American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

Surgical Set collection from 1860 to 1865 - Civilian and Military

Civil War:  Medicine, Surgeon Education & Medical Textbooks

 Dr. Michael Echols  &  Dr. Doug Arbittier


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Admissions into the medical corps of the United States Navy can only be obtained through a professional examination before the Naval Medical Board, composed of medical officers of the higher grades. From the very beginning this board has assumed to be the sole judge of the qualifications of candidates, the mere possession of the diploma ot a medical school having no weight whatever as an evidence of professional capacity; and the experience of the board has demonstrated that the most incompetent applicants have been found among graduates of the great schools, while many of the ablest men of the corps have received their degrees from comparatively obscure institutions.

The candidate is presumed to have received a proper liberal education. A biographical sketch, an essay on some assigned subject, and written answers to a series of comprehensive questions in the various branches of medicine are intended as evidences of such proficiency, the orthography, grammatical construction, form, and manner of expression being as carefully scrutinized as accuracy of statement. An oral examination follows by the several members of the board in every branch of medicine, and upon such collateral studies as the candidate may have pursued, with the object not merely of ascertaining the amount of detailed information he may have learned by rote, but rather his intelligent comprehension of the fundamental facts and principles which constitute the science of medicine. Finally, extemporaneous chemical and pharmaceutic manipulations, the clinical diagnosis and treatment of actual patients in hospitals, the adjustment of surgical appliances and apparatus, and the performance of operations upon the cadaver exhibit his cognizance of the practical requirements of the healing art, and his ability to assume its responsibilities, under the emergencies of a career which sometimes places the issue of life or death upon his unaided knowledge and skill.

A second examination is required for passing out of the grade of assistant surgeon, preliminary to promotion to that of surgeon, and took place formerly five years subsequent to the first. Recently the interval has been injudiciously lessened to the completion of two years' service on board a man-of-war. The examination presupposes a wider practical acquaintance with the various branches of medicine, particularly in the special departments which have arisen, and a familiarity with the current literature of the profession, facilities for which are now liberally provided by the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, under the administration of its present chief. Dr. Wales. It has been the custom to allow a period of preparation for this final examination; but as its object is to ascertain the fitness of the individual for occasions when his knowledge as a medical or sanitary officer may be of need, it is manifest that such a preliminary cramming, evidencing a greater or less ability to memorize facts, is inconsistent with its real purpose, while it operates unequally upon the members to a date, under the diverse circumstances of their duty ashore and afloat. An impromptu examination, while it might not exhibit such finished results, would furnish a more accurate measure of the real acquirements of the class examined.

The bureau's interest in the officer does not cease with his final examination. Individual research and investgation are encouraged by the supply of apparatus, instruments, or opportunities required, and by the publication of essays voluntarily contributed, as well as by the requirements of annual medical and sanitary reports from every officer in charge of the medical department of a vessel or a station, embracing the medical typography, climatology, and hygiene of every station or place visited, with all attainable information respecting statistics of disease and its causes, establishments for the care of the sick, charitable institutions, medical colleges, or other matters of professional interest.

A medical education, such as admission into the medical corps of the navy implies, has until quite lately scarcely been attainable through the ordinary curriculum of any school in this country; and those who have passed the examination have been men whose industry, ambition, and thirst for knowledge, under the guidance of competent preceptors, have impelled them to seek for themselves that fuller professional training of which they have felt the need. Happily, a number ot the leading schools, disregarding possible pecuniary loss from smaller classes, have begun a reform in medical teaching, which promises to make their graduates as really " learned in medicine" as the phraseology of their diplomas implies, and ultimately we may hope that every reputable college will be compelled to the same thoroughness of teaching.—Albert L. Gihon, M.D., Medical Director U. S. N., in The Boston Med. and Surgical Reporter.


Medical Antiques Index

American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques Index

Contact Dr. Arbittier or Dr. Echols



Civil War Medical Collections 


Direct links to all medical & Civil War collections on this site                         

American Surgical Sets:

Pre-Civil War:  1 | 2  -   Post-Civil War:  3  -  Civil War 1861-1865:  4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8   INDEX

Medical Text-Books:

1 | 1a | 2 | 2a | 3 | 3a | 4 | 4a | 5 | 5a | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 9a | 10 | 11 | 12    INDEX

Surgeon General's Office Library printed catalogues: 1840 | 1864 | 1865
Medical Lecture Cards: 1 | 2 | 34 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21    INDEX

Medical Faculty and Authors:


Navy Surgeon Exams:

1863 Navy Surgeon Applicant Exams with Biographies   INDEX ONE | INDEX TWO

Surgeon CDVs, Images:

Army: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8    INDEX

Navy: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8   

Hosp Dep't Bottles, Tins, 

U.S. Army Pannier:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

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Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016