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J. Marion Sims
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Doctor
    (January 25, 1813-November 13, 1883)
    Born in Lancaster County, South Carolina
    Birth name was James Marion Sims
    Physician and surgeon
    Developed a surgical technique to repair vesicovaginal fistulae
    President of the American Medical Association (1876-77)
    Known as 'the father of modern gynecology'
    He developed the technique to repair vaginal fistulae by performing experimental surgery on twelve slave women with the condition who he borrowed from their owners.
    He refused to use anesthesia while performing surgery on them.
    One of the slaves almost died from septicemia when he left a sponge inside her after surgery.
    He tried to prove his theory that neonatal tetanus is caused by the movement of skull bones during protracted births by using a shoemaker's awl to pry into place the skull bones of newborn children of slaves.
    The experiments were uniformly fatal, which he blamed on the 'sloth and ignorance' of the mothers and the midwives attending them.
    Two of his bread and butter operations were removing a woman's ovaries to treat hysteria or other nervous diseases and performing clitoridectomies to prevent 'improper' sexual behavior. (In fairness to Sims, these operations were considered standard treatment in the late 19th century.)
    Due to controversy over his experiments on slaves, a statue honoring him was moved from Central Park to his burial site in Green-Wood Cemetery (2018).
    After a series of operations that failed to correct the slaves' fistulae, he considered giving up, but the women encouraged him to continue. (Which may be less a reflection on Sims' character than evidence of just how godawful living with a vaginal fistula was.)
    After he perfected the fistula operation, he did not use anesthesia when operating on his first batches of white patients either.
    He invented an improved speculum, which he originally made from a pewter spoon.
    He was a founder of America's first hospital for women and first hospital for cancer patients.
    He organized an ambulance corps to treat wounded soldiers during the Franco-Prussian War.

Credit: C. Fishel


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