Henry J. Bigelow, M.D.
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Henry J. Bigelow, M.D., LL.D., professor of surgery at the Harvard Medical School, emeritus ; surgeon to the Massachusetts General Hospital ; discoverer of the Y-ligament of the hip, and of the operation of litholapaxy ; died October 30, aged seventy-two.
Henry Jacob Bigelow, M. D., died at his country house in Newton, on Thursday, October 30th, at the age of seventy-two.
For the last few years Dr. Bigelow has been subject to gastric disturbances and attacks of hepatic colic, and for several days before his death his stomach refused to retain food. A post-mortem examination showed the presence of gall-stones, and an inflammation of the common duct, which had extended to the smaller bile-ducts, and was attended with the formation of several small abscesses of the liver. There was also a fibrous stenosis of the pylorus and a slight consequent dilatation of the stomach. The pulmonary affection which was the cause of a temporary abandonment of his medical studies in his early manhood had left its traces at the apices of his lungs.
Dr. Henry J. Bigelow was born in Boston on March 11, 1818. He was the son of Dr. Jacob Bigelow, who left a name distinguished in the profession and by many acts of public benefit. He prepared for college at the Boston Latin School, and graduated at Harvard in the class of 1837. His medical studies, which were pursued with his father and at Harvard, were interrupted by ill health, and a consequent trip to Europe. His medical degree was taken in 1841. He immediately returned to Europe, where he passed three years in the further study of his profession, a greater part of this time being spent in Paris. After his return to Boston he was, in 1845, appointed Instructor in Surgery in the Tremont Street Medical School, succeeding Dr. Reynolds. This position he held until this school was united with the Medical School of Harvard University. In 1846 he was appointed Surgeon to the Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1849 he was appointed Professor of Surgery, the two chairs of Surgery and Clinical Surgery, previously held respectively by Dr. J. C. Warren and Dr. George Hayward, being united.
A few months after his appointment as Surgeon to the Hospital, ether was first used in the hospital amphitheatre for surgical anaesthesia. Dr. Bigelow was one of the first to see the value of the discovery, and he was specially influential in extending the use of anaesthesia in surgical operations. It was chiefly through his paper on the subject that the knowledge of the wonderful discovery was made known.
Dr. Bigelow's writings have not been voluminous, but as contributions to surgical knowledge they have completely changed surgical practice in several particulars. His interest in anaesthesia and anaesthetics has been repeatedly shown by various articles on ether, nitrous oxide, and on rhi- golene, a petroleum naphtha for producing anaesthesia by freezing. The famous case of Dr. Harlow's of the passage of a crowbar through the head was made known chiefly through Dr. Bigelow's interest and study of the case. His work on "Dislocation of the Hip Joint" has banished the old pulleys and rings for its adjustment from the operating theatre.
His Litholapaxy has revolutionized the treatment of stone in the bladder, and given rise to a literature that far exceeds in volume the united writings of its famous inventor.
But the mere enumeration of his writings fails to show the great influence of the man. He had a unique way of regarding all subjects that attracted his notice. The hospital with which he was connected shows, in many places, his originality and inventiveness. Acute, clear-sighted, and inventive as he was, he was capable of most close and severe study. The hard work which he bestowed upon the mechanism of the hip joint extended over several years. His operation of lithola- paxy and the instruments for its performance were the result of painstaking labor.
(The personal edited research notes of Michael Echols, the source of which may or may not be completely documented)