Person:Ephraim McDowell (2)

Dr. Ephraim McDowell
d.25 Jun 1830
m. 17 Jan 1754
  1. Sarah McDowell1755 - Abt 1775
  2. Magdelena McDowell1755 -
  3. Maj. John McDowell1757 - 1835
  4. James McDowell1760 - 1843
  5. William McDowell1762 -
  6. Samuel McDowell1764 - 1830
  7. Martha McDowell1766 - 1835
  8. Col. Joseph McDowell1768 - 1856
  9. Dr. Ephraim McDowell1771 - 1830
  10. Mary McDowell1774 - 1822
  11. Caleb Wallace McDowell1776 - 1811
  12. Andrew Reid McDowell1778 -
  • HDr. Ephraim McDowell1771 - 1830
  • WSarah ShelbyEst 1775 -
Facts and Events
Name Dr. Ephraim McDowell
Gender Male
Birth? 11 Nov 1771 Augusta County, Virginia
Marriage to Sarah Shelby
Death? 25 Jun 1830
Reference Number? Q978991?

Ephraim McDowell was one of the Early Settlers of Augusta County, Virginia


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the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia
Ephraim McDowell (November 11, 1771 – June 25, 1830) was an American physician and pioneer surgeon. The first person to successfully remove an ovarian tumor, he has been called "the father of ovariotomy" as well as founding father of abdominal surgery.

Biography of Ephraim McDowell

The following was copied from Wikipedia:


Ephraim McDowell was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, the ninth child of Samuel and Mary McDowell. His father was a veteran of the French and Indian War and a colonel during the American Revolution. In 1784 Samuel McDowell was appointed land commissioner and moved his family to Danville, Kentucky. There, he presided over ten conventions that resulted in the drafting of the Kentucky Constitution.[1]

Ephraim McDowell received his early education at the classical seminary of Worley and James, then spent three years as a medical student under Dr. Alexander Humphreys in Staunton, Virginia. He attended lectures in medicine at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, from 1793 to 1794 and studied privately with John Bell. He never received a diploma, but in 1825, the University of Maryland conferred on him an honorary M.D. degree.[1]

In 1795, he returned from Scotland, settled in Danville, Kentucky and began his practice as a surgeon. In 1802, he married Sarah Shelby, daughter of Isaac Shelby, war hero and twice governor of Kentucky. They had two sons and four daughters.[1]

Dr. McDowell played a prominent role in his community. He was a founder of Trinity Episcopal Church in Danville, donating the land for its first building. He was also a founder and original corporator of Centre College in Danville. Dr. McDowell became a member of the Philadelphia Medical Society in 1817. [1]

One of his most famous patients was James K. Polk, for whom he removed a urinary stone and repaired a hernia.[2]

Dr. McDowell was the great great grandfather of General John Campbell Greenway, whose statue was placed in the National Statuary Hall Collection by the state of Arizona in 1930. He was cousin to woman's suffrage leader Madeline McDowell Breckinridge.

In June 1830 Dr. McDowell was stricken with an acute attack of violent pain, nausea, and fever. He died on June 25, most likely a victim of appendicitis. [3] His wife died 18 years later. They were buried at "Traveller's Rest" the homestead of Isaac Shelby south of Danville, but reinterred in 1879 near a monument dedicated to him in Danville.[1]

First Ovariotomy

On December 13, 1809, Dr. McDowell was called to see Jane Todd Crawford in Green County, Kentucky, 60 miles (97 km) from Danville. Her physicians thought that Mrs. Crawford was beyond term pregnant. Dr. McDowell diagnosed an ovarian tumor. She begged him to keep her from a slow and painful death. He then described her condition and that an operation for cure had never been performed. He said that the best surgeons in the world thought it impossible. Mrs. Crawford said she understood and wanted to proceed. Dr. McDowell told her he would remove the tumor if she would travel to his home in Danville. She agreed and rode the sixty miles on horseback.[4]

On Christmas morning, 1809, Dr. McDowell began his operation. The surgery was performed without benefit of anesthetic or antisepsis, neither of which was then known to the medical profession. The tumor Dr. McDowell removed weighed 22.5 pounds (10.2 kg). He determined that it would be difficult to remove it completely. So he tied a ligature around the fallopian tube near the uterus and cut open the tumor. He described the tumor as the ovarium and fimbrious part of the fallopian tube very much enlarged. The whole procedure took 25 minutes. Mrs. Crawford made an uncomplicated recovery. She returned to her home in Green County 25 days after the operation and lived another 32 years. This was the first successful removal of an ovarian tumor in the world. [5]

All attempts at abdominal exploration before 1809 had resulted in peritonitis and death. So, understanding the procedures taken by Dr. McDowell is important. Descriptions of McDowell include phrases like "neat and clean" or "scrupulously clean." He was not only neat, but meticulous. In his report on the operation, he described the removal of blood from the peritoneal cavity and bathing the intestines with warm water. [4]

Dr. McDowell did not publish a description of his procedure until 1817, after he had performed two more such operations. This was widely criticised in the English surgical literature. There is evidence that he performed at least twelve operations for ovarian pathology.[6]

"Having never seen so large a substance extracted, nor heard of an attempt, or success attending any operation such as this required, I gave to the unhappy woman information of her dangerous situation. The tumor appeared full in view, but was so large we could not take it away entire. We took out fifteen pounds of a dirty, gelatinous looking substance. After which we cut through the fallopian tube, and extracted the sac, which weighed seven pounds and one half. In five days I visited her, and much to my astonishment found her making up her bed."


In 1879, a monument in his honor was erected by the Medical Society of Kentucky in Danville.[1] In 1929, Isaac Wolfe Bernheim donated a bronze statue of McDowell by Charles Henry Niehaus to the state of Kentucky for placement in the U.S. Capitol's National Statuary Hall Collection. In 1959, a United States stamp was issued in his honor.[8] Dr. McDowell's house, office, and apothecary in Danville are preserved as a museum and are designated a National Historic Landmark. [9] Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center in Danville is named in his honor.

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Ephraim McDowell. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WeRelate, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.
  1.   Ephraim McDowell, in Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.