Dr. J.B. Murphy is an iconic figure in the history of the American College of Surgeons. A Founder and leader in the development of the College, he had a brilliant surgical career for decades before the founding of the College. He survived only its first few years of existence, after which the J.B. Murphy Memorial building was built in his honor.
Born in Appleton, WI, he graduated from high school in 1876 and taught school for one year while he began studying medicine with his preceptor, Dr. H. W. Reilly. He graduated from Rush Medical College in 1879, interned at Cook County Hospital in Chicago for one year and began a medical practice with Dr. Edward W. Lee.
After Murphy spent two more years in Europe studying medicine, he served as a lecturer in surgery at Rush Medical School. He ultimately served Rush, Northwestern and the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the three leading medical schools in Chicago, as a Professor of Surgery, from1892 until his death.
Tributes paid to him by other surgical giants after his death, included the following:
“Murphy was beyond question the greatest clinical teacher of his day.”
“...the medical establishment lost one of the ablest surgical teachers and a clinician of the highest rank, one who had contributed much to medicine and surgical science, one whose influence was world-wide.”
—Journal of the American Medical Association, August 19, 1916.
“He made the most simple subjects exciting and the most abstruse subjects clear.”
—Sir Rickman Godlee
Dr. Murphy’s famous clinics, which drew medical students and surgeons from around the world, are memorialized by a famous photograph taken in 1913, the year of the College’s birth.
ACS Archives Highlights is a series showcasing the vibrant history of the American College of Surgeons, its members, and the history of surgery. For further information on our featured highlights, search the Archives Catalog or contact the ACS Archivist.