American Medical Biographies/Wood, James Rushmore

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American Medical Biographies  (1920) 
Wood, James Rushmore

Wood, James Rushmore (1813–1882)

The sports of the boy often determine the vocation of the man, and Tames Wood industriously preparing skeletons of fishes and birds to stock a boy's "museum" at his aunt's farm is seen afterwards as one of America's big surgeons and the childish collection grew into the "Wood Museum" of Bellevue Hospital. His father, Elkanah Wood, was a miller, who, with his wife, Mary Rushmore, were Quakers and when they moved from Mamaroneck to New York City to set up a leather store, James, their only child, born September 14, 1813, at Mamaroneck, spent his summers with his aunt at Half Hollow Hills on Long Island, his health being delicate. In the winter he went to a small Quaker school, and from there to study medicine with twelve other boys under Dr. David L. Rogers. His first course of lectures was at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, and in 1834 he graduated at Castleton, Vermont, soon after this being appointed demonstrator of anatomy and beginning private practice in New York in 1837.

As a hospital surgeon Dr. Wood had a most enviable reputation. He was a beautiful, quick and sure operator, and was ambidextrous. He gave indefatigable care to his patients and never spared himself.

In the periosteal reproduction of bone he had an international reputation. The president of the German Congress of Surgeons invited him to send to Berlin some specimens of bone reproduction for exhibition with similar specimens. Langenbeck greatly admired a regenerated lower jaw and said he did not believe another specimen existed. In nerve surgery Wood was equally successful, his best operation, performed four times consecutively with ultimate cure, was the removal of Meckel's ganglion with the superior maxillary division of the trigeminus for the relief of tic douloureux. He was the first in America (1840) to divide the masseter muscles and, as far as his biographer was aware, the first to devise division of the peronei muscles in chronic dislocation of the tendon and to treat acute and chronic inflammations of the knee joint by division of the ham strings and tendo Achillis. He had in his collection six fine specimens of osseous union between the femur and the tibia after resection. Report also gives him the credit of being one of the first to cure aneurysm by digital pressure, and he tied the external iliac for aneurysm eight times in succession, with only one failure.

Early in his career he planned for the creation of Bellevue Hospital out of the almshouse, and with Drs. Parker and Metcalf brought about its foundation and became with them its medical board. His interest in the institution was for a lifetime. In 1856 he helped found the Bellevue Hospital Medical College, growing out of the hospital, and was at once appointed professor of operative surgery and surgical pathology.

With Drs. Parker, Payne and Mason he had much to do with the Act which granted for anatomical teaching "the bodies of all vagrants dying unclaimed." His work also on behalf of the Bellevue Hospital Training School for Nurses did a great deal to advance the interests of the school.

Death came in the heyday of a full professional life when almost half a century had left untouched his health and skill. As an instructor he brought clinical and didactic information together in fruitful union; tradition will preserve his skill at the operating table, and his contributions to surgical science are permanent. He died in New York May 4, 1882.

He married in 1853, Emma, daughter of Mr. James Rowe, of New York, and had one son and two daughters besides a child who died in infancy.

His literary contributions, though not numerous were all of value, and included: "Strangulated Hernia," 1845; "Spontaneous Dislocation of the Head of the Femur into the Ischiatic Notch During Morbus Coxarius," 1847; "Ligature of the External Iliac Artery Followed by Secondary Hemorrhage," 1856; "Phosphorus-necrosis of the Lower Jaw," 1856; "Early History of Ligation of the Primitive Carotid," 1857.

Dr. Wood was twice president of the New York Pathological Society; member of the New York Academy of Medicine, honorary member New York and Massachusetts State Medical Societies.

Boston. Med. & Surg. Jour., 1882, vol. cvi, p. 451, 493.
Med.-Leg. Jour., N. Y., 1883–4, vol. i. Portrait.
Med. Rec., N. Y., 1882, vol. xxi, p. 528.
Med. & Surg. Rep., Phila., 1884–5, vol. xii, p. 197– 200.
N. Y. Med. Jour., F. S. Dennis, 1884, vol. xxxix, p. 29–34.