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Pan-American Exposition of 1901

Biography of Dr. Roswell Park

[Source: Municipality of Buffalo, New York: a History 1720-1923, v. IV, editor-in-chief Henry Wayland Hill, biographical editor Winfield Scott Downs. Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1923.]1


Thumbnail image - Dr. Roswell Park

Roswell Park, M.D., M.A., LL.D. Photo credit: n/a. Source: The Illustrated Buffalo Express. Buffalo, N.Y. : The J. N. Mathews Company, 1901.

Dr. Park's life was so full and rich, his accomplishments so large and many that it will ever remain an example of usefulness, yet there can be no doubt that numerous enterprises, planned for the future of Buffalo University, hospital and city, were uncompleted because of his lack of strength and time to carry them forward to completion. The citizens of Buffalo owe to his memory the fulfillment of his plans. At a meeting held by the Council of the University of Buffalo, February 16, 1914, the following resolution was adopted:

"By the sudden death of Roswell Park, MD, MA, LL.D., the University of Buffalo loses far more than can adequately be expressed in the words of a brief, formal appreciation, such as this tribute of respect must be. It is not for us so much to measure Dr. Park's high service in this community as a public-spirited citizen, as a versatile yet profound toiler in scientific research, or as a writer whose world-wide fame has conferred distinction upon the home of his adoption, or to recognize and declare the great debt the University of Buffalo owes him as its loyal and generous friend and as its constant and tireless champion. He shared our vicissitudes and aspirations for thirty years, ad he lived to be able to say, as he did to this Council twelve hours before his death, that he rejoiced in the signs of an early consummation of the long-cherished hopes of the University's steadfast friends."

Dr. Park was of the ninth generation in New England, of an ancient family, which came into England with "the Conqueror." Sir Robert Parke was the first of the family in New England, who came to Massachusetts in 1630, but soon after moved to Connecticut. Other of Dr. Park's ancestors were Elder Brewster, of the "Mayflowers;" Henry Baldwin, and Colonel Loammi Baldwin, a personal friend of Count Rumford. Six generations of the Park family have had a Roswell, and the son of Dr. Park is the seventh to bear this name. The church, the academy, and the army have chiefly engaged the Parks through several generations, and all three of these callings entered into the life work of Rev. Roswell Park, D.D., father of Dr. Park, of this review.

Rev. Roswell Park was a graduate of the military academy at West Point, 1831, and a graduate of Union College, A.B. He was lieutenant in the engineer corps of the army, but in 1836 he resigned, and was professor of chemistry and natural philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. Later he studied theology, and resigned his professorship to take holy orders, becoming a priest of the Protestant Episcopal church. He was pastor at Woburn, Connecticut. He also resided in Pomfret, Connecticut, and after a sojourn in Europe, resided in Racine, Wisconsin, where he founded Racine College, and was its president from 1852 until 1859. From 1856 until 1863 he was rector of St. Luke's Church in Racine, then removed to Chicago, Illinois, as head of Immanuel Hall, where he remained until his death in 1869, at the age of sixty-two years. He married Mary Brewster Baldwin, who died in 1854, and they were the parents of Dr. Roswell Park, one of America's most famous surgeons, and the principal character of this review.

Dr. Roswell Park was born in Pomfret, Connecticut, May 4, 1852, and died in the city of Buffalo, New York, February 15, 1914. He was educated in private schools at Pomfret; in the grammar school connected with Racine College, Racine, Wisconsin, and at Immanuel Hall, Chicago; also at Racine College, receiving his B.A. in 1872 and MA in 1875. For one year after graduation from Racine College, he taught at Immanuel Hall, Chicago, then entered the medical department of Northwestern University, whence he was graduated MD, class of 1876. He was interne and house physician to Cook County Hospital, and devoted his remaining available time to visiting other hospitals and work in morbid anatomy. In 1879 he was appointed demonstrator of anatomy in the Women's Medical College of Chicago, and in 1880 became adjunct professor of anatomy in the medical department of Northwestern University. In 1883 he resigned to study in Europe, and upon his return from visiting the hospitals of Germany, France and Austria, accepted appointment as lecturer on surgery in Rush Medical college, Chicago, and attending surgeon at the Michael Reese Hospital. Other appointments followed, and in 1892 Lake Forest University bestowed upon him an honorary MD On June 23, 1883, Dr. Park came to the University of Buffalo as professor of surgery, and soon thereafter was appointed surgeon to Buffalo General Hospital. His fame had gone abroad, and he received many flattering offers of high position in other cities, but he was loyal to the University of Buffalo, and declined all of these honors. He accepted an invitation to lecture at the Army Medical School at Washington, having been appointed honorary professor of surgery to that institution, and he served by appointment of President Roosevelt as one of the board of visitors at West Point Military Academy. When the Medical reserve corps was formed, he was one of the first surgeons to receive appointment in this branch of the army, and as yet the only man to serve as surgeon-in-chief to Buffalo General Hospital. There was one great aim of his life which he never achieved; that was to know the nature of cancer, and though he strove hard to attain it, he was fated not to realize his ambition. His interest in this, however, led to the establishment, first in the University of Buffalo, of the Gratwick Laboratory, which became, in 1911, the New York State Laboratory and Hospital for the Study of Malignant Diseases.

In 1892 Dr. Park delivered the Mutter lectures on "Surgical Pathology," which were published as a volume, a contribution of lasting importance to the professors. In 1895 he published a work of three hundred pages on the "Surgery of the Head and Brain," ad in 1897 a text-book on the "History of Medicine," based on lectures delivered during 1893 in the University of Buffalo. He was the editor and principal contributor to a two-volume textbook, "Surgery by American Authors," 1896, which ran through three editions, and soon afterward a large textbook, his magnum opus, on "General Surgery." He wrote a great deal for encyclopedias of surgery, pathology and therapeutics, and contributed extensively to current medical literature. Some of the best of his shorter essays, philosophic and historic in nature, are to be found in his book, "The Evil Eye and Other Essays" (1913, with a second edition in 1914). In 1901 the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo was held, Dr. Park being made the medical director of the Exposition, of its sanitation, its hospitals, and its medical staff. The International Congress on School Hygiene convened in Buffalo in the summer of 1913, Dr. Park being chairman of the committee on arrangements. He was president of the Medical Society of the State of New York; president of the American Surgical Association; member of the French Society of Surgery; the Germany Congress of Surgeons; the Italian Surgical Society, and other foreign associations, and also was chairman of the American committee of the International Society of Surgery. In 1895 he received from Harvard University the honorary degree of MA, and in 1902 Yale University conferred upon him the degree of LL.D. He was brigade surgeon of the New York National guard, holding the rank of major.

Dr. Park married, in 1880, Martha Prudence Durkee, of Chicago, Illinois, who died in 1899. Dr. and Mrs. Park were the parents of two sons: Roswell (7), president of Park, Harrison & Thomas of Buffalo; and Julian2, professor of history in the University of Buffalo.


  1. The text of Dr. Park's entry in Municipality of Buffalo, New York: a History 1720-1923, is reproduced here in full. Courtesy of the Robert L. Brown History of Medicine Collection, Health Sciences Library, University at Buffalo.
  2. The papers of Julian Park, who would become the University of Buffalo's Historian and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, are held at the University Archives, University at Buffalo.