The New York Times/Fellow-Physicians Honor Dr. Jacobi

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Fellow-Physicians Honor Dr. Jacobi

From The New York Times of May 6, 1900.


Banquet to Mark Seventieth

Anniversary of His Birth.


Eulogies of Carl Schurz and Dr. Bryant

— Scientists of European Fame

Offer Congratulations.

Nearly 400 of his fellow-physicians united in honoring Dr. Abraham Jacobi at a banquet at Delmonico's last night on the occasion of his seventieth birthday.

The large banquet hall was used, and among those at the guests' table were Dr. Joseph D. Bryant, who presided; Seth Low, ex-Secretary of the Treasury Charles S. Fairchild, Carl Schurz, Daniel S. Lamont, Dr. E. J. Janeway, Charities Commissioner John W. Keller, Dr. William H. Thomson, Dr. John S. Billings, Joseph Laroque, and Dr. William Osler.

At other tables were William Dean Howells, I. N. Seligman, Dr. D. B. St. John Roosa, Dr. J. A. McCorkie, Simon Sterne, Dr. F. H. Markee, Dr. G. F. Shrady, Dr. L. L. Seaman, Mr. P. F. Sondern, and Horace E. Deming.

Dr. Jacobi sat between Dr. Bryant and Carl Schurz under a cluster of American flags. A large number of women occupied the gallery.

The menu cards contained an etched vignette of Dr. Jacobi. Dr. Jacobi was born in Hurtum, Westphalia, on May 6, 1830. He was educated at Goettingen and Bonn. He enlisted in the “Young German” army in 1848, and served three years in prison for treason. He came to New York in 1853.


Dr. Bryant, in opening the post-prandial talks, said of Dr. Jacobi, among other things:

“Fortunate, indeed, it is, in the affairs of this life, that worthy and well-directed efforts addressed to the securing of personal and public betterment, frequently beget, though ofttimes somewhat tardily, the sentiments of abiding confidence and esteem for those who prudently proclaim their importance and diligently labor for their attainment.

“It should be recognized at the outset that the observances of the evening are not devoted more to the learned gentleman whom we so delight to honor, than to the recognition of those ennobling virtues of which he is the embodiment.

“The notable examples of the beneficient labors of our esteemed friend in the exercise of his professional skill and fraternal devotion are singularly akin to each other in their inception and in their spirit.

“In the one example he dedicated through various channels of bounty, the full measure of his professional sagacity and fervor to the alleviation and cure of the suffering incident to the freedom of individual birth. In the other we are taught by the history of his fatherland that he bestowed a like measure of patriotic zeal to liberty's cause, fostering the birth of individual freedom.

“To the former service the ripe abundance of his years has been given, to the latter the richness of his youth was well-nigh sacrificed; with both, his name is indelibly recorded as the wise physician and the uncompromising patriot.

“Medical thought and medical progress, here and abroad, bear abundant evidence of the potent influence on their status of the products of his studious, logical mind. Thousands of physicians, while students in medicine and at bedside consultation, have gained of inspiration and comfort from his teachings and advice in a degree equaled only by that of the fortunate recipients of his professional ministrations.”


Letters were read by Dr. Sondern from universities, professors, and distinguished medical men in all parts of the world — from Bonn, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Constantinople, Barcelona, London, Leipsic, Weisbaden, and most of the large cities of the United States, including a letter from Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, the following poem by whom was read by Dr. R. U. Johnson:

Medicus, Magister, Amicus.
No honors hath the State for you whose life
From youth to age has known one single end.
Take from our lips two well-won titles now,
“Magister et Amicus” — Master, Friend.
From the gray summit of attainment you
Look on the rugged path you knew to climb.
Take, with our thanks, for high example set
The palm of honor in this festal time.
Constant and brave, in no ignoble cause,
The hopes of freedom armed thy sturdy youth;
As true and brave in the maturer years
Thy ardent struggle in the cause of truth.
Nor prison bars, nor yet the lonely cell,
Could break thy vigor of unconquered will;
And the gray years which build as cruel walls
Have found and left thee ever victor still.
Ave Magister! take from us to-night
The well-earned praise of all who love our art
For this long lesson of unending work,
For strength of brain and precious wealth of heart.
Your busy hand gives much; but, oh, far more,
The gallant soul that teaches how to meet
Unfriended exile, sorrow, want, and all
That crush the weak with failure and defeat.
We gave you here a home; you well have paid
With many gifts proud freedom's generous hand
That bade you largely breathe a freer air
And made you welcome to a freer land.
Ave Amicus! if round this board
Are they who watched you thro' laborious years,
Beyond these walls, in many a grateful home,
Your step dismissed a thousand pallid fears.
That kindly face, that gravely tender look,
Thro' darkened hours how many a mother knew!
And in that look won sweet reprieve of hope.
Sure that all earth could give was there with you.
Ave Magister! Many be the years
That lie before thee, thronged with busy hours!
Ave Amicus! take our earnest prayer
That all their ways fair fortune strew with flowers.


Dr. Thomson, responding to the first toast, “Dr. Jacobi, the Physician,” said that he knew of Dr. Jacobi's work on the diseases of women and children before he came to this city, thirty-eight years ago. His first impression of him on hearing him address an audience was that he was a stray archangel. He spoke of the doctor's great benignancy, and of his qualities as a diagnostician. Dr. Thomson said he had worked with Dr. Jacobi for many years, and one of the characteristics of the man which had most impressed him in the sick room was his careful observation of cases. Then reference was made to Dr. Jacobi's advance through the stages of development in the medical science, notably in that of micro-organisms.

Dr. Osler treated of “Dr. Jacobi, the Scientist,” dwelling upon his adapting himself to the intellectual processes in the changes of time. Dr. Osler spoke of some of Jacobi's writings, laughingly saying that he had been able to go through all of them in two weeks, while it would take two months to go through the mass of works of younger men, intimating very strongly that there was more to be learned in two weeks' reading of some works than in a longer period devoted to certain other writings.

President Low of Columbia spoke of “Dr. Jacobi in Relation to Medical Education.” He referred to Dr. Jacobi's relation to the College of Physicians and Surgeons, which was a part of Columbia University, and said that he was very sure that the Trustees would not allow the year to pass without recognition of Dr. Jacobi's thirty-five years of brilliant and faithful service. He referred to Dr. Jacobi's declining an invitation from the University of Berlin, saying that here he had received his opportunities, and to this country he would give his labors.


Carl Schurz, responding to the toast, “Dr. Jacobi as a Citizen,” said:

“Of Dr. Jacobi's friends assembled here, I am, no doubt, the oldest — probably the oldest in years, and certainly the oldest in friendship — for that friendship can look back upon just a half century of uninterrupted, and, I may add, unclouded duration. It was in the year 1850 in the German University town of Bonn, on the Rhine, that we first met. He was then still a student of medicine in regular standing. I was already an exile, but had recently come back to Germany, engaged in a somewhat adventurous enterprise connected with the revolutionary movements of that period — an enterprise which made it necessary to conceal my whereabouts from those in power, with whom my relations were at the time, to speak within bounds, somewhat strained. I had the best reasons for desiring to avoid persons whose ill-will or indiscretion might have brought me into touch with the constituted authorities. It was then that a mutual friend introduced Jacobi and me to each other.”

Mr. Schurz talked principally of those early days, and then of his knowledge of Dr. Jacobi as a fellow-citizen in the new world.

Dr. Arpad G. Gerster then made the presentation to Dr. Jacobi of the “Festschrift,” a magnificent volume containing contributions from the pens of fifty-three medical men of note. Dr. Jacobi hugged the volume and kissed it as Dr. Gerster made the presentation address, saying:

“Mr. Chairman, permit me through you to ask Dr. Jacobi to accept this volume as kindly as it is offered. Let it serve as the outward token of our affectionate regard. Permit me also to extend to him the sincere wish for his long-continued health and happiness. May it be granted to him to enjoy the sunny afternoon of a useful life in the mellow atmosphere of philosophical contentment, surrounded by those whom he loves best. Vivat, crescat, floreat!”


Dr. Jacobi was much moved when he arose to speak. He said:

“I wish I could proceed from man to man and in silence press your hands. For words of mine do not suffice for the throng of feelings that swell my heart.

“I take it for granted that I am expected to speak, in part, I suppose, on the topic of the evening — myself. But how? And what? I have been eulogized as if I were dead. Not being quite dead yet, I should not join in the praise. On the other hand, to speak derogatorily of my doings would be discourteous to those who expressed their good opinions.”

Dr. Jacobi found for his subject the record of the advance in medicine since he came here, nearly half a century ago, touching in turn upon medical literature, the growth of the societies and schools, hospitals, and dispensaries. Touching upon his own work as a physician he said:

“In accordance with me democratic schooling, I was fortunate enough to have respect for the individual. That is why I found it easy to imagine myself in the place of a patient and to spare his feelings if I could not preserve his life. Where you cannot save you can still comfort. I never told a patient he had to die of his illness, and I hope I shall never be so careless or so indolent as to do so in future. The magnetic needle of professional rectitude should, in spite of occasional deviations, always point in the direction of pity and humanity. Another lesson I learned early was this, that my patient had to be treated, and not the name of his disease.”

In conclusion, Dr. Jacobi said:

“And this ‘Festschrift!’ These last weeks I wondered many a time, and I do so now, that I should be the receiver of that honor. When many years ago heroes like Virchow and then, again, Henoch were to be held up for the admiration of the medical world on both occasions I had the privilege of co-operating in the expression of the estimation in which they were held. This distinction is rare even in the country of my birth.

“That the country which adopted me and gave me a peer among peers, opportunities to work, should in true cosmopolitan spirit adopt this method, rare enough in Germany, of raising a man to the greatest possible height of distinction and make him shine above all men — and this man I — is far, far beyond what was the culmination of all my possible hopes.”

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.