Dr Joseph Taber Johnson

Dr Joseph Taber Johnson

Lowell, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 12 Mar 1921 (aged 75)
Cherrydale, Arlington County, Virginia, USA
Burial Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, USA
Plot Sec. A Lot 149 Site 5
Memorial ID 82885758 · View Source
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From Transactions of the Southern Surgical Association, Volume 34:

JOSEPH TABER JOHNSON, A.M., Ph.d., M.D., LL.D. 1845-1921

Dr. Joseph Taber Johnson, former President of the Southern Surgical and Gynecological Association, died at his home in Cherrydale, Virginia, March 12,1921, in the seventy-sixth year of his age.

His parents were Lorenzo Dow and Mary (Burgess) Johnson, and he was born in Lowell, Mass., June 30, 1845. He was a descendant of John Alden and Priscilla Mullens, of the Mayflower, and grandson of Jeremiah Johnson, a soldier of the Revolutionary War.

His early education was secured at Rochester Academy, Plymouth County, Mass., 1855-9, and Columbia College (now George Washington University), Washington, D. C, 1860-2.
His degree in medicine was obtained in 1865 from the Medical Department of Georgetown University, and in 1868 from Bellevue. His Master of Arts degree was conferred by Columbia College in 1869. After studying obstetrics in Paris and Vienna, he received in the latter city, in 1871, a diploma in that branch of medicine, The Ph.D. degree was conferred on him by Georgetown University in 1890, and at its 125th anniversary in 1914 he was presented with the honorary degree of LL.D.

His practical professional work in medicine began as an acting assistant surgeon in the United States Army. He was connected with the Freedmen's Hospital—an institution that came into existence at the termination of America's great Civil War—from 1868 to 1873—and coincidently was professor of obstetrics and gynecology in Howard University. This school was also the expression of the United States government for the education and uplift of the recently emancipated negro, the hospital being created for the treatment of his sick, and the two institutions being adjacently located and managed in complement.
He was lecturer on obstetrics in Georgetown University, 1874-6; its professor of obstetrics and gynecology, 1876-1887; its professor of gynecology and abdominal surgery, 1887-1912, thus serving as a teacher in that popular school of medicine thirty-eight successive years. In addition he was president of its faculty, 1883-1897; its vice-president from 1897 to 1912, and president of the medical board and chief gynecologist of the Georgetown University Hospital for several years.

For many years he was the gynecologist to Providence Hospital and at two periods served as gynecological surgeon to Columbia Hospital for Women, the second oldest hospital of the kind in America. He was consulting gynecologist to Emergency Hospital, and from 1887 to 1912 conducted his private hospital for women. It is stated he performed more than three thousand abdominal operations and the first ovariotomy in the District of Columbia. He retired from the active pursuit of the practice of his profession in July, 1915, fifty years after his graduation in medicine.
His membership in medical organizations was large: A member of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia; a founder of the Washington Obstetrical and Gynecological Society and its president in 1887-9; a Fellow of the American Medical Association and chairman of its obstetric section one year; a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society and of the Medical Society of Virginia, of the Washington Philosophical and Anthropological Society, and honorary Fellow of the British Gynecological Society.
With James R. Chadwick and Paul F. Munde he created a desire among those doing gynecological work in America for the creation of a national society in this country for the advancement of the knowledge and treatment of the diseases peculiar to women and of obstetrics. This resulted in the creation of the American Gynecological Society, in 1876, the first of its kind in the history of medicine. He was not only a founder, but was its secretary (1886-1890), its vice-president in 1891 and its president in 1899, serving on its council (1881-5 and 1897) and an honorary Fellow of it from 1915 to the date of his death.

Of our Association he became a Fellow in 1889, was its president ten years later and honorary Fellow from 1914 to the date of his death. It will be noted he was at the same time president of the American Gynecological Society and of the Southern Surgical and Gynecological Association, a distinction, I believe, never enjoyed before or since by anyone.

Entering his professional career at a date so proximate to the time of the work of the pioneers of American gynecology and obstetrics, and associating with several of them, among whom may be mentioned Sims, the Atlees, Peaslee, Emmet, Thomas, Byford, Goodell, Kollock, Battey, Eastman, Dunlop and Reamy, and imbued with the energy often attributed to the soil of New England, he found a field rich for cultivation. Competition was not then so keen in the various cities as today and hospital and college positions offered a greater potentiality for accomplishment and fame. Dr. Johnson made much of them and was from reading and travelling conversant with the steps of progress in these twin branches of medicine in Europe. He was mentally equipped to a remarkable degree and possessed very striking qualities of eloquence and affability. The foregoing facts would of necessity result in his being placed in a leading professional position and such was the result. His diagnostic skill was recognized by very many who believed themselves competent to estimate accurately such matters.

He was well known as a contributor to the science and literature of medicine. More than eighty papers were read and published by him and he contributed to Dennis's System of Surgery that portion entitled "Surgical Diseases of the Fallopian Tubes and Ovaries." Nine of his papers appear in the Transactions of the American Gynecological Society and ten of them in those of this Association. His early writings were largely upon obstetric subjects, but as his work extended proportionately more into gynecology and abdominal surgery, these furnished him themes for a predominant part of his writing.

In referring again to his long service as a teacher, I wish to quote Father Creeden's remarks in presenting Dr. Johnson with the honorary degree of LL.D., as suggestive of the appreciation of his associates and superiors for his teaching qualities. Father Creeden said: "Georgetown honors herself today in honoring the most noted alumnus of her school of medicine, Joseph Taber Johnson, whose persevering and unremitting work of teaching has endeared him to his Alma Mater, whose skilful surgery has indebted to him so many sufferers of mankind, whose words and writings have merited so much from his disciples and from the whole medical profession."

He has served as a bright example of accomplishment, scientifically and morally, in the community, by dint of inherent fine moral fibre, good preliminary training, an invincible energy, recognition of and grasping opportunities, and health sufficient to permit fifty years of work.

It is impossible to estimate even approximately the tremendous benefit to human kind such a life of service affords. Fortunately the estimate is apt to be too small.
He outlived both his wives and was survived by four adult children, one of whom is Dr. L. B. T. Johnson, of Washington, D. C.


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  • Created by: James Gorham
  • Added: 2 Jan 2012
  • Find a Grave Memorial 82885758
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Dr Joseph Taber Johnson (30 Jun 1845–12 Mar 1921), Find a Grave Memorial no. 82885758, citing Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, USA ; Maintained by James Gorham (contributor 47240306) .