Dr. Freeman Allen
I am working on a book. I know it’s cliche-ish. I’m sure every blogger out there is “working on a book”.
I was poking around in the stacks at the main Harvard library, as I do in my free time, when I came across a small pamphlet about this guy Dr. Freeman Allen. Turns out he was the first appointed anesthetist at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Before there were anesthetists. Before there was a department of anesthesia or a specialty of anesthesia. Plus, he was the grandson of Harriet Beecher Stowe. How come I’d never heard of him?
I started writing about Dr. Allen, but soon discovered I had either a very long article or a very short book. Here are a few interesting things about him:
His father was an episcopal minister. No one else in his family was a doctor.
He married the “girl next door” who lived 2 blocks from him on Beacon Street in Boston, in the house that today is a museum called “The Gibson House” that is open for visitors.
He was mentored by members of the Warren family, the guys that founded Harvard Medical School, MGH, the Brigham, and the AMA.
He climbed mountains for fun.
He gave himself yellow fever as part of the experiments during the Spanish-American war that led to the eradication of that disease.
I have started to expand my historical research to include friends and associates of Dr. Freeman’s, the clubs he belonged to in college, where he travelled, what he published. Why would a Boston Brahmin with a double Harvard education and every opportunity decide to specialize in a field in which there was no field? Anesthesia during Freeman’s time (1900-1930) was done by the interns, the medical students, or the nurses. He could have had a long and comfortable life as a member of the surgical elite of Boston.
Does it sound interesting? Will I have any readers other than my mother and the two medical history buffs still alive? I dunno. But I’m doing it anyway.