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Nathan Smith Distinguished Service Award
Nathan Smith, the fi rst all-New England surgeon, was one of the most remarkable
men ever to adorn the American surgical profession. Born in 1762 in
Rehoboth, Massachusetts, his only education was from his parents, his father
being a farmer-surveyor and his mother a midwife; from Doctor Josiah Goodhue, a
prominent surgeon of the upper Connecticut Valley, and from the Harvard Medical
School near the time of its inception. In addition he accomplished a period of
eight months of study in Edinburgh and London.
During his long career, he was a major force in the establishment and development
of Dartmouth Medical School while he developed an extensive surgical
practice in the upper Connecticut Valley. Success in upper New England was
followed by an appointment in the new Yale Medical School, where he made
contributions as a surgeon, teacher and practitioner with attention to the necessary
requirements of politics. He further directly contributed to the establishment
of the new medical school at Bowdoin College and to the new medical school at
the University of Vermont.
During this time his contributions to the practice of surgery were of great importance.
Essays on typhus (typhoid) fever, on the pathology and treatment of necrosis
(osteomyelitis) and in the performance of ovarian cystectomy were no-table.
Other reports described new methods for fashioning skin fl aps following amputation
and the use of various apparatus for the treatment of fractures of the
extremities. His record in urinary lithotomy was enviable.
No evaluation of this remarkable man would be complete without mention of
his family. All four of his sons graduated from Yale Medical School and nine
grandsons, six great-grandsons and at last count one great-great grandson entered
In the New England area and perhaps in the country, no man contributed more
than did Nathan Smith, not only to the birth of surgery as a specialty, but to the
early evolution of the medical teaching institution. As a surgeon, as a teacher and
as a person of high intellectual and moral quality, there is no one who surpasses
Gordon A. Donaldson, MD
Presidential Address, New England Surgical Society, 1977
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