The name Nicholas Senn, MD, (1844-1908) is familiar to many Chicagoans and surgeons. Dr. Senn was a world renowned surgeon who practiced in Chicago in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In Chicago, his name has been given to a school (Nicholas Senn High School) and the Newberry Library has a 7,000-volume “Senn Collection.” Dr. Senn would likely have been an active founder of the American College of Surgeons were it not for his death at age 64, just five years before the founding of ACS. He did, however, serve as the first editor-in-chief of Surgery, Gynecology and Obstetrics (SG&O), which became the Journal of the American College of Surgeons (JACS) in 1994.
Among his many honors and accomplishments, Dr. Senn was Surgeon General of the National Guard of Illinois and president and founder of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States National Guard. Born in Switzerland, he was raised in Wisconsin, and studied at Chicago Medical College, which is now Northwestern University Medical School. He became chair of practice of surgery and clinical surgery at Rush Medical College. During his distinguished career he served as president of the American Surgical Association, the American Medical Association, and many other surgical and medical societies. Among the numerous scientific undertakings for which Dr. Senn is known are experimental research, particularly with decalcified bone plates and with pioneering work in plastic surgery and head and neck oncology. He has been much quoted in and wrote several textbooks, and had a major influence on the field of surgery throughout the course of his career
That Dr. Senn had a surgical society named after him, during his lifetime, is some evidence of the honor and esteem he elicited.
John Hollister, MD, (1824 - 1912) was a founder of and professor at Chicago Medical College and, coincidentally, the father-in-law of ACS founder Franklin Martin, MD, FACS. Dr. Hollister was himself an eminent surgeon in Chicago, the secretary of the board of Chicago Medical College, a professor of Dr. Martin and a senior colleague of Dr. Senn. At first not happy with Dr. Martin’s pursuit of his only daughter, Isabelle, Dr. Hollister ultimately changed his mind and approved of his son-in-law, purchasing for the young married couple their first home.
For more information on Franklin Martin’s relationship with Nicholas Senn and the Hollister family, see the Joy of Living and visit the ACS Archives.