Although in this chapter we must concern ourselves mainly with men belonging to the present century notable in connection with medical progress in New Orleans, it is necessary for historical to mention briefly certain outstanding figures of the preceding generation. If any apology is necessary in this connection let it be rather for alluding to so few among those whose work, in various lines, contributed toward preparing the way for the scientific triumphs of our own time, some of which were foreshadowed in prophetic visions by those pioneers of the earlier day, as evidenced by their written legacies of professional wisdom. It is meet and proper to pause, while giving praise to living champions of the conquering armies of science, to do honor to the immortal dead, men whose frames have long been dust, but whose spirits still speak to us from deathless pages; men whose faith and works shine out all the brighter because of the comparative darkness of the days in which they labored.
The most conspicuous figure among the medical men of New Orleans during the closing years of the past century was Dr. T. G. Richardson, professor of anatomy for fourteen years in Tulane University, and then for seventeen years professor of surgery, bodies being dean of his faculty during the last twenty years of that time. Doctor Richardson came to New Orleans in 1858 with the prestige of having taught in the Medical School of Louisville, Kentucky, and of having been later professor of anatomy in the Pennsylvania Medical College, besides being the author of a successful text-book on the "Elements of Anatomy." Even in those early times the fame of New Orleans as the seat of a great medical school was great, and Doctor Richardson's distinguished personality as dean of that school gave undoubted éclat to its faculty through a long series of years when personality counted for more than it does in these days of diversified teaching. To the medical student of today, going an appointed round of work in the Medical Department of Tulane University, the name and fame of Dean Richardson, who died in 1892, is more than a memory, because every time he raises his eyes to the splendid Richardson Memorial Building, donated through the munificence of his widow, Mrs. Ida A. Richardson, that student has cause to honor the name in which such facilities for training in his chosen profession are made available.
Dr. Stanford E. Chaillé, who succeeded Professor Richardson as Dean of the Medical School, was also one of the most notable men of the epoch during which they were fellow members of the Faculty, surviving his predecessor, however, until 1911. Doctor Chaillé retired as Dean of the School of Medicine in 1908 after twenty-three years' service in that capacity, and at the conclusion of half a century of active teaching, during which time his remarkable intellect and his exceptional ability to impress on the minds of students the abstruse subjects which he taught continued unimpaired. His command of language was most unusual, while his analytical method of elucidating the mysteries of p760 physiology and pathology is remembered with gratitude and admiration by a legion of disciples widely scattered over the South.
It was inevitable that a man of such intelligence should be called upon for public service outside the line of his work as a teacher of medicine. He was chairman of the Government Commission sent to Havana in 1879 to study yellow fever following the great epidemic of the previous year, and it will be remembered how ably he served the National Board of Health as supervising inspector in the years 1881‑82 and 1882‑83 at a time when certain interior states had become distrustful of the administration of maritime quarantine at New Orleans, with the result that the National Board undertook to exercise a sort of friendly supervision, in order that internal quarantines might be avoided.
At that time Dr. Samuel M. Bemiss, also a distinguished professor of the local medical school, was resident member of the National Board of Health. Despite the development of considerable friction between the Federal and State Health authorities, there can be no doubt but that the high standing of Doctors Bemiss and Chaillé did much to allay apprehension in the minds of interior communities.
At various times Doctor Chaillé delivered popular lectures on hygiene. Though unsparing in his denunciation of feminine vanities prejudicial to health,a his special lectures to women audiences were always crowded to overflowing with fashionable women. Possessed of a keen sense of humor, with infinite kindness of heart, Doctor Chaillé's manner was yet characterized by a sort of cheerful aggressiveness which students having occasion to interview him often found disconcerting. There was a particular chair in which the interviewer had to sit facing the Dean, and woe betide the rash young who ventured to move it. As illustrating Doctor Chaillé's disposition to discourage "bumptiousness," an anecdote is told of how a student, intent on "showing off" before the class, stopped the Dean in the main hall of the Charity Hospital to ask him if it is true that fish make a good brain food, whereupon the Dean, after a moment's pause, replied with a twinkle in his eyes, "Yes! You go and eat a whale!" The fame of his pungent wit and frank speech made even experienced physicians a little shy of meeting him in debate, but withal he was so absolutely fair that nothing he said every rankled. At the time of his retirement he was undoubtedly the most widely known and generally admired of the older physicians of Louisiana.
Dr. Albert B. Miles, who died in August, 1894, and whose name has been perpetuated by the erection of the superb Miles Amphitheater of the Charity Hospital with money bequeathed by Doctor Miles for the object, is also remembered on account of his brilliant attainment as surgeon and his lovable personality. Having grown up in the hospital, serving successively as an interne, as assistant house surgeon and house surgeon, he recognized the great need of the institution for improved facilities in the line of operative surgery which he had done so much to develop, and being claimed by death at a time when, as the head of the hospital, he was busy planning improvements, he left as a posthumous gift one of the noblest bequests a physician ever gave to sick and suffering. Spotless in its finish of tile, porcelain and germ proof enamel, brilliant with sunlight by day and the glow of electric globes by night, that lofty amphitheater, with its endless service of life-saving skill and its concourse of eager students, stands today "a monument more enduring p761 than brass," worthy of the gentle spirit of the man with the boyish face and the genial smile who gave it to the city.
No story of the Charity Hospital can afford to omit mention of Dr. Andrew W. Smythe, who was a famous house surgeon in the dark days of the Reconstruction period. A native of Ireland and a republican in politics, the sterling honesty of the man, together with his boldness and success as a surgeon, won him respect, even in those days of bitter political feeling. Up to the time of his return to his native island he remained one of the notable men of New Orleans. Besides his record of able management of the hospital in the days of its direst poverty, Doctor Smythe, while still a young man, earned fame as the first to perform a successful ligation of the innominate artery, a large blood vessel just one step removed from the heart, in the depths of the thorax. When he reported that operation not long afterward at a meeting of the American Medical Association in New Orleans, it attracted comparatively little attention "because the operator was unknown," the great surgeons present being apparently skeptical on the subject. Fortunately, however, the man operated upon came back to the hospital in after years, where he died from another cause, affording opportunity to verify the result of Doctor Smythe's skill by a post-mortem dissection of his chest.
Doctor George K. Pratt, who succeeded Doctor Smythe as house surgeon of the Charity Hospital with the incoming of the democratic state government under Governor Francis T. Nicholls in 1876, besides being a bold and successful surgeon, possessed qualities of leadership which made his conspicuous as a citizen. He served for years as a member of the State Board of Health, where his initiative and energy contributed no little toward the sanitary progress made by the city in the period of its long exemption from yellow fever. Doctor Pratt is living at the time of this writing, but has entirely withdrawn from practice.
Dr. Arthur W. De Roaldes, who also served a term as house surgeon of the Charity Hospital, subsequently became distinguished in connection with the founding of the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital, an institution of which New Orleans is justly proud, and with which the name of Doctor De Roaldes is inseparably associated. From the time of its first inception up to the last years of his life, its development and welfare were the dearest objects of his heart, and though aided by a devoted staff, with an unusually capable Board of Administrators, it is generally considered that he individually is entitled to most of the credit for its success. Doctor De Roaldes belonged to a distinguished French family and made regular pilgrimages to France, where by association with the clinicians of Paris he kept in touch with every advance in the specialties to which his hospital was dedicated. In 1904 Doctor De Roaldes was awarded the Picayune Loving Cup, given annually to the citizen adjudged to have done most for the public good. As indicating the honor in which he was held abroad it may be mentioned that the President of France, after making Doctor De Roaldes a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, subsequently conferred on him two grades of promotion. The King of Italy made the doctor a Knight of the Order of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus, while the Pope conferred on him the Papal order of St. Gregory the Great.
Despite a progressively increasing failure of eyesight, Doctor De Roaldes, relying on what was observed and described to him by trained p762 assistants, continued to direct clinical work up to a few years before his death. So completely was he master of himself, however, that it seemed at times difficult to realize under his cheerful manner the fact of his being actually sightless. Much has been written about the pathos of stone-deaf Beethoven directing an orchestra, but history certainly affords no parallel to this incredible spectacle of a blind surgeon continuing for years to diagnose disease and to direct delicate operative procedures.
In the development of the local hospitals the name of Dr. Frederic Loeber will be remembered as deserving of honor in connection with the upbuilding of the great Touro Infirmary, now among the first institutions of its kind in the country, but which the devotion and skill of Doctor Loeber almost alone sustained during its struggling infancy. Doctor Loeber lived to see the establishment of the present splendid infirmary with its ever-increasing prestige at home and in neighboring states, but while it may be regarded as a monument to him, a nobler monument to the man himself is the memory of his kindness of heart, which endeared him alike to his patients and to brother physicians.
Interwoven with the medical history of New Orleans, like the dismal chapter of Israel's bondage in Egypt, there looms the story of a long and deadly warfare against the yellow fever, in connection with which the names of certain physicians stand out in relief.
Dr. C. B. White, the last president of the State Board of Health under the republican regime, left a record of faithful service all the more to be admired because of the unsettled political conditions of that period. His reports are especially interesting as testifying to the recognized value of sulphur fumigation. Commenting on the efficacy of a furnace devised and operated by Dr. A. W. Perry (quarantine physician) for forcing concentrated sulphur dioxide gas into the holds of vessels from infected ports, Doctor White wrote in 1874 as follows: "As was stated in a special report, either by coincidence, or as cause and effect, on no vessel so fumigated did a case of yellow fever appear."
When the new democratic regime was inaugurated in Louisiana in 1877, Governor Francis T. Nicholls, an ex-Confederate brigadier, appointed as president of the State Board of Health Dr. Samuel Choppin, a distinguished surgeon of New Orleans, who besides the prestige of a Parisian medical education, had a brilliant record of service in the Confederate Army.
That was about the time when the "germ theory" began to engage popular attention, and with implicit faith in the efficacy of disinfection, Doctor Choppin declared his belief that the germ of yellow fever could be successfully attacked in its "habitat" by agents destructive to low forms of life without injury to clothing, bedding and similar fomites from infected localities. At that time carbolic acid held the highest rank as a disinfectant, and Doctor Choppin's plan for attacking the undiscovered "germ" relied mainly on the application of refined carbolic acid in the form of spray (with water) to clothing, etc., while for rough disinfection the crude acid was used.
With our present knowledge of the transmission of yellow fever by mosquitoes, and of the easy destruction of those insects by sulphur fumes, it is interesting to note that sulphur fumigation was also practiced, but only by way of carrying out the tradition of atmospheric disinfection and without the remotest idea of its real value.
p763 In 1876, encouraged by the vaunted success of disinfection alone as a protection against the importation of yellow fever, and by the lucky escape of the city from imported infection for two years, such pressure was brought to bear on the Legislature by commercial interests that the state quarantine law was amended to omit detention of apparently healthy vessels from tropical ports longer than might be required for "thorough" disinfection.
Accordingly, only vessels with sickness on board were subjected to detention at quarantine in 1877, and the season of 1878 was ushered in with the pursuance of the same policy. But yellow fever was particularly severe in Havana in the spring of 1878 so that people from that hotbed of disease, with the fever in their systems, were able to come straight through to New Orleans, thereby starting the terrible epidemic of that year which cost more than 4,000 lives in the city alone, spreading to many interior localities in the most virulent form.
Doctor Choppin remained in office through the succeeding year, and though much embittered by the criticism of unfriendly newspapers, continued to enjoy the undiminished respect of all who knew his sterling worth. He succumbed to an attack of pneumonia in May, 1880.
In 1879 a new constitution was adopted under which every state official (except the state treasurer) went out of office the following spring.
Accordingly, the State Board of Health was reorganized in April, 1880, with Dr. Joseph Jones, who had been a member of the previous board, as president.
Doctor Jones, who had been for years professor of chemistry in the medical Faculty of the University, was in every way one of most notable men of his day. He was celebrated as an archaeologist, owning what was doubtless the largest collection of American Indian relics outside of the Smithsonian Institute. His "memoirs," published in the latter years of his life and covering a wide range of topics allied with the science of medicine, form a wonderful monument to his literary ability.
In the "History and Work of the Louisiana State Board of Health," by Dr. G. Farrar Patton (1904) the following reference is made to the administration of Doctor Jones as president of that body:
"The board assumed control of affairs at a time when many of the people of New Orleans had lost faith in maritime quarantine as a protection against yellow fever. Some of those whose interests were most affected by restrictions which quarantine imposed on vessels from tropical ports, would have been glad to have all such restrictions abolished.
"Others, largely in the majority, were alarmed by certain threats made in neighboring states to quarantine New Orleans every summer without waiting for yellow fever to appear,b and were anxious that nothing should be left undone to save the city from having its internal commerce jeopardized.
"It will be thus seen that the board, assailed by the clamors of opposite factions at home, willing and anxious to do its duty, but hampered by poverty, and all the whole surrounded by suspicious neighbors threatening the city with precautionary quarantine, had no need to borrow trouble.
"The president, who was a tireless worker, combative and fearless, proved himself equal to the occasion. Upheld in his authority by the staunch support of the governor and overcoming the most pressing financial p764 difficulties, partly by the counsels of able business men who were his fellow-members, and partly by an increase of quarantine charges authorized in 1882, he led the board successfully through four years of the most strenuous existence such a body has ever known. The reports of those years, in which reference is freely made to 'enemies,' read something like the record of a military campaign."
With the knowledge of a teacher of chemistry, Doctor Jones believed firmly in the efficacy of sulphur fumigation. He still further perfected the apparatus devised by Doctor Perry for that purpose, but unfortunately their furnaces were too small, besides being handicapped by the disadvantage of having to be operated by hand power. However, that disadvantage was offset by such thorough fumigation of living quarters of the ship by means of open pots that all mosquitoes were effectually destroyed.
While doing everything possible with the means at his command to guard against importation of yellow fever, Doctor Jones found conditions so threatening in the summer of 1883, with both Havana and Vera Cruz badly infected, that he boldly called on the governor for a proclamation not only forbidding vessels from infected ports admission to New Orleans, but requiring those detained at quarantine to depart.
The commercial public stood aghast at such an extreme measure as non-intercourse with valuable customers in Latin-America, but "big business" had met its match in Doctor Jones, who believed that the entire tropical trade should be sacrificed each summer rather than risk another epidemic.
That unsettled condition of affairs continued with but little prospect of relief up to the end of Doctor Jones' term as president. Under a new governor the Board of Health was reorganized in April, 1884, under the of Dr. Joseph Holt, who, as a high official of the retiring board was thoroughly conversant with the situation. Four members of that board continued in office, but Doctor Jones, doubtless weary of a responsible and thankless task, retired to private life and engaged in private practice during the ten or twelve years which intervened before his death.
Dr. Joseph Holt, one of the best known physicians of New Orleans, took charge at what may be considered the most critical period of the warfare against yellow fever, and no man ever espoused a desperate cause with greater courage and determination.
Realizing, as his predecessor had done, the uncertainty of relying on the old system of quarantine, he determined, by way of an extreme object lesson, "to resort to quarantine in the literal sense of that most obnoxious term," meaning detention for forty days, which was equivalent to declaring non-intercourse with the tropics, thereby preparing the public mind for the adoption of a remedy which was next offered.
Again quoting from Doctor Patton's history: "The board proposed, if provided with the necessary means, to attack every quarantine vessel 'with an energy like that of the fire department; to cleanse her immediately, and to subject every possible carrier of disease to searching action of the most powerful germicidal agents available, applied through apparatus capable of accomplishing the work.' It was proposed to make detention merely a side issue, destitute of value as affording protection, save to cover the rational incubation period of yellow fever. The wavering faith of the local public had somewhat revived with the good fortune p765 of the previous years, one of which, 1881, was marked by the entire absence of yellow fever in New Orleans, while but one death from that disease had been reported in 1882 and four in 1883, but there was still a notable lack of confidence in quarantine. The president of the Board of Health, enthusiastic, untiring and possessed of strong personal magnetism, abandoned all other interests, turned away his patients and devoted himself to the herculean task of convincing the skeptical people of New Orleans, the hostile and suspicious authorities of other states, and most important of all, the State Legislature, that the 'supreme effort' which was proposed really did promise great results. He presented his plans at a conference of state health officials, some of whom were distinctly antagonistic to the Louisiana Board on old scores, and in the end gained their confidence. He appeared before a large body of merchants of New Orleans, among whom he had been warned that there was a strong undercurrent of hostility, and not less by his impressive manner than by forcible arguments, he converted opponents into active coadjutors. Finally, by personal appeals to members of the Legislature, he secured in July, 1884, an appropriation of $30,000 with which to inaugurate the proposed system.
"In all the praise that has been deservedly bestowed on Doctor Holt, it has been customary to extol the merits of his 'system,' for which he claimed no inventive originality, while relatively little has been said about that part of the work for which he is entitled to the greatest praise, viz.: the energy and success with which he championed the discredited cause of maritime quarantine. Numbers of men could doubtless have been found capable of putting together such a system, but not one in many thousand could have gone before the people at such a time and persuaded them to accept it on faith."
Briefly described, the new system, inaugurated early in June, 1885, comprised the following procedures:
"Wetting all woodwork, ballast, clothing, bedding, etc., with a solution of bichloride of mercury, 1 to 1,000.
"After that treatment, all textile fabrics were subjected to heat in a drying chamber provided with coils of steam pipe. (Later a device was added to introduce steam into the chamber, both to secure greater penetration and to guard against fire among the fabrics under treatment.)
"Forcing into the holds freshly generated sulphur fumes drawn from a battery of furnaces (on a special tugboat) by a powerful rotary exhaust blower driven by a steam engine.
"After complete disinfection, vessels with all on board were detained long enough to cover the incubation period of yellow fever."
As will be noted further on, certain improvements in the 'system' were introduced later, but so far as the main object of keeping out yellow fever was concerned, its success was immediate and complete, not, as we know today, because of the destruction of any lurking germ, but because its sulphur fumes killed infected mosquitoes, while its detention of people over the incubation of the fever prevented any with the germ in their systems from landing before becoming ill.
At the end of four years of brilliant service Doctor Holt went to reside in Portland, Oregon, where his fame had preceded him, returning subsequently to New Orleans, where he still is an honored citizen.
p766 Dr. C. P. Wilkinson, who had served at the Mississippi River Quarantine Station under Doctor Jones' administration, became president of the State Board of Health in 1888.
Through the favorable issue of a fourteen years' lawsuit with certain wealthy steamship companies, the board had collected some $34,000 for past quarantine fees, enabling the new president to carry on and to greatly expand the work inaugurated by his predecessor.
A considerable settlement having sprung up in objectionable proximity to the old quarantine ground, that site was abandoned and a new station was established nearer the sea at a point completely isolated. That move enabled the board to make important improvements, for which credit was mainly due to the experience, initiative and mechanical ability of Doctor Wilkinson.
The wetting of fine clothing and bedding with bichloride solution had caused no little complaint from passengers and steamship companies, and the new plant was discontinued as superfluous. The former wooden drying chamber with its coils of superheated steam pipes had set fire to two costly lots of material, and in the new plant was replaced by three riveted steel cylinders eight feet in diameter and fifty feet long with racks running on overhead rails for holding articles to be treated. As soon as loaded, the racks were run in, the door clamped tight and steam was admitted to coils of pipe just inside the shell. When the temperature of the contained air reached •180 degrees Fahrenheit live steam was turned into the chamber, rapidly raising the heat to •220 degrees, with an internal pressure of •about seven pounds to the square inch. After an exposure of thirty minutes, steam was shut off and, as soon as practicable, the door was opened, the racks run out, the articles removed and in a few minutes drying was complete.
Doctor Wilkinson also improved the sulphur furnace and added a second furnace, complete with boiler, blower and engine, on a car running on rails along the front of the quarantine wharf, so that with the tug on the outer side of a vessel both furnaces could be operated at once with utmost economy of time.
An important feature of the improved system was the erection of a "Lazaretto" •three miles below the main station for isolating fever cases, which had been previously treated in a hospital on the grounds. The Lazaretto had its own resident physician, and, when in operation, attendants for the sick. This humane provision was notably successful in conducing to recovery of patients, among whom a high death rate might have been ordinarily expected.
In April, 1890, after the re-election of Gen. F. T. Nicholls as governor, Dr. S. R. Olliphant, who had been a member of the State Board of Health for several years, became its president, which office he continued to hold until January 31, 1898, a period remarkable for progress in various lines of sanitary work.
Doctor Olliphant's name is associated with the most important improvements made in the furnace for forcing sulphur fumes into the holds of vessels at quarantine. The furnaces previously in use had open sulphur pans, continually drawing air from outside, whereas the Olliphant furnace was closed in such a way that air drawn from the hold of a vessel, after passing over the burning sulphur, was returned to the hold, being thus worked over again and again until extreme saturation with sulphurous gas was attained.
p767 In fact, so concentrated was the gas delivered by the improved furnace that it was shown by practical test to extinguish fire, while by its density it was held to possess greatly increased power of penetration.
In the season of 1890 the board adopted the plan of stationing its own medical inspectors at tropical fruit ports, so as to keep constantly posted as to health conditions in territory extremely valuable to commerce, but always under suspicion. That plan was later followed by other Gulf states and by the United States Public Health Service. With the subsequent appointment of a physician on a vessel, the tropical fruit trade has been developed to its present magnitude with danger from exotic fever practically eliminated.
Taking advantage of the absence of yellow fever for so many years, Doctor Olliphant's board gave its attention to general sanitary improvements, and in that welcome period of peace made the following notable record:
The establishment of a chemical laboratory, under the personal direction of a distinguished expert.
Improvement in milk inspection in New Orleans.
Inauguration of a complete system of meat inspection with a scientific veterinarian in charge.
Inspection of food in the city markets.
The establishment of a bacteriological laboratory and the election of Dr. P. E. Archinard as state bacteriologist. (With the advent of diphtheria anti-toxin Doctor Archinard was commissioned to visit European cities where the serum was first used, so as to enable the board to give Louisiana the earliest possible benefit of that wonderful remedy.)
Founding a depot for free distribution of antitoxin.
Thorough and repeated campaigns of vaccination.
With the protection afforded by such admirable maritime quarantine, exclusion of yellow fever by vessels arriving from sea was absolute, but in the summer of 1897 that dread disease slipped into New Orleans (and Mobile) by the "back door," having masqueraded quite a while as dengue at Ocean Springs, a popular summer resort on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, before being recognized. From positive evidence obtained after the outbreak had subsided, it is now known that a case of yellow fever occurred about the middle of March in the house of a Cuban lady at Ocean Springs, where secret meetings of Revolutionary agents were held. The first fatal case was that of a commercial traveler known to have frequented that house, who died in a sanitarium at Louisville, Kentucky, later in August with every symptom of yellow fever.
The first recognized case in New Orleans was that of a boy, recently returned from Ocean Springs, who died September 6, and after so many years of freedom from the disease it is easy to understand the quasi panic which ensued, with a stampede of frightened people and complete demoralization of business and travel due to state and local quarantines. Owing to continued mild weather the fever persisted in New Orleans until later in December, with ever-increasing hostility to the Board of Health. The president and his fellow members, desirous of sparing their friend, the governor, embarrassment, tendered their resignations early in December, but remained in office through January while putting the business of the board in order.
Doctor Olliphant soon afterward moved to New York City, where he built up an extensive practice in his specialty of dermatology, besides p768 being one of the clinic staff of the De Milt Hospital. In the suburban "village" of Mount Vernon, where he resided, he was honored by being made health officer. In 1921, on account of failing health, he came to Louisiana to recuperate, but died in Lafayette December 26 of that year, highly honored by the press of the state.
At the critical juncture following the resignation of the Olliphant board, the governor offered the presidency to Dr. Edmond Souchon, the distinguished professor of anatomy and clinical surgery, whose constructive ability had been of such signal service to the Tulane Faculty of Medicine. With due realization of the grave responsibility involved, Doctor Souchon accepted the office and took charge January 31, , with practically a new board, on which occasion he expressed generous admiration for the courage and fidelity of his predecessor.
Though not then aware of the manner in which yellow fever infection is conveyed, Doctor Souchon recognized the danger of "lurking infection, which surviving a comparatively mild winter, might be expected to reassert itself with the coming summer." Quoting further from his report of that year:
"The mild fever of 1897 was generally believed to have existed in hundreds of houses where no cases were officially reported, and the desire of the board was to ascertain by careful inquiry from door to door the location of such houses and to practice thorough disinfection and aeration wherever fever of any kind had existed. Considering the extent of territory involved and the hostile attitude of the average citizen as regards submitting to such inquiries, the task undertaken by the board was not an easy one." By way of preparing the people for the measures contemplated, 50,000 carefully worded circulars of information were distributed to householders by officers of the board. The same information was given through the daily papers and the attention of the public was directed to the subject by repeated and vigorous editorials.
Through an appeal made to the clergy in a special letter, and with the backing of their bishops, this crusade was preached in all the pulpits of the city, while a fraternal letter to practicing physicians asked their aid in locating houses in which unreported cases of any kind of fever had occurred.
Not depending on such sources of information, a house-to‑house canvass of the entire city was made by one hundred picked men charged with making courteous, but persistent, inquiries in the same line, results being tabulated at the end of each day's work.
While thus making unremitting efforts to guard against any recurrence of the fever, Doctor Souchon was mainly instrumental in the framing and adoption of the famous "Atlanta Regulations" for the movement of persons and freight during the existence of land quarantine. Following a preliminary meeting of Southern health officers and prominent railroad officials, held February 9, in Mobile, Doctor Souchon called a meeting of the same interests in New Orleans early in April, and with the collaboration of his experienced colleague, Dr. H. R. Carter of the United States Marine Hospital Service, secured the adoption of a schedule of rules which were later ratified at a much larger convention that met in Atlanta, Georgia, April 18, 1898, on the invitation of the mayor of that city, thereby becoming historical as the "Atlanta Regulations," which came as a gracious boon to commerce.
p769 Despite the vigorous campaign of prevention carried out early in 1898, it is evident that enough infected mosquitoes survived the winter of 1897‑1898 to start the mild type of yellow fever which made its appearance in the spring of 1898. From evidence gathered later, there must have been hundreds of cases so mild that no medical advice was sought. No physician wished to be the first to announce a case of yellow fever, so that it was not until September 17 that a conscientious physician reported a case in his family.
From that time until frost, which occurred October 22, there were reported in New Orleans 118 cases of the fever, with fifty-seven deaths, and though the city was promptly quarantined in various directions, commerce was but little interrupted, thanks to the operation of the "Atlanta Regulations." During that season yellow fever was reported from some twenty-five interior localities in Louisiana, but as Doctor Souchon's report for the year declares:
"The mildness of the fever and the absence of typical symptoms rendered a diagnosis difficult in nearly every locality where it appeared. Very few people died, and it was chiefly by taking the prevailing fever in the aggregate that it was determined to be yellow fever."
In August, 1899, attributable, perhaps, to infection brought in by people from Cuba who had landed at northern ports and came to New Orleans by rail, a little group of eighty-one cases of yellow fever occurred in the "uptown" district of the city. This explanation is borne out by the case of a man direct from Cuba who developed a fatal attack at Vincennes, Indiana, in September.
In 1904 the Souchon board made a very complete exhibit of its quarantine plant and other activities at the Columbian Centennial Exposition at St. Louis, Missouri, earning thereby the award of a gold medal.
In the summer of 1905, undoubtedly as the result of undue confidence in the reported freedom of Cuba from yellow fever, quarantine against that island was not imposed in time to prevent the introduction of infection by a very swift passenger steamer which landed near the French Market, a quarter swarming with non-immune Italians, among whom the disease must have prevailed for weeks before being discovered. In that interval numbers of Italians had sought refuge among their relatives on neighboring plantations, so that the infection was very widely scattered.c
As the means at command of the State Board of Health were not deemed sufficient to cope with the situation, the mercantile interests of New Orleans, duly impressed with the "cleaning up" of Havana by representatives of the United States Government, invited the United States Public Health Service (August 4) to come to the aid of New Orleans. Consent was promptly given, provided the sum of $250,000 be pledged for expenses, and full control be given the Federal authorities.
Of the required sum, $150,000 was subscribed by citizens, while the governor pledged the credit of the state for the remainder, and Surgeon J. H. White of the United States Public Health and Marine Hospital Service took charge August 7, with a staff of sixteen assistants, also utilizing the zeal and ability of a large number of young physicians of the city to carry out his campaign, besides having the enthusiastic coöperation of all classes of the people. That brief and victorious campaign is now a matter of history, establishing a record as being the first instance of complete conquest of yellow fever before the coming of frost, with triumphant vindication of the "mosquito doctrine."
p770 Doctor Souchon's genius for organization found ample scope for exercise in the congenial labor of formulating a sanitary code, as required by Act 192 of 1898, and in perfecting various schedules of regulations, as, for example, those relating to details of the tropical fruit trade, which needed to be revised year after year to meet changing conditions. The service of marine inspectors, i.e., physicians to travel on vessels during the quarantine season, was brought to its highest efficiency under his watchful care, safeguarding every potential point of danger. He resigned as state health officer in December, 1905, and since his return to private life (1908) he has found leisure to still further develop the Anatomical Museum of Tulane University, containing numerous dissections wonderfully preserved in natural colors by a process of which he is the originator and which has rendered him famous.
Prior to the passage of Act 192 of 1898, the Board of Health, domiciled in New Orleans, exercised dual functions as a state and city board, but under that act providing for municipal health boards, Dr. Quitman Kohnke became chairman of the first City Board of Health of New Orleans, bringing to the duties of that important position remarkable energy and resourcefulness.
Following the discovery of transmission of yellow fever by mosquitoes late in 1900, Doctor Kohnke, knowing New Orleans to be swarming with Stegomyia mosquitoes by which the disease is conveyed, made the most strenuous efforts to secure the adoption of an ordinance empowering him to attack the breeding places of those insects all over the city, but with discouraging results. It is generally conceded that if his earnest appeals had been heeded at that time, Louisiana might have been spared the outbreak of 1905, with its loss of life, disturbance of business and the toll of a quarter million dollars assessed by the Federal Government for the expense of fighting the fever.
After eight years of faithful service as city health officer, Doctor Kohnke, with his own health impaired, moved to Covington, Louisiana, in 1907, where he died suddenly in June, 1909.
Dr. William T. O'Reilly, who succeeded Doctor Kohnke as city health officer in 1906, was serving his third term when he was claimed by death in 1917. He was worthily succeeded by Dr. William H. Robin, who had become thoroughly conversant with the duties of the position by years of service as secretary of the board. With the incoming of a new city administration in 1920, Dr. John Callan, long and favorably known to the physicians and people of New Orleans, accepted the position of city health officer, the duties of which he continues to perform with all the ability on which his friends counted in persuading him to serve. His experience in directing such activities dates back to the yellow fever of 1897 and 1898, when he was chief field officer of the State Board of Health.
His talent for administration has been of great value in matters connected with state medicine, and has been exercised more recently as one of the administrators of Tulane University.
To bring the story of men prominent in connection with state health affairs down to the present time (1922) it is necessary to add that of Dr. Clifford H. Irion of Caddo Parish, who took charge as successor to Dr. Edmond Souchon early in January, 1906, and remained president of the State Board until the autumn of 1908. During the summer of p771 1906 an unaccountable case, declared by competent experts to be yellow fever, occurred in New Iberia, but with the confidence inspired by the experience of 1905, comparatively little alarm or disturbance of commerce resulted. It was also in 1906 that the Louisiana Legislature passed an act authorizing the sale of state quarantine property to the Federal Government, in accordance with which the United States Public Health and Marine Hospital Service took charge of all maritime quarantine in April, 1907, thereby relieving the State Board of Health of one of its greatest responsibilities.
Dr. D. Harvey Dillon of Vernon Parish succeeded Doctor Irion in the autumn of 1908 and served nearly two years.
In August, 1910, Dr. Oscar Dowling, a distinguished specialist of Shreveport, ex-president of the State Medical Society and for several years a member of the State Board of Health, became its president, and up to the time of this writing has continued to direct its affairs with zeal and ability that have given him a national reputation. His "Health Train" of adapted Pullman cars, with its "Laboratory on Wheels," its moving picture outfit, its staff of lecturers, etc., has brought the demonstration of health teaching home to people in every part of the state, besides having traveled from ocean to ocean on visits to conventions, where it has never failed to elicit generous admiration.
A man whose long association with public health activities entitles him to mention is Dr. G. Farrar Patton, who became a member of the board in 1892 and was its secretary during the strenuous decade from 1896 to 1906, embracing the yellow fever outbreaks of 1897, 1898, 1899 and 1905. In his secretarial capacity Doctor Patton edited six voluminous biennial reports, besides writing, as part of the exhibit sent to the St. Louis Exposition of 1904, the brief history of the board and its work already referred to.
Prior to the year 1900 there was no law providing for the collection of vital statistics in the interior parishes of Louisiana, but under an act passed that year the secretary of the State Board of Health undertook the uphill work of persuading physicians and midwives all over the state to make monthly returns of deaths and births to their respective parish health officers (or coroners), who in turn were required to make quarterly reports to the State Board. For reasons easy to understand, the reports received were very incomplete, but were duly tabulated and published in the biennial reports of the board, where they make a fairly respectable show for the beginning of a great work.
With the prestige of such statistical training, Doctor Patton was invited in February, 1906, to supervise the work of tabulating and filing clinical histories for the Charity Hospital of New Orleans, where, under the progressive administration of Dr. J. M. Batchelor as house surgeon the "Bellevue System" had just been installed after long years of comparative chaos as regards the preparation, tabulating and preservation of those valuable records.
The "system," progressively expanded and improved, is now the "Charity Hospital System," with more than 200,000 histories classified, indexed and filed so as to be readily accessible when required for reference. The original registrar still directs the work.
In order to give Louisiana the benefit of the new "model law" designed to secure uniformity of method in collecting vital statistics, Doctor Dowling, as state health officer, had incorporated its essential p772 features in the Sanitary Code (amendments to the code acquire force of law after being officially promulgated), and after some preliminary field work invited Dr. G. F. Patton to become state registrar of vital statistics. Accepting that position in October, 1913, Doctor Patton was fortunately able during his term of service, ending in January, 1917, to build up the system, which with only minor modifications has since enabled Louisiana to be admitted to the "Registration Area" for deaths of the United States Bureau of Census.
Doctor Patton, one of the charter members of the Anti-Tuberculosis League, organized in 1906, has continued since that time to be prominent in its work.
Among those who have passed to the great beyond, leaving a record of public service, Dr. Paul Emile Archinard, who died in August, 1912, is especially entitled to mention. One of the pioneers of the South in the domain of bacteriology during the development of that mysterious science, Doctor Archinard lost no opportunity to apply its newly discovered truths to the needs of practical medicine.
He was that author of one of the most concise and generally satisfactory text-books on bacteriology ever published, besides being one of the most successful of its teachers. Mention has been made of his having been commissioned to visit European cities to make a study of diphtheria anti-toxin at the fountainhead. On his return he was put in charge of the emergency supply of that precious serum provided for the use of physicians in treating the poor.
Officially, Doctor Archinard was for years bacteriologist for both the State and City Board of Health, and his laboratory, one of the Departments of Tulane University, was a center for original research, with its facilities always available to the profession of Louisiana and adjoining states.
One of the founders of the Polyclinic and of the New Orleans Sanitarium, the first training school for nurses in the South, Doctor Archinard later became professor of neurology in the Tulane Faculty, after the union of the Polyclinic with the undergraduate Medical School, with ever-increasing prestige as a clinician in nervous and mental diseases.
Possessing in a remarkable degree the judicial temperament, with keen insight into the affairs of men, he was known as a wise counsellor, loyal to any cause which he espoused and to those whom he honored with his friendship.
In October, 1920, the world of science, and in particular our city and state, sustained a serious loss by the untimely death of Dr. Isidore Dyer, professor of dermatology in Tulane University, who became dean of the School of Medicine on the retirement of Doctor Chaillé in 1908, having been previously identified with the New Orleans Polyclinic, now the Post-Graduate Medical Department of Tulane.
Jointly with Dr. Charles Chassaignac, Doctor Dyer had for years found congenial exercise for his brilliant intellect and classical education (he was a graduate of Yale) in editing the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal. His affability made him universally popular, especially with the student body of Tulane, one of whose class orators in a Founders' Day address referred to him as "The man with the heart of a boy and the mind of a statesman."
That which may be considered Doctor Dyer's greatest public work was the success with which he directed the treatment of leprosy in the p773 State Leprosarium in Iberville Parish, •some sixty miles distant from New Orleans. He was an international authority on leprosy, having been commissioned by the State Board of Health to a world convention on that disease held under the auspices of the German government in 1896.
Dr. John B. Elliott, Sr., who retired from the Tulane professorship of therapeutics in 1908 and only recently (1921) joined the silent majority, was widely known as a scholarly and capable teacher. His exposition of the pathology of influenza will long be remembered as a particularly valuable contribution to the knowledge of practical medicine.
His son, Dr. John B. Elliott, Jr., who succeeded his distinguished faith in the medical faculty, is equally celebrated as a clinical diagnostician. When the United States entered the World war Doctor Elliott went to France as the head of Tulane Unit No. 24 of the American Red Cross, a devoted group of New Orleans physicians, surgeons, nurses and helpers, who were the first organized body of the kind to volunteer from the South for overseas service.
In 1918 Dr. Joseph A. Danna, widely known as the last executive house surgeon of the Charity Hospital under the former system, organized the splendid Loyola Unit" of physicians, surgeons, nurses and Sisters of Charity, which landed directly in Italy and promptly went into active service close to the firing line, where their arrival was hailed as a veritable blessing.
Doctor Danna, with his skill as a surgeon, his ability as an organizer and Italian parentage, was a fitting chief for such a mission of mercy. In his home city of New Orleans he ranks among the foremost surgeons of the day, being one of the few who have successfully sutured the heart of a living subject.
He is also dean of the Loyola Post-Graduate Medical School, formed by the merging of two new schools of that character organized in 1914.
Inseparably associated with the history of Tulane as one of the few survivors of its great fin de siècle medical faculty, the well-known figure of Dr. Ernest Lewis still moves with stately grace among the physicians of New Orleans, a noble example of honored old age and of the race of courtly Southern gentlemen of the olden time.
In the present year (1922), at what was perhaps the largest gathering of doctors the Orleans Medical Society ever assembled, Doctor Lewis read a paper entitled "Reminiscences," commemorative of his eighty-second birthday, and was presented a loving cup inscribed with an affectionate message of congratulation on his having rounded out sixty years of practice, including years of teaching in obstetrics and gynecology. Of the latter science it is no exaggeration to say that he is actually its father and creator, as concerns the large circle of medical teaching of which New Orleans has been the center.
For nearly two decades Doctor Lewis, as the leading spirit of the Board of Administrators, presided over the affairs of the Charity Hospital, aiding by his influence the introduction of progressive improvements that have contributed so largely to the efficiency of that great institution. Though nominally retired, he continues to give occasional lectures to medical classes and still observes his life habit of keeping an office where patients and friends can consult him. At the time of this writing, with mental powers unimpaired, he is the honored president of the State Anti-Tuberculosis League.
p774 Among medical men of Louisiana, and especially those of New Orleans, the name of Dr. Charles Chassaignac stands for more than merely the designation of a physician eminent in his chosen line of work. One of the founders of the pioneer Training School for Nurses and of the Polyclinic Post-Graduate Medical School, also the first institution of its kind in the South; dean of that school and professor of urology since 1897 and for over twenty-six joint editor of the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, he has been both recording historian of current scientific events and ex‑officio biographer of many notable men who have contributed to medical progress.
Along with untiring activity as a worker and as a successful promoter of plans for improving professional education, Doctor Chassaignac has shown himself gifted in no small degree with the quality of leadership as a citizen. On various occasions when he has spoken at public meetings, his calm judgment and the practical wisdom of his utterances have helped to steady debate. In great emergencies he has been one of the men generally called upon, as in the yellow fever invasion of 1905, when he served on the citizens' finance committee, and later, when the association of Commerce decided to make a sanitary canvass of the city, he was the man invited to direct it.
In August, 1905, when the resources of the State Board of Health were taxed to the utmost by the spread of infection to many interior localities, a pitiful appeal for help came for , in North Louisiana, where a desperate condition of panic had developed. The president of the board, with sure intuition, sent for Doctor Chassaignac and asked him if he would take charge at Tallulah, promising all the help available. With only the stipulation that his services should be gratuitous, Doctor Chassaignac promptly consented and with the coöperation of three young physicians, Doctors Bass, Menges and Anderson, aided by Doctor von Ezdorf of the Federal Health Service as director of disinfection, quickly brought order out of chaos, but with the sad sacrifice of the life of Dr. D. C. Anderson, who erroneously considering himself immune, disregarded precautions against exposure to the bites of infected mosquitoes and contracted a virulent attack of fever.
Doctor Chassaignac has been the recipient of many honors, having been president of the both the Parish and State Medical societies, besides being appointed year after year on important committees. During the world war he was chairman of the Executive Committee of the Volunteer Medical Service designed to arrange for supplying physicians of the communities where all the resident doctors had gone into military service.
On account of his business ability, Doctor Chassaignac has been much in demand on the boards of various charities, having served for years on the House Committee of the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital, and as president of the New Orleans Sanitarium Training School for Nurses up to its becoming the Presbyterian Hospital. He has also been a member of the Central Council of the Anti-Tuberculosis League and is now one of its general Board of Directors.
Dr. F. W. Parham, one of Louisiana's leading surgeons, is another of those identified with the founding of Louisiana's pioneer Training School for Nurses and the New Orleans Polyclinic, as well as with improvement in the facilities of the Charity Hospital, of which he was a former associate house surgeon. Besides being more than ordinarily distinguished as a surgeon and as a professor in the Post-Graduate Medical p775 School, Doctor Parham has always stood in the front rank of public-spirited citizens. As one of the administrators of Tulane University, he has had no small share in shaping its policy along the broadest lines consistent with its traditions, and always with single-minded purpose of making it the leading educational institution of the South.
Dr. Henry Dickson Bruns, worthy son of a father distinguished in the last generation, is an honored associate of the loyal group of workers represented by De Roaldes, Chassaignac, Archinard, Parham and Dyer, men animated by a common purpose to raise the standard of professional education, while striving for the betterment of all clinical facilities. One of the leading ophthalmologists of the day, Doctor Bruns has been for years surgeon-in‑chief of the Senses Hospital, which in recent times has undergone notable development, always having a group of visiting doctors in attendance as post-graduate matriculants, many of whom come especially to benefit by his able teaching.
Among the people of New Orleans, Doctor Bruns has long been known as an earnest advocate for civic reform. He was one of the most influential members of the constitutional convention of 1898 and by his thorough acquaintance with basic principles of government, as well as by his forceful exposition of what he held to be the best for the state, did much toward shaping the action of that historic body. The existing law under which the State Board of Health and all related parish and municipal boards have been organized, was passed in obedience to Article 296 of the constitution framed by that convention.
Dr. George S. Bel, professor of internal medicine in the Tulane Faculty, has for years enjoyed the reputation of being not only a master in the diagnosis and treatment of disease, but also as one of the most successful teachers of physical diagnosis, the science of interpreting physical signs as indicating the exact nature of hidden ailments. Fortunate in having at his command the wealth of clinical material afforded by the great Charity Hospital, Doctor Bel has been able by lectures and bedside demonstration to go on, year after year, training successive classes of men upon whose correct knowledge of physical diagnosis countless thousands of people all over the country have to depend for treatment of ordinary sickness and the discovery of that which is extraordinary, as well as for life insurance and warning against the inroads of insidious disease. Considering the relationship of conservative medicine to human health and happiness, all honor is due to the man, himself a great physician, who has thus devoted the best years of his life to teaching other physicians such an art.
But Doctor Bel has done more for suffering humanity than merely to teach and practice medicine. From the outset of organized warfare against tuberculosis begun by the Anti-Tuberculosis League in 1906, though one of the busiest of doctors, he has served as its medical examiner-in‑chief, giving to every unfortunate victim referred to him the benefit of his priceless skill. Hundreds of those passed upon by him have been sent to Camp Hygeia and cured, while others recommended for a period of probation have been materially benefited.
Associated with Doctor Bel in that humane work for the past few years, Dr. Robert Bernhard has been equally devoted to the cause.
Dr. C. C. Bass, professor of experimental medicine in the Tulane Faculty, who has been already mentioned in connection with his service at Tallulah in the early days of his practice (1905), has subsequently p776 won signal distinction in the line of research work to which he has so successfully devoted his energies. At the time hookworm disease was being so widely discussed both in medical journals and in the newspapers, Dr Bass made an exhaustive study of the subject, and jointly with Dr. George Dock, who was then professor of the practice of medicine at Tulane, published a text-book entitled "All About the Hook Worm."
A few years later pellagra, that puzzling disease about the cause of which there has been so much acrimonious debate, claimed his attention. But it is in connection with his study of malaria that he has earned his greatest distinction. With fairly complete knowledge of the parasite (Plasmodium) which causes malarial fever, and of its transmission by the bite of the spotten-winged (Anopheles) mosquito, the veteran scientists of the world had concluded, because of their failure to cultivate it in a test tube, that such cultivation was impossible. It had come to be accepted as an explanation that the Plasmodium being a living organism, with a definite sexual life-cycle, requires a living "host" like the human body for its propagation. But in the summer of 1912 Doctor Bass, assisted by Dr. Foster M. Johns, also of Tulane, after a series of quiet but epoch-making experiments in Central America, returned in time to exhibit at the International Congress of Scientists held in September of that year in Washington, D. C., the most convincing demonstration of his success in cultivating the Plasmodium by laboratory methods. Those demonstrations also showed, as points of direct therapeutic importance, the destructive power of normal blood-serum on newly liberated malarial spores, together with effect of agencies which favor or retard the curative action of quinine. Thus did a mere youth astonish and confound great scientists, with honor to his university and world-wide fame for himself. After his return to New Orleans, at an enthusiastic meeting, the Parish Medical Society presented him with a superb gold medal, which though a fitting token of fraternal admiration, may be considered insignificant as compared with the noble monument of scientific acclaim everywhere awarded him.
Dr. Rudolph Matas, professor of surgery in the Faculty of Tulane University, is recognized as one of the foremost surgeons of the United States, with a reputation extending to all the remote regions of the world reached by medical literature.
His public service even antedates his graduation in medicine, as he was chosen on account of his knowledge of the Spanish language to act as secretary to the Government commission already mentioned as having been sent to Havana in 1879 under the leadership of Doctor Chaillé to study yellow fever.
Doctor Matas was professor of surgery in the New Orleans Polyclinic up to the death of Prof. Samuel Logan, when he was nominated "by acclamation" of admiring friends among the profession of the state to fill the vacant chair of surgery in the older school. It is no disparagement to any of the other able surgeons of New Orleans to say that, measured by standards of character, attainments and celebrity, Doctor Matas is truly a great man. He has always realized the importance of attending conventions, where his personal charm and fluent eloquence never fail to make such a profound impression that he has come to be generally regarded as the chief exponent of surgical progress in the South. A prolific writer himself, his range of reading seems to embrace the whole realm of current medical literature, with a p777 faculty of memory so extraordinary as to be incredible except to those who have witnessed its exhibition.
As regards his attainments as a surgeon, it goes without saying that no man could have gained such celebrity otherwise than on a sound basis of merit, but it is as a teacher that he is most admirable. Knowing that only those immediately assisting at an operation can follow technical details, Doctor Matas has cultivated the habit of describing concisely and in a voice audible all over the amphitheater exactly what conditions he finds, and, as the operation proceeds, every detail of procedure and discovery, thus carrying his audience along with him.
Taking into account the open friendliness of the man, his cheerful readiness to answer questions and his unvarying courtesy to all, it is not surprising that he should be idolized alike by his classes and his patients.
It would be out of place in this sketch to undertake anything like a circumstantial account of any of Doctor Matas' most notable achievements in surgery. In offering the foregoing remarks it is felt that where a man has done so much for the advancement of surgical science and incidentally for the glory of his city and its great medical school, it is meet and just to pay him all due honor.
In closing this sketch, let it be understood that its purpose is mainly to mention physicians notably associated with medical progress in New Orleans. To extend it to include even brief mention of all the deserving physicians, surgeons and specialists of the city would occupy the whole of the book of which this only presumes to form a chapter.
a The main deleterious vanity at the time was of course the shoehorning of the female figure into tight corsets. (Before anyone starts to chuckle at Victorian folly, the problem is still with us, and has occasionally caused deaths, although in a modern form: wearing very tight jeans, and sometimes then going to soak in a bathtub so they shrink further still. You should not do this: it can kill you.)
b The State of Texas took such action against the State of Louisiana, and the case, making its way to the United States Supreme Court in 1899, was decided against Louisiana. The case (176 U. S. 1) is online.
c Although the 1905 yellow fever outbreak was very mild in comparison with the many that had preceded it in New Orleans, it was of course every bit as tragic to those affected: an informative and atmospheric account of the epidemic among the Italian population of New Orleans is given in "Behind the Yellow Fever in Little Palermo" by Eleanor McMain.
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