American Medical Biographies/Hyde, James Nevins

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Hyde, James Nevins (1840–1910).

James Nevins Hyde, dermatologist, was born in Norwich, Connecticut, June 21, 1840, the son of Edward Goodrich Hyde, who was for some years a merchant of New Orleans, Louisiana, and Hannah Huntington Thomas Hyde. He prepared for college at Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, and entered Yale College from New Rochelle, New York, although after the freshman year his residence was Cincinnati, Ohio. While in college he ranked high, and received a prize in composition, in his sophomore year, and also a prize for a poem. He seems to have had quite a poetical leaning, and his "Parting Ode," written for Presentation Day, has been cherished and remembered for its beauty of form and general excellence. Again, in 1896, on the thirty-fifth anniversary of his graduation, he contributed a fine poem of considerable length, entitled "The Ivy of sixty-one." He received the degree of A. B. from Yale in 1861, and that of A. M. in 1865.

Immediately after his graduation in 1861 he began the study of medicine in the College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, under Doctor William H. Draper; but in the following summer we find him helping in transferring the sick and wounded of McClellan's army to Northern ports, during the Peninsula campaign, and in caring for the wounded in the battles of Malvern Hill and Fair Oakes. He spent ten months in the autumn of 1862, and the following winter, in the hospitals of Washington, and in July, 1863, he was appointed acting assistant surgeon of Volunteers, and ordered to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, where he served on several vessels, and was then put in charge of the naval hospital at Newberne, North Carolina. He obtained his commission as assistant surgeon in the regular navy, in October, 1863, and was assigned to the "San Jacinto" and cruised in the Gulf of Mexico during 1864. While on hospital duty at Key West, Florida, an epidemic of yellow fever occurred, in which his two superior officers died, leaving him in charge. His success in fighting the disease was so great that he was the recipient of a special letter of appreciation from the Secretary of the Navy. In the autumn of 1865 he was honored by being commissioned by President Lincoln to join the Ticonderoga of the European Squadron, under Admiral Farragut, on its memorable voyage to various European ports, and through the Mediterranean. During his voyage he employed his time to good medical advantage in the countries visited. Returning in 1867, he was made past assistant surgeon, and served for one year at the Clare Naval Hospital in Washington. He resigned from the Navy in 1868, and after taking the second course of medical lectures at the University of Pennsylvania, received his M. D. degree from that school in 1869.

From 1869 until his death, Dr. Hyde practised the profession of medicine in Chicago, making a specialty of the subject of dermatology, in which he was one of the pioneers. His first appointment was that of lecturer on dermatology in the Rush Medical College, in 1873, a position that he held until 1876, when he was made professor of dermatology in the Northwestern University. In 1879 he was chosen professor of skin, genito-urinary and venereal diseases, in Rush Medical College (now affiliated with Chicago University) and this appointment he held up to the time of his death. From 1902 to 1910 he was professorial lecturer on dermatology at the University of Chicago. In 1881 he received an ad eundem degree in medicine from Rush Medical College.

Many other medical honors and appointments came to Dr. Hyde during the forty-one years of his active professional life in Chicago. He was attending dermatologist to the Presbyterian, Michael Reese, Augustana and Children's Memorial Hospitals, and to the Orphan Asylum of the City of Chicago. For many years he held the position of secretary of the council of administration and of the faculty of Rush Medical College. He served as United States examining surgeon for pensions, and as surgeon of the Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railway. He was a member of the American Medical and American Dermatological Association; of the Congress of American Physicians and Surgeons; of the Chicago Medical, Chicago Pathological and Chicago Dermatological Societies; of the Illinois State Medical Society; of the Society of Medical History of Chicago; corresponding member of the Société Française de Dermatologie et de Syphilographie; corresponding member of the Wiener Dermatologische Gesellschaft; corresponding member of the Berlin Dermatologische Gesellschaft; and honorary member of the Societa Italiana de Dermatologia e Sifilografia.

Dr. Hyde was identified with the American Dermatological Association from its inception, and was twice its president, first in 1881 and again in 1896. He was a regular attendant at its meetings, served on important committees, and presented statistical reports, besides contributing a paper on some subject of interest at almost every meeting. He always took part in the discussions of the society, and was fitly called "a spirited debater" by one of his long-time colleagues. In 1905 he was secretary for America of the Fifth International Dermatological Congress.

Dr. Hyde contributed more than one hundred special articles on dermatological subjects, all of which were elaborated with much patience and care. His monumental work, however, was his "Treatise on Diseases of the Skin," first published in 1883, which ran through eight editions, and was finally double the size of its initial number.

Dr. Hyde became one of the most eminent citizens of Chicago, and contributed much to all movements for the improvement of social and economic conditions. He was a prominent member of Christ Church, where he officiated as chorister in the Sunday school, besides teaching a class of boys. He was, for a number of years, one of the directors of the Synod of Chicago, and made several contributions to the Evangelical Episcopalian, among them a valuable paper entitled "Has the Reformed Episcopal Church the Historic Episcopate?" He presented many papers to the Chicago Literary Club, on topics other than medicine, and was the author of "Early Medical Chicago," "Historical Strawberries," and "Asleep and Awake," all contributions of importance. He was a member of the Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, of the Society of Colonial Wars, and of the Society of Mayflower Descendants. He belonged to the University, Literary, Onwentsia, and Saddle and Cycle Clubs of Chicago.

He was married on July 31, 1872, to Alice Louise Griswold of Chicago, and had two sons, Charles Cheney Hyde, an attorney-at-law and professor of international law in Northwestern University, and a child of his old age, James Nevins Hyde, Junior, born in 1909. Dr. Hyde died suddenly at his summer residence at Prout's Neck, Maine, on September 6, 1910, at the age of seventy years.

In considering the influence exerted by Dr. Hyde on his profession and contemporaries, his labors as a pioneer in dermatology stand out conspicuously. He was one of a little band of valiant spirits who saw that the progress was most to be hoped for by a concentration of energy and purpose, along definite, circumscribed lines. It must always be borne in mind, that, to the great credit of the pioneers, their accomplishments were effected with scanty sympathy, oftentimes indeed under bitter hostility. He was one of the founders of the American Dermatological Association in 1876, the oldest society of its kind in the world, being in the proud company of men like James C. White, Louis A. Duhring, Edward Wigglesworth, and others. He contributed more papers to this Association than any of his fellows, continuing his tireless activity up to the time of his death. He flooded everything he did with his energy and enthusiasm. From this, it resulted that his writings may sometimes be criticised for an exuberance of diction and fancy, in places where a simple lucid statement of fact would be more pertinent. But he was an important factor for good in the community, with much of the dignity and manner of the previous generation, and was always ready to espouse a generous cause.

As a teacher he was most successful, and his dermatological clinic at the Rush Medical College was held in high esteem. His punctuality at this clinic during many years of service was notable in the case of so busy a practitioner. His service in the college faculty was also very active, and he was closely identified with every forward movement for improving the policies and activities of this institution. Dr. Hyde's personality was most engaging, and his influence over his patients and colleagues was thus greatly favored. Apart from his scientific contributions he did much to strengthen the dignity and fair repute of his profession.