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Memoir

Alonzo Benjain Palmer
History of the University of Michigan 226

Alonzo Benjamin Palmer was born at Richfield, Otsego County, New York on October 6, 1815. His ancestors were of English and Dutch origin. After acquiring a general education in the common schools and academies of his neighborhood, he took up the study of medicine and was graduated in 1839 from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Western District of New York.

He came to Michigan soon after its admission to the Union and opened an office in the village of Tecumseh, where for some ten years he engaged in general practice. His experience as general practitioner in a country not yet cleared or drained was of value to him in preparing his subsequent contributions to medical literature. Two winters of this period he spent attending medical lectures in Philadelphia and New York.

In 1850 he entered into general practice in Chicago, and in 1852 he was City Physician and Medical Adviser to the City Health Officer. This was the season of the cholera epidemic, and Dr. Palmer wrote, as the result of his experience with the disease, a valuable report entitled The Chicago Cholera Epidemic of 1852.

He was appointed this same year Professor of Anatomy in the University of Michigan, but did not enter upon his duties here till two years later. He was then assigned to the combined departments of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, and the Diseases of Women and Children. In 1869 he was transferred to the professorship of Pathology and the Theory and Practice of Medicine, which chair he held until his death eighteen years later. In May, 1861, he was appointed Surgeon of the Second Michigan Infantry.

He was engaged in the first battle of Bull Run and in subsequent operations of his regiment till the following September, when he resigned his commission to resume his duties at the University.

The Department of Medicine and Surgery underwent important modifications during the years of his connection with it, and he was one of the active agents in giving direction to its growth. In 1875 he succeeded Dr. Sager as Dean of the Faculty and held that office, with the exception of a single year, up to the time of his death.

He labored in behalf of larger clinical advantages and increased laboratory facilities, and was foremost in securing in 1878 the extension of the annual session from six months to nine months. Prior to this he had lectured during his vacations in the Berkshire Medical College, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, since 1864; and since 1869 in the Medical School of Maine.

He was an active participant in county, state, national, and international medical associations. He was chairman of the section of Pathology in the Ninth International Medical Congress held in Washington, and was chairman of the section on the Practice of Medicine in the American Medical Association at the time of his death.

His published works include many reports, essays, and lectures. His reputation as a contributor to the literature of medicine rests, however, on his elaborate work entitled "A Treatise on the Science and Practice of Medicine " (2 vv., 1883). As a man Dr. Palmer was conspicuous for the qualities that make a good friend and a good citizen.

He labored to bring the discoveries of medical science to the knowledge of the people at large, and was especially energetic in securing good systems of sanitation and in advocating abstinence from narcotics and alcoholic liquors. He was prominent in the social life of the community and a substantial supporter of the Church and of church work. In 1855 the University of Nashville conferred upon him the honorary degree of Master of Arts; and in 1881 the University of Michigan made him Doctor of Laws.

He died at Ann Arbor, December 23, 1887. In the fall of 1867 he was married to Love M. Root, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, who survived him. At her death, she endowed in his memory the Palmer Ward at the University Hospital.