Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/124

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
114
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

During his senior year at college Mr. Le Conte was bereft of his devoted father, who died after a very brief illness. This calamity hastened his selection of a profession. In August, 1838, he was graduated with high honor. Immediately afterward he began the study of medicine, and in the spring of 1839 he entered the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, where, in March, 1811, he received the degree of Doctor of Medicine. A few months before his graduation in medicine another domestic calamity befell him in the death of his eldest brother, William, to whom had been committed the charge of the family estates in Georgia. This event hastened Dr. Le Conte's return home in the spring of 1841, to take charge of the estate as the eldest surviving son, and frustrated the execution of a cherished plan for supplementing his medical education by a year's residence in Paris.

During the summer of 1811 Dr. Le Conte returned to New York, and was married in July to Miss Josephine Graham, of that city, an accomplished young lady of Scottish and English extraction. The deep love and earnest devotion, and the consequent domestic happiness which crowned this union, contributed more than all else afterward to fortify and sustain him in the battle of life. Mrs. Le Conte was a woman of wonderful personal magnetism, queenly in bearing, and of extraordinary beauty. Her brilliancy and wit, her quick insight and ready tact, added to her majestic presence, made her the center of attraction in every social gathering. In after-years, especially at the annual meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, such men as Bache, Peirce, Henry, and Agassiz vied with each other in doing her homage. Her fame in social circles equaled that of her husband among men of science; and no important step in his life has been taken without acknowledgment of the help derived from the social influence of a wife of whom he was justly proud.

In the autumn of 1842 Dr. Le Conte established himself as a practitioner of medicine in Savannah, Georgia. His four years of residence in that city formed no exception to the usual experience of a young doctor: a very small practice and an increasing family. It afforded, however, an excellent opportunity for study and research, and it was during this period that he made his most important contributions to medical literature. These at once established his reputation in the profession as an acute observer, cautious, exact, and industrious. The first of them, entitled " A Case of Carcinoma of the Stomach," published in the " New York Medical Gazette " in 1842, was the initial outcome of a series of observations on cancer that has been continued from time to time, even after Dr. Le Conte's abandonment of the practice of medicine. At this period he probably paid more attention to physiology than to any other of the departments included in medical science, and his