Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dr. Pattison, the "celebrity"


Yesterday, we received a donation of four volumes from Dr. Susan Tolle, Director of OHSU's Center for Ethics in Health Care. The smallest and most interesting of these is a little pamphlet entitled A lecture delivered in Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, on the evening of Tuesday the 22d of January, 1833, on the question "Has the parotid gland ever been extirpated?" by Granville Sharp Pattison.

I know, you're saying to yourself, "Wow! That does sound interesting!" Indeed, for those who specialize in the salivary glands, this may be a fascinating treatment of the subject. For those who do not, look no further than the author for some delicious gossip and rumor.

The most popular biography of Pattison available today was written by his great-great nephew, F.L.M. Pattison--but the biographer felt no need to don kid gloves in his treatment. Granville was by all accounts a scoundrel: a duelist, brawler, and (probable) resurrectionist, an unethical researcher and incompetent teacher, a man who awarded himself an M.D. This pamphlet was produced near the beginning of his ten-year tenure at Jefferson Medical College, before the school managed to shed him in 1841. A history of Philadelphia published in 1884 (33 years after Granville's death) called him simply a "medical celebrity". I get the feeling that wasn't a compliment....

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