Biography of John Green Curtis

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

Page 1880

John Green Curtis, M. D., LL. D., youngest child of George and Julia B. (Bridgham) Curtis, was born October 25, 1844, in New York City, and died September 20, 1913, at Chatham, Massachusetts. He was educated in private schools and with private tutors in New York City and was graduated from Harvard University, A. B. in 1860, and received the degree of M. A. in 1869. Returning to New York, he entered the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Medical Department of Columbia University, from which he graduated, M. D., in 1870. While pursuing his studies, he served as junior assistant in the first surgical division of the staff of Bellevue Hospital from April 1 to September 30, 1869; as senior assistant from October 1, 1869, to March 31, 1870, and as house surgeon from April 1 to October 1, 1870. He also filled the position of visiting surgeon from 1876 to 1881. In 1870 he began the practice of medicine and in 1872 entered into partnership as junior partner with Dr. Henry B. Sands.

Early in his career he became associated with the teaching staff of the College of Physicians and Surgeons and held successively the following positions: Assistant demonstrator of anatomy, 1870 and 1871; demonstrator of anatomy, 1871 to 1875; adjunct lecturer on physiology, 1875 and 1876; adjunct professor of physiology, 1876 to 1883; professor of physiology, 1883 to 1909. In that year he retired from active duty and was appointed professor emeritus of physiology. He was also secretary of the Faculty of Medicine from 1876 to 1890; for six years a member of the University Council of Columbia University, and for one year dean of the Faculty of Medicine.

At the outset of his career he became interested in the science of Physiology and upon his retirement from private practice in 1883 he gave that department of science his exclusive attention. He was instrumental in introducing in America the laboratory method for the demonstration and investigation of physiology, and under his care the laboratory at the College of Physicians and Surgeons became an important factor in the city's scientific life and one of the leading American centers of physiological science. He was a founder of the American Physiological Society, and one of the authors of "An American Text Book of Physiology." He made a special study of the early history of physiology and of the doctrines of the ancient Greek and Roman and medieval philosophers and physicians, and in the course of his researches acquired a library of the works of these writers which has been rarely surpassed. In 1900 he delivered the Cartwright lectures at the New York Academy of Medicine on "The Discovery of the Nerves and of their Functions." In 1907, by invitation, he lectured at Johns Hopkins University on "Harvey's Views of the Use of the Circulation." In 1904 Columbia University conferred on him the degree of LL. D.

He married (first) October 20, 1874, Mrs. Martha (McCook) Davis, widow of Dupont Alexander Davis and daughter of Major Daniel McCook, of Ohio. Mrs. Curtis died in 1897. Dr. Curtis married (second) December 13, 1902, Netta E. Blackwood, daughter of Henry James Blackwood, of Norwich, England.