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February 16, 1990

The Journals of Willie A. Lindsay: An Ordinary Nineteenth-Century Physician's Surgical Cases

Author Affiliations

Marlboro, NJ

Marlboro, NJ


edited by Katherine Mandusic McDonell, 216 pp, with illus, $27.50, Indianapolis, Indiana Historical Society, 1989.

JAMA. 1990;263(7):1016. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440070104044

As Katherine McDonell, the editor, states in her introduction, "William A. Lindsay (1795-1876) was an ordinary midwestern physician." Unfortunately, as ordinary as he was, his surgical journals are even more banal. Since Lindsay did not merit a listing in Holloway's Medical Obituaries: American Physicians' Biographical Notices in Selected Medical Journals Before 1907, I was immediately suspect of his impact on midwestern medicine. Not only were his contributions negligible, but it seems Lindsay was every bit a scoundrel and hawker of secret tonics and patent medicines.

Lindsay began writing his four journals (the second is missing and presumed lost) in 1836 and ceased in 1855. However, all of the described cases, except two, took place from 1822 through 1841. In almost every instance, Lindsay reconstructed the operation and the events surrounding it. Whether his memory was faithful to the actual occurrences will forever remain unknown. The vast majority of cases refer