Name: Philip Syng Physick
Birth: 07 JUL 1768 in Philadelphia , PA
Burial: DEC 1837 Christ Church Burial Ground, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pa
Death: 15 DEC 1837
Known as the Father of Modern Surgery
Physick graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1785, then began the study of medicine under Dr. Adam Kuhn, and continued it in London under Dr. John Hunter, becoming, on January 1, 1790, house surgeon of St. George's hospital. In 1791 he received his license from the Royal college of surgeons in London, and was invited by Dr. Hunter to assist him in his professional practice, but after a few months went to the University of Edinburgh, where he received his degree in medicine in 1792. He returned to Philadelphia to practice, taking a position at Pennsylvania Hospital. One of the foremost surgeons of the time, Dr. Physick was among the few doctors who remained in the city to care for the sick during Philadelphia's decimating yellow fever epidemic of 1793. His many patients included John Adams's daughter, Dolley Madison, Chief Justice John Marshall (from whom he removed almost 1,000 bladder stones, effecting a complete cure), and Dr. Benjamin Rush. When President Andrew Jackson consulted with Dr. Physick about his lung hemorrhages, he was told to stop smoking.
Dr. Physick pioneered the use of the stomach pump, used autopsy as a regular means of observation and discovery, excelled in cataract surgery, and was responsible for the design of a number of surgical instruments, such as the needle forceps, the guillotine/snare for performing tonsillectomies, and improved splints and traction devices for treatment of dislocations; he also innovated many operative techniques. Dr. Physick was one of the most sought-after medical lecturers of the 19th century. His lectures prepared a generation of surgeons for service throughout America. It is because of his status as a teacher that he was dubbed the "Father of American Surgery.".
Physick died in Philadelphia and was interred at Christ Church Burial Ground.
Philip Syng Physick was born July 7, 1768, in Philadelphia. His father was
the keeper of the Great Seal and receiver-general of Pennsylvania and Philip
grew up in refined surroundings. Although Physick's father desired that
he study medicine, Philip at first wanted to join his grandfather in the
goldsmith craft. Physick's youthful enjoyment of working with his hands
in shaping delicate objects later contributed to his success as a surgeon.
After attending the Philadelphia Academy, a Quaker school, Physick in 1875
entered the University of Pennsylvania where he studied the arts. Upon
graduating he decided to follow his father's advice and began the study of
medicine with a local physician, Dr. Adam Kuhn.
In 1788 Physick made the at that time obligatory trip to Great Britain to
study the latest advances in medicine in London and Edinburgh. In London he
received the opportunity to live and work with the great Dr. John Hunter,
the leading British anatomist and surgeon of the period. Hunter asked
Physick to become his assistant, but after spending a year at London's
St. George Hospital as a house surgeon, Physick went to Edinburgh where he
graduated in medicine in 1792.
Upon returning to Philadelphia Physick entered private practice. At first
he did not attract a distinguished clientele and struggled to build a
practice. When Benjamin Rush became his friend, and when Physick became
physician to the wealthy Stephen Girard, his practice greatly increased
and he was soon one of Philadelphia's leading physicians. In 1794 he was
elected to the staff of the Pennsylvania Hospital. He served on the staff
until 1816 and the quality of his teaching greatly enhanced his professional
reputation. In 1800 he was appointed surgeon to the Almshouse. He also
conducted classes at the University of Pennsylvania, where a special chair
of surgery was created for him in 1805.
Physick suffered many illnesses throughout his life. As a child he had
small pox and during both the yellow fever epidemics of 1793 and 1798 he
contracted the disease while working long hours in the local hospitals. In
1813 he had another attack of fever, probably typhoid, from which he never
fully recovered. In 1819 when the University of Pennsylvania suggested that
he take over a chair of anatomy, he resigned his chair in surgery. Although
Physick continued to practice medicine, his activities declined markedly
after approximately 1820. He died in Philadelphia on December 15, 1837.
Father: Edmund Physick b: 1727
Mother: Abigail Syng b: 28 NOV 1730
Elizabeth Emlen b: 1773
- Sarah Emlen Physick b: 06 NOV 1801 in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
- Susan Dillwyn Physick b: 22 JUN 1803 in Philadelphia, PA