Space Savers


Travels and tools of nineteenth-century physicians

Whether taking the subway to the hospital, flying to a medical conference, journeying by ship to learn from a distant colleague, or driving a team of horses to make a house call, physicians have always traveled for the profession.

Consider the adventurous post-surgery commute of John Brooks Wheeler, Class of 1879. In Memoirs of a Small-Town Surgeon, Wheeler describes hopping onto a moving train in East Swanton, Vermont, with two satchels packed with surgical supplies. “I ran at the side…then I grabbed the hand-rails and missed the steps!…It was the nearest that I ever came to being killed and the memory of it is not entirely agreeable.”

various models and instruments carried by traveling physicians in the mid-nineteenth century

George Cheever Shattuck, Class of 1905, when addressing an assembly at the McGill University Medical School, described the observations he had made during a world tour. In Hong Kong, he saw “30 odd cases of beriberi”; in the Philippines, he traveled “on a government steamer to collect lepers for segregation in the colony at Culion”; and, Calcutta, he observed, “has much elephantiasis, and the ships bring to it diseases of all sorts from ports throughout the East.”