American Medical Biographies/Gilman, Chandler Robbins

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Gilman, Chandler Robbins (1802–1865)

Chandler Robbins Gilman, obstetrician and medico-legal expert, was born September 6, 1802, at Marietta, Ohio. His father and grandfather were among the earliest pioneers of Washington County, and, in his later days, Dr. Gilman was fond of telling stories of Indian life and adventure.

When Chandler Robbins was eleven years old he was taken by his father to Philadelphia to live, and shortly afterwards was sent to Phillips Academy at Andover, Massachusetts, and later to Harvard College. At the latter, however, owing to adverse circumstances, he had no opportunity to continue his work until he could receive a degree. For a time he studied medicine under the famous Dr. Joseph Parrish (q. v.), but afterwards attended the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his M. D. in 1824.

Soon after graduation Dr. Gilman removed to New York City. There he underwent the sorest trials and struggles while attempting to secure a professional foothold. At this time he married Serena Hoffman, daughter of a New York merchant.

In 1835 he became severely afflicted with rheumatism. To recover his health he visited, in company with a friend, the pictured rocks of Lake Superior. In the territory round about these rocks he remained for a long time, fishing, trapping, and hunting. At last his health was completely restored. On his return to civilization, he published the results of his observations on the lake region in a little book entitled "Life on the Lakes." Another volume from his pen soon appeared, entitled "Legends of a Log Cabin." He then for a long time assisted his relative, Charles Fenno Hoffman, in editing the American Monthly Magazine. During these literary labors he was also practising medicine.

In November, 1840, he was made professor of obstetrics and diseases of women and children in the College of Physicians and Surgeons in the city of New York.

In 1841–42 he lost by death his wife and two of his children. The shock was very great, and for a time his friends almost expected to see his reason dethroned.

In September. 1844, he married Miss Hannah Marshall, daughter of Capt. David Marshall, of New York City. In 1851, on the death of Dr. John B. Beck (q. v.), the chair of medical jurisprudence in the College of Physicians and Surgeons, which had been held by Dr. Beck, was offered to Dr. Gilman and accepted.

Dr. Gilman was not a copious writer on medical or medico-legal subjects. He was frequently urged to write a work on medical jurisprudence, and one on obstetrics; but, at such times, he always shrugged his shoulders and replied, "Oh, that mine enemy would write a book!" His contributions to medical magazines and to Appleton's "Encyclopedia," however, were always highly valued, and so was his admirable memoir of Dr. John B. Beck. He revised and published the manuscript notes of that author on "Materia Medica," and also edited two of the editions of Dr. Theodric Romeyn Beck's (q. v.) "Elements of Medical Jurisprudence."

In person Dr. Gilman was tall but heavily set, of dark complexion and with jet black hair and eyes. He was careless in his dress, and disregardful of the conventions of society. He displayed, however, to those who had fallen in the world, a deference and a courtesy which other people seldom had a chance to see in him.

In 1863 his health again began to fail—this time permanently. A summer which he spent amid the Pompton Hills in New Jersey was expected to improve his condition, but did not. On the evening of September 26, 1865, while all his family and a number of his older friends were sitting round about him, he seemed suddenly to fall asleep. All efforts to rouse him were unavailing. The good doctor had indeed gone, and in the very manner in which he had always prayed that his final departure might be permitted—"very calmly and very swiftly."

He was buried in the cemetery at Middletown.

Doctor's Recreation Series, vol. xi.
A Biographical Cyclopedia of Medical History.
Trans. Med. Soc. New York, W. H. Roberts, Albany, 1866.