field Hospital, near Winchester, and while at this duty narrowly escaped capture by Mosby's guerrillas. On October 28, 1864, he returned to his post at the museum, and on April 15, 1864, at the directon of the surgeon-general, and in conjunction with Assistant Surgeon J.J. Woodward, United States army, he performed the autopsy on the body of President Lincoln. June 15, 1865, he was appointed captain, United States army, by brevet, "for faithful and meritorious services during the war." to date from March 13, 1865. April 27, 1867, he was similarly appointed major, United States army, by brevet, to date again from March 13, 1865. February 22, 1869, he was directed, in conjunction with Assistant Surgeon John S. Billings, United States army, to investigate the possible connection of vegetable organisms with the then prevailing diseases of cattle; this investigation was one of the earliest on the subject of bacterial causation of disease. May 14, 1869, he was directed to organize a party to accompany the astronomers from the United States Naval Observatory to Des Moines, Iowa, for the purpose of obtaining telescopic photographs of the total eclipse of the sun, August 7, 1869. The expedition was very successful, and a large number of negatives were secured, including two of the total phase of the eclipse. During the years of service in the Army Museum, after the close of the civil war, Dr. Curtis developed the then embryo art of photographing through the microscope, succeeding perfectly in photographing with very high powers (1-50 inch objective), even with the old style "wet plates," the only kind then serviceable; he also prepared the catalogue of the microscopial section of the museum.

On February 7, 1870, he resigned from the army and began the practice of his profession in New York City. On March 17, 1870, he was appointed clinical assistant at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, and on December 2nd of the same year was appointed microscopist of the Manhattan Eye and Ear Infirmary. In 1871 he was appointed lecturer on normal and pathological histology, College of Physicians and Surgeons in the City of New York; on May 22, 1872, was appointed professor of materia medica and therapeutics in the same institution, and on May 14, 1873, was appointed professor of materia medica and theraputics. On January 22, 1874, he was appointed surgeon of the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, and on January 28, 1874, was appointed honorary microscopist to the Board of Health, New York City, and on November 24, 1874, was requested by that body "to investigate the causes and nature of diptheria, by means of micro-pathological examinations and otherwise." On September 15, 1876, he was appointed a medical director of the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States. In November, 1885, he resigned from the medical college, and on May 21, 1886, was appointed professor emeritus, College of Physicans and Surgeons of Columbia University, New York City, to take effect October 1, 1886.

He was the author of a number of valuable articles on medical and scientific subjects, among them being "Catalogue of the Microscopical Section of the United States Army Medical Museum," Washington Government Printing Office, 1867; "On the Cryptogamic Origin of Disease, with Special Reference to Recent Microscopical Investigations on that Subject," Transactions of the American Medical Association, vol. 20, 1869; "Report of Results of Examinations of Fluids of Diseased Cattle, with reference to Presence of Cryptogamic Growth," John S. Billings and Edward Curtis, in "Reports on the Diseases of Cattle in the United States, made to the Commissioner of Agriculture, with Accompanying Documents," Washington Government Printing Office, 1869; "Report on Photographic Observations of the Eclipse," in Appendix II, Reports on Observations of the Total Eclipse of the Sun, August 7, 1869, United States Naval Observatory, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1869; "An Apparatus for Cutting Microscopical Sections of the Eyes," Transactions of the American Opthalmological Society, Eighth Annual Meeting, New York, D. Appleton & Company, 1871; "The Protoplasm Theory," an introductory lecture delivered at the opening of the winter session of the College of Physicans and Surgeons in the City of New York, October 1, 1873, published by the medical class, New York, 1873; "Conium and its Use in Diseases of the Eye," a paper read before the Medical Society of the County of New York, April 26 1875, and published in the "New York Medical Record," numbers 237 and 238, May 23 and 29, 1875; article on "Spectacles," "Appleton's American Encyclopedia"; articles on eighty-two titles of materia medica in "Johnson's New Universal Cyclopedia," New York, 1876-78, and 1895; "Reports of Investigations into Pathogeny of Diptheria," pamphlet, published by the Board of Health, New York City, 1878; "Manual of General Medicinal Technology, including Prescription Writing," New York, William Wood & Company, 1883; articles on one hundred and twenty-five titles of materia medica and related subjects in "Reference Handbook of the Medical Sciences," William Wood & Co., New York, 1899; "Nature and Health," New York, Henry Holt & Co., 1906.

On November 16, 1864, at Chester, Pennsylvania, he married Augusta Lawler Stacey, daughter of Davis Bevan and Sarah (Van Dycke) Stacey, and great-granddaughter of Captain Davis Bevan, who served with distinction in the revolutionary war. Children: Julia Augusta, born September 7, 1865, died February 26, 1870; Constance, artist, unmarried, exhibitor at Paris Exposition, Chicago, and St. Louis World's Fair, also at London and in principal art exhibitions in America; George DeClyver, November 7, 1870, graduated from Harvard University, A.B., 1893, author, unmarried, contributor to "Century," "Cosmopolitan" and other magazines; Natalie, author and musician, unmarried, studied music in France and Germany, author, "The Indians Book," a collection of the music of the various Indian tribes, Harper & Brothers, 1907, and numerous magazine articles on musical and ethnological subjects; Bridgham, born September 30, 1876, graduated from Harvard University, A.B., 1899, Columbia University Law School, LL.B., 1902, unmarried; Marian, married Roger Bradbury Whitman, October 3, 1906; children: Roger Curtis, born November 25, 1907, Herbert Schurtz, July 14, 1909.

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