Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dr. Gustavus Richard Brown

Remember back when I discussed some of the folks who attended George Washington as he was on his death bed? We had Father Leonard Neal and Dr. James Craik, all from the Port Tobacco area. There was one other from Port Tobacco: Dr. Gustavus Richard Brown.

Brown was born in 1748 and died September 30, 1804 and is credited with not only attending to Washington, but he also built the mansion Rose Hill, which we previously discussed as being the home of Miss Olivia Floyd and that scary Blue Dog. Brown studied medicine in Edinburgh, graduating in 1768. In addition to medicine, he was elected to the legislature of Maryland and served as a judge. Additionally, he was a member of the Maryland state convention of 1788 to ratify the U. S. Constitution. He is credited with opening a hospital for the inoculation of smallpox in June of 1776.

There was some controversy surrounding the diagnosis of Washington as he lay ill. A third attending physician was Dr. Elisha Dick. Craik and Brown were certain the General suffered from quinsy, a tonsil related illness and, according to the best practices of the time, the “bled” him several times. Dr. Dick's opinion was that the symptoms suggested, not quinsy, but a violent inflammation of the membranes of the throat and he suggested a tracheotomy. As we all know, none of this worked and Washington expired. Shortly after Washington’s death, Dr. Brown wrote to Dr. Craik:

Port Tobacco, January 21, 1800
Sir:I have lately met Dr. Dick again in consultation and the high opinion that I formed of him were in conference last month, concerning the situation of our illustrious friend, has been confirmed. You remember how, by his clear reasoning and evident knowledge of the cause of the symptoms, after the examination of the General, he assured us that it was not really quinsy, which we supposed it to be, but a violent inflammation of the membranes of the throat, which it had almost closed, and which if not immediately arrested would result in death. You must remember he was averse to bleeding the General, and I have often thought that if we had acted accordingly to his suggestion, when he said, "he needs all his strength - bleeding will diminish it," and taken no more blood from him, our good friend might have been alive now. But we were governed by the best light we had, we thought we were right, and so we were justified.

It seems our good Dr. Brown was honest enough to admit his error.

1 comment:

Dancing Willow said...

I enjoyed this story. Kudos!