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Dr Swan Moses Burnett
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Birth: Mar. 16, 1847
New Market
Jefferson County
Tennessee, USA
Death: Jan. 18, 1906
District of Columbia
District Of Columbia, USA

Swan Moses Burnett was born in New Market, Jefferson County, Tennessee on March 16th, 1847. When he was twelve a knee injury left him lame for life and prevented him from active service in the Civil War. In 1866-67 he attended the Miami Medical College at Cincinnati, Ohio and continued his education at the Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York City from which he received a degree in medicine in 1870. For the next five years he practiced medicine as a general practitioner in Knoxville, Tennessee. In 1873, he married Frances Eliza Hodgson, and in 1875 he and his wife moved to Europe where Burnett spent the next two years in London and Paris studying ophthalmology and otology. This became his specialty when he returned to America in 1876 and settled in Washington D.C. In 1878, he founded the eye and ear clinic at the Central Dispensary. Also at this time he became lecturer on ophthalmology and otology at Georgetown University, Washington and became ophthalmic and aural surgeon to the Garfield, Providence, and childrens hospitals in the city. He became clinical professor in 1883, attained full professorship in 1885, and received his Ph.D. in 1890.

Largely considered to be a physician, his contributions to the field of anthropology are nonetheless notable both in his personal interests and in regard to his work as an ophthalmologist. He had a passion for Japanese art and culture and wrote extensively on the subject for the Craftsman, the Connoisseur, and the International Studio. Also during his time in Washington he conducted studies on how race influences the causation of diseases of the eyes and ears. These studies contain many original observations concerning the African-American population of Washington that had never before been recorded. These constitute a significant contribution to the field of anthropology, and Swan Moses Burnett is noted as such in the American Anthropologists and Anthropology Newsletter (September 2003).

He was a teacher at Washington Postgraduate Medical School as well as president and fellow founder of the Emergency Hospital (1881) along with Dr. Louis Marple and Dr. James E. Morgan. There he founded a memorial library (The Lionel Library) in honor of his son that died early in life. Burnett was elected president of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia in 1889. He was a contributor to the American Journal of Ophthalmology and a collaborator on the National Medical Dictionary. Burnett was a prolific writer. Some of his principal works include: A translation of E. Landolts Manual of Examination of the Eye (1879); Study of Refraction from a New Viewpoint (1905); A Theoretical and Practical Treatise on Astigmatism (1887); the section on Diseases of the Cornea and Sclear in De Schhweinitz and Randall, American textbook of Diseases of the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat (1899); The Principles of Refraction in the Human Eye, based on the Laws of Conjugate Foci (1904); as well as 64 distinct articles on the diseases of the eye and ear.

In addition to this, Burnett was a member of many prestigious organizations which included: the Anthropological Society; the American Ophthalmological and Ontological Society; the Washington Academy of Sciences; and of the Philosophical Society.

Swan Moses Burnett was a physician whose skills as a surgeon and researcher earned him the respect of his peers in colleagues. He had a kind and open manner and a clear and concise lecturing ability that made him a compelling speaker and an impressive teacher.

Burnett was divorced from Francis Hodgson in 1898 and married Margeret Brady in 1904. He died of chronic myocaritis on January 18, 1909, and survived only by his 2nd wife and his son Vivian.

Parents: John Monroe and Lydia Ann (Peck) Burnett.
Family links: 
  John Monroe Burnett (1811 - 1880)
  Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett (1849 - 1924)
  Margeret Brady Burnett (1852 - 1929)
  Lionel Burnett (1874 - 1890)*
  Vivian Burnett (1876 - 1937)*
*Calculated relationship
Rock Creek Cemetery
District of Columbia
District Of Columbia, USA
Plot: Section E, Lot 301, Site 9
Created by: Marc Thayer, III
Record added: Jul 23, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 39782320
Dr Swan Moses Burnett
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Dr Swan Moses Burnett
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Dr Swan Moses Burnett
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