Eakins Countdown: 35 Days

In 1884, the same year Gross died, J. Thomas Scharf and Thompson Westcott published their fat 3-volume History of Philadelphia. Their glowing entry on the Doctor goes on for several pages (vol. ii; pp. 1623-1625) and there’s a full-page engraved portrait. (It’s engraver, Samuel Sartain, was the son of William Sartain, one of the members of the Selecting Committee who kept The Gross Clinic out of the art display at the Centennial.) Scharf and Westcott skipped over the Eakins connection, but provided a rich and heady description of the man:

He felt that in every case he had a triple duty to perform: first, and above all, to his patient; secondly, to his pupils, and lastly to himself. … As an operator he did his work well, often brilliantly, never recklessly, or for the sake of eclat. It is his boast that he never lost a patient on the table. … His favorite operation is the lateral, performed with the knife, guided by an ordinary staff. He was always cool and self-possessed. No man ever saw his hand tremble, or his eye express fear. His knowledge of topographical anatomy never fails him, and this knowledge is one of the causes of his self possession in the use of the knife.” Dr. Gross can be justly dominated one of Philadelphia’s most distinguished citizens, as he is one of America’s most famous physicians. Whether as surgeon, author, or lecturer, his individuality has been strongly impressed upon the history of the country’s progress and broadening thought. He has not simply kept pace with the advanced stride of scientific research, he has been the intrepid pioneer into many other unexplored regions. As a result, the technical and general literature of the century has not only been enriched, but the heart of humanity has been made much happier. With him, science and philanthropy have been handmaidens.

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