American Medical Biographies/Post, Alfred Charles

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Post, Alfred Charles (1806–1886)

This clever nephew of a clever uncle—Wright Post (q. v.)—began his classical education in Columbia College when only fourteen. He was born in New York City, January 13, 1806, of Joel H. and Elizabeth Browne Post; his father was a successful merchant. The boy held his A. B. from Columbia 1822 and worked under his uncle in 1823, but he took at the same time courses of lectures at the College of Physicians and Surgeons. He had smallpox which laid him up for some time when he was able to set to work with new vigor and get his M. D. in 1827. Like most young men of the time, he went to Europe, flitting about from England to Paris and Berlin and Italy. In 1829 he returned to New York and became house surgeon to the New York Hospital and in 1836 visiting surgeon, a position held until 1853. When in 1851 he became professor of surgery in the University of the City of New York, his lectures were very popular, particularly those on ophthalmic, aural, orthopedic and plastic surgery. In 1840 he published a small treatise on "Strabismus," having operated for this affection at an earlier period than any other American surgeon. That same year he devised a new method for doing bilateral lithotomy, employing, to divide the prostate, a canula sliding over a rod and armed with two knives one of which projected on each side. No operation was for him too great or too small; he did extirpation of the thyroid, parotid and cervical glands, made an artifical anus, and performed tracheotomy. As an aside from his surgical duties he was keen on missionary work and said, not irreverently, that the two things he most enjoyed were a good operation and a good prayer meeting.

His colleagues say he could not be said to have passed middle life until he was eighty. During the last ten years of his life he performed some of his most delicate operations in plastic surgery and four months before his death did a difficult ovariotomy in forty-five minutes.

In 1831 he married Harriet, daughter of Cyrenius Beers, of New York, and had eleven children, one of whom was Dr. George Edward Post (1838–1909), a medical missionary, scientist and author, who graduated in medicine at the University of the City of New York in 1860 and spent his life at Beirut, Syria.

He held among other appointments the professorship of surgery in the medical department of the University of the City of New York; president of the medical faculty there; member of the Berliner Königliche Medizinisch-chirurgishe Gesellschaft.

His writings were chiefly papers for medical journals and included, among others, "A Case of Blepharoplasty"; "Club Foot"; "Cicatricial Contractions"; "Contractions of Palmar Fascia."

Trans. Med. Soc., State of N. Y., 1887.
Med. Rec. N. Y., 1886, vol. xxix. J. C. Peters.
Med. and Surg. Reporter, Phila., 1865, vol. xii. S. W. Francis.
Phys. and Surgs. of U. S., W. B. Atkinson, 1878 Portrait.