This biography recounts the remarkable life of a Prussian/Polish Jew who immigrated to the United States as a teenager in the 1850s and became one of the nation's best-known physicians by the turn of the century. Ward reconstructs the life of a medical student in the South at the opening of the Civil War, the adventures of a Confederate surgeon, and the difficulties of a practitioner in Reconstruction South Carolina. Simon Baruch's physician's registers and his correspondence with colleagues afford the reader an immediate sense of the therapeutic dilemmas facing physicians and patients of his era. Baruch's experiences while establishing himself in New York City after 1881 reflect the challenges facing those trying to break into what was then the nation's medical capital - as well as that city's rich opportunities and heady intellectual atmosphere. His energetic campaign for free public baths illustrates one of the most colorful chapters of American social history, as immigrants flooded our cities at the turn of the century. As medical editor of the New York Sun from 1912 to 1918, Baruch touched on most of the health concerns of that period and a few - such as handgun control - that persist to this day.
Patricia Spain Ward, formerly Campus Historian of the University of Illinois at Chicago, is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Medical Humanities at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago.