Iowa History Project


History of Medicine in Iowa
by D.S. Fairchild, M.D., F.A.C.S.
reprinted from The Journal of the Iowa State Medical Society, 1927
transcribed from the original book for the Iowa History Project by S. Ferrall


As time passed and early settlers made their homes and one generation after another have come and gone, the world's outlook has changed. We now begin to have an interest in those who laid the foundation of our governmental, social, economic and professional life. It, therefore, follows that we have organized activities that may record and perpetuate the memory of those who made the first sacrifices which have brought us to our present state of advancement, comfort and security.

In no calling or profession have the changes been greater than in the healing art and none have contributed more to the welfare of the human race. If we reflect on the past we are impressed with the fact that before the time of Pasteur, medical activities were individualistic and whatever progress was made was in improving methods of drug treatment and the technique in a limited field of surgical endeavor.

The history of medicine in Iowa goes back scarcely more than a hundred years, but while in this short period Iowa's contributions to the advancement of medicine may have been small, nevertheless, there were groups of physicians who came to Iowa in its early days to help lay the foundations of a great and prosperous state. They laid an obligation upon the present generation and generations to come.

The profession of today can do no less than record the contributions of these physicians before all that is known of them has faded from the memory of men.

In 1875 the author of this book was appointed on a committee to prepare a history of medicine in Iowa for the Centennial. Much information was secured from old practitioners who knew personally most of the pioneer doctors who first came to Iowa. These contributors have all passed away but the writer preserved their records and during the past fifteen years has secured from many family records valuable information, also, from the records of early medical societies, from various histories of Iowa, from the state library and the State Historical Society.

The most valuable contributions of many of the pioneer doctors were in developing the Territory and later the State. The country was thinly settled and their medical activities were limited. We have followed the organization of the State and Local Medical Societies, Medical Schools, Medical Journalism, Insane Hospitals, etc.

The limits of this history brings us up to 1870.

In a few important events we bring it down to a more recent date. But few of the men referred to are now living.


Return to the Table of Contents

Home to Iowa History Project