John Martyn Harlow: An obscure country physician?

Malcolm MACMILLAN
School of Psychology, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, Australia

If John Martyn Harlow is known at all in the neurosciences, it is because he was the Cavendish, Vermont, physician who attended Phineas Gage and then followed up his case. Although Harlow's skill in treating Gage and his insightful accounts of the changes in Gage's personality are fairly well recognized, Harlow himself is usually the shadowy figure caught by the self-depreciatory characterization of my sub-title.

Harlow, born in 1819, in Whitehall, New York of Puritan and farming stock, trained and worked as a teacher before he was graduated MD in 1844 from Jefferson Medical College. At Jefferson he was exposed to phrenological doctrine, the influence of which is evident in his appreciation of the Gage case. Cavendish was his first practice but we know nothing other than Gage about his medical work there. In 1857 Harlow gave up his practice on health grounds but resumed it in 1861, in Woburn, Massachusetts, where he spent the rest of his life. He was very active in medical, political, church, business and educational affairs. On his death in 1907 the New York Times said he was one of the "most prominent surgeons of New England" and "the wealthiest man in Woburn."

In this paper I will use manuscripts, illustrations, and other little known material to evaluate Harlow's contributions to medicine and to Massachusetts' medical, political, and civic life.


Session IV -- Mid to Late 19th Century
Monday, 12 June 2000, 4:00 - 4:30 pm

Fifth Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)

Providence, Rhode Island, USA