American Medical Biographies/Bacon, Francis

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Bacon, Francis (1831–1912)

Francis Bacon, son of Leonard Bacon, D. D., LL. D., and Lucy Johnson Bacon, was born in New Haven, October 6, 1831. After a preliminary education at the Hopkins grammar school he entered the Yale Medical School where he finished his course in 1851, but did not receive his degree on account of his youth until two years later. In 1852 on the outbreak of a yellow fever epidemic in Galveston, Texas, he volunteered as an assistant surgeon to the Galveston Hospital, and remained there for a year and a half when he was stricken with the fever himself. He then returned home, but was recalled six months later to take entire charge of the same hospital and there continued for eight years. At the end of this time, as civil war seemed inevitable and he possesed abolitionary views, he resigned and settled in New York City for the practice of medicine. On the death of the inventor Charles F. Goodyear, to whom he had been a personal medical attendant, he removed to New Haven and practised there until he enlisted as assistant surgeon in the Second Connecticut Infantry. While occupying this position he was especially commended for his devotion to the wounded under hot fire at the Battle of Bull Run. When the three months' term of enlistment of that regiment had expired, he re-enlisted as surgeon with the rank of major in the Seventh Connecticut Volunteers, which, like the earlier Second, was under the command of Colonel Alfred H. Terry. Subsequently he was at the Siege of Pulaski, at Beaufort, Tybee Island and in other engagements, and finally was promoted to be medical inspector of the Army of the Potomac. Shortly thereafter he was made director general of the medical department of the Gulf, having charge of all the Union hospitals in the South. He was elected in 1864 to succeed Jonathan Knight as professor of surgery in the Yale Medical School, and continued in this position until 1877, when he resigned to devote himself entirely to the practice of his profession. In 1899 he returned to the Medical School as lecturer on medical jurisprudence and held that position until his death.

Majestic in figure, a scholar in thought and action, and possessed of a graceful English diction he soon became eminent in his profession, being especially well known as a surgeon and as an alienist. He was president of the New Haven County Medical Association in 1875, 1880 and 1881 and served as president of the Connecticut State Medical Society in 1887 and 1888. For thirty years he was a director of the New Haven Hospital and also served as one of its visiting surgeons. He with his wife founded the Connecticut Training School for Nurses and continued his interest in it until his death. He was president of the New Haven Anti-Tuberculosis Association from its organization in 1902, and served as a member of the Connecticut Board of Pardons from the time of its creation in 1883 until 1910. He was one of the organizers of the American Public Health Association. In 1906 the honorary degree of Doctor of Sciences was conferred upon him by Yale University.

For recreation he loved to dip into the writings of Sir Thomas Browne and was one of the best informed scholars on him and his works. Upon the tercentenary of Browne's birth, a celebration was held at his birthplace in Norwich, England, and at this time Doctor Bacon was invited to deliver one of the addresses. It is very much to be regretted that the address upon Browne, which he prepared at this time, was never printed. His address on the occasion of the centennial celebration of the New Haven County Medical Association on January 26, 1903, unfortunately has shared a similar fate. The quality of his published writings make us wish that he had written more.

He married June 6, 1867, Georganna Muirson Woolsey who actively aided him in all his philanthropic work until her death in 1906. He died at his home in New Haven, April 26, 1912, of angina pectoris after an illness of several weeks.