Skip to main content

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Visitor Restrictions, Resources, and Updates

Explore URMC
menu

Edward C. Atwater, M.D.

Introduction

Edward C. Atwater, M.D., was a member of the Dept. of Medicine (rheumatology) in the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry and on the staff of Strong Memorial Hospital from 1956 until his retirement in 1990. The Research Papers of Edward C. Atwater, M.D. is a collection of material representative of Atwater’s parallel career as a medical historian. The collection includes correspondence, reprints and various kinds of research material (described below). This collection is not to be confused with the Atwater Family Papers held by the Special Collections Department at Rush Rhees Library, the University of Rochester. Dr. Atwater’s research materials were presented to the Edward G. Miner Library in the autumn of 2016. Processing of the collection was completed in January 2017. The Atwater collection consists of fourteen boxes occupying nine linear feet.

Edward C. Atwater, M.D.

Edward C. Atwater, M.D., 1973

Biography

Edward Congdon Atwater was born on February 6, 1926 in Rochester, N.Y., but was raised in Batavia, Genesee County, N.Y. He was the son of Edward Perrin Atwater (1902-1967), a bank executive, and Rowena Marsh Washburn (1899-1992). Atwater attended grammar school locally and received his secondary education at Ridley College, a boarding school in St. Catharines, Ontario. After graduation from Ridley in 1944, Atwater was drafted into the United States Army. He served in Europe with the 101st Infantry Regiment of the 26th Division for the duration of the war. On his return to civilian life, Atwater attended the University of Rochester to study history. After graduation in 1950, Atwater enrolled at Harvard Medical School, from which he graduated in 1955.

Department of Medicine housestaff, July 1955Atwater returned to Rochester in 1955 to begin an internship and residency at Strong Memorial Hospital, the teaching hospital of the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry. He was a USPHS Trainee in Arthritis at Strong Memorial Hospital from 1957 to 1959, and in 1959 was appointed Chief Resident in Medicine. Atwater’s entire career was spent on the faculty of the School of Medicine. He was appointed Instructor in Medicine in 1959, and subsequently Senior Instructor in Medicine (1962), Assistant Professor of Medicine (1964), and Associate Professor of Medicine (1969-90).

Pictured left: Department of Medicine house staff, July 1955. Edward Atwater at top; Chairman William McCann, M.D., directly below; L. Robert Best, M.D., in front row.

The interest in history that began during Atwater’s undergraduate years was transformed during the course of his professional career into an interest in the history of medicine. In 1970 Atwater received a Josiah Macy, Jr. Fellowship to spend the 1970/71 academic year in Baltimore at the Institute of the History of Medicine of Johns Hopkins University. At the time, the Institute was under the direction of Lloyd Stevenson, with whom Atwater formed a lasting friendship reflected in the correspondence series of this collection. Atwater completed his studies in 1974 and was awarded a master’s degree in the history of medicine from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In 1977 Atwater received an additional appointment as Associate Professor of History of Medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, the first such appointment in the school’s history.

Atwater’s interest in the history of medicine was paralleled by an avid interest in collecting books, journals and ephemera to support his historical research. Over several decades Atwater assembled a large personal of library of primary and secondary works focusing on the history of physical diagnosis and on American popular medicine. Simultaneously, Atwater played an important role in the development of the rare book collections at the Edward G. Miner Library, culminating in his presentation in 1994 of the first part of what would become the Edward C. Atwater Collection, M.D. of American Popular Medicine, a collection of more than 10,000 books, periodicals, manuscripts and print ephemera. This collection is described in an annotated catalog published by the University of Rochester Press in three-volumes between 2001 and 2008.

Atwater was an active member of the Rochester Academy of Medicine, the Medical Society of the County of Monroe, the American College of Rheumatology, and the American Association for the History of Medicine (in which he served as secretary-treasurer between 1983 and 1989). He also served in an editorial capacity for the Bulletin of the history of medicine and the Journal of the history of medicine & allied sciences. Atwater served on the Bicentennial National Historical Advisory Committee for Harvard Medical School (1980-83); the grants review and other committees for the Jason A. Hannah Foundation, Toronto (1982-90); the History of Medicine Study Section of the National Institutes of Health (1979-80, chair 1989-90); and as a director of the Gleason Foundation, Rochester, N.Y. (1991-2007). Atwater is the author of fifty-three journal articles and book chapters on medicine and the history of medicine, as well as numerous book reviews and editorials (see bibliographies, Box 5, Folder 1). His most recent publication, Women medical doctors in the United States before the Civil War: a biographical dictionary, was published by the University of Rochester Press in 2016.

In 1950 Edward C. Atwater married Ruth Mary Prole. They had two children: Rebecca Wolcott Briccetti (b. 1958) and Edward Washburn Atwater (b. 1960). Dr. Atwater suffered a stroke and died at Strong Memorial Hospital on April 27, 2019, at age 93.

Organization of the Collection

Correspondence (Boxes 1-4)

Though the range of correspondence in this series spans the years 1955-2010, the bulk of the material here was written between 1968 and 1989. There is some personal correspondence. Most of the material in these files, however, pertains either to activity within the Rheumatology Unit of the Dept. of Medicine, or to Atwater’s work as a medical historian. There is considerable correspondence from Ralph Jacox, M.D. when he was in England (1969-70), many letters from Lloyd Stevenson (both as friend and a colleague), and considerable correspondence generated during Atwater’s tenure as secretary-treasurer of the American Association for the History of Medicine (1983-89).

Reprints (Boxes 5, 6)

The reprints in this series are Atwater’s medical historical publications. Box 5 contains journal articles, and Box 6 books and book chapters. Atwater’s medical reprints are contained im Box 14, Folder 3.

Notes on Pre-Civil War Female Medical Graduates (Boxes 7, 8)

Atwater spent many years researching women who graduated from medical school in the United States prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. Ultimately, he identified more than 220 women who graduated from American medical schools before 1862. Much of the material that he gathered on these women is contained in these files. The end product of Atwater’s research was his book entitled Women medical doctors in the United States before the Civil War: a biographical dictionary, published by the University of Rochester Press in 2016 (see Box 6).

Cards on Physicians in Rochester & Monroe County (Boxes 9-11)

Box nine contains hundreds of 5” x 7” inch cards for physicians who practiced medicine in Rochester, Monroe County, and much of the surrounding region – primarily during the 19th century. Atwater included every variety of practitioner who settled and practiced in the region, i.e., allopaths, homoeopaths, eclectics, botanics, magnetic physicians, etc. Boxes 10-11 contain keysort cards that Atwater made during the 1970s in an early attempt to create a database of these physicians. There is some overlap between the two card sets. The key punch cards, however, focus more on physicians who practiced after the Civil War. Much of the data on these cards went into the series of articles on the history of the local medical profession that Atwater published during the 1970s and early 1980s (see Box 5). These cards remain a data-rich resource that should continue to be useful to medical historians.

Additional Research Notes (Boxes 12-14)

Box 12 contains many (but not all) the material that Atwater compiled during his research on figures important in 19th-century American popular medicine. This material proved particularly useful in the compilation of An Annotated catalogue of the Edward C. Atwater, M.D. collection of American popular medicine and health reform (3 vols., Rochester, N.Y.: Universty of Rochester Press, 2001-08). The files contained in Box 13 contain notes on  a wide variety of topics relevant to medical practice in Rochester and Monroe County during the 19th century. Box 14, Folder 2 contains the results of a 1980 survey Atwater made of forty local physicians regarding the “professional ability” of 119 physicians who were prominent in Rochester between 1925 and 1931. “My purpose,” Atwater wrote in the cover-letter to the survey, “is to identify cohorts within the professional community of 50 years ago.”

Edward C. Atwater, mid-1970s

Edward C. Atwater, mid-1970s

BOX ONE

  • Folder 1: Correspondence (1955-67)
  • Folder 2: Correspondence (1968)
  • Folder 3: Correspondence (1969)
  • Folder 4: Correspondence (Jan 1970)
  • Folder 5: Correspondence (Feb 1970)
  • Folder 6: Correspondence (Mar 1970)
  • Folder 7: Correspondence (Apr 1970)
  • Folder 8: Correspondence (May-Jul 1970)
  • Folder 9: Correspondence (Sep-Oct 1970)
  • Folder 10: Correspondence (Nov-Dec 1970)
  • Folder 11: Correspondence (Jan-Mar 1971)
  • Folder 12: Correspondence (Apr-May 1971)
  • Folder 13: Correspondence (Jun-Dec 1971)
  • Folder 14: Correspondence (Jan-May 1972)
  • Folder 15: Correspondence (Jun-Dec 1972)
  • Folder 16: Correspondence (Jan-Jun 1973)
  • Folder 17: Correspondence (Jul-Dec 1973)
  • Folder 18: Correspondence (1974)
     

BOX TWO

  • Folder 1: Correspondence (1975)
  • Folder 2: Correspondence (1976)
  • Folder 3: Correspondence (1977)
  • Folder 4: Correspondence (1978-79)
  • Folder 5: Correspondence (1980)
  • Folder 6: Correspondence (1981)
  • Folder 7: Correspondence (Jan-May 1982)
  • Folder 8: Correspondence (Jun-Dec 1982)
  • Folder 9: Correspondence (Jan-May 1983)
  • Folder 10: Correspondence (Jun-Dec 1983)
  • Folder 11: Correspondence (Jan-Jun 1984)
     

BOX THREE

  • Folder 1: Correspondence (Jul-Sep 1984)
  • Folder 2: Correspondence (Oct-Dec 1984)
  • Folder 3: Correspondence (Jan-Apr 1985)
  • Folder 4: Correspondence (May-Sep 1985)
  • Folder 5: Correspondence (Oct-Dec 1985)
  • Folder 6: Correspondence (Jan-Jun 1986)
  • Folder 7: Correspondence (Jul-Dec 1986)
  • Folder 8: Correspondence (Jan-May 1987)
  • Folder 9: Correspondence (Jun-Dec 1987)
  • Folder 10: Correspondence (Jan-Mar 1988)
  • Folder 11: Correspondence (Apr 1988)
  • Folder 12: Correspondence (May-Dec 1988)
  • Folder 13: Correspondence (1989)
     

BOX FOUR

  • Folder 1: Correspondence (1990)
  • Folder 2: Correspondence (1991)
  • Folder 3: Correspondence (1992-94)
  • Folder 4: Correspondence (1995-96)
  • Folder 5: Correspondence (1997-2010)
  • Folder 6: Correspondence (undated)
     

BOX FIVE

  • Folder 1: ECA’s  curriculum vitae & bibliographies
  • Folder 2: Folder 2: William Hickling Prescott, 1796-1859: an early report of iritis with arthritis (1966)
  • Folder 3: The lifelong sickness of Francis Parkman (1967)
  • Folder 4: Rochester and the water-cure, 1844-1854 (1970)
  • Folder 5: Aesculapius meets Everard Peck: 150 years of medical books and learning in Rochester (1971)
  • Folder 6: Morrill Wyman and the aspiration of acute pleural effusions, 1850: a letter from New England (1972)
  • Folder 7: The medical profession in a new society, Rochester, New York, 1811-60 (1973)
  • Folder 8: Some pioneer practitioners of Rochester, 1811-1830 (1974)
  • Folder 9: The profession organizes: Monroe County Medical Society, 1821 (1974)
  • Folder 10: The profession organizes: Monroe County Medical Society, 1821 – Part II (1974)
  • Folder 11: A rural practitioner: Dr. Samuel Beach Bradley, 1796-1880 (1974)
  • Folder 12: Rochester’s early hospitals (1975)
  • Folder 13: Hulbert Harrington Warner and the perfect pitch: sold hope; made millions (1975)
  • Folder 14: The heyday of homoeopathy in Rochester, 1880-1920 (1975)
  • Folder 15: Medical politics in Rochester, 1865-1925: hospitals, clubs and specialists (1976)
  • Folder 16: The physicians of Rochester, N.Y., 1860-1910: a study in professional history, II (1977)
  • Folder 17: “Squeezing Mother Nature”: experimental physiology in the United States before 1870 (1978)
  • Folder 18: The protracted labor and brief life of a country medical school: the Auburn Medical Institution, 1825 (1979)
  • Folder 19: Medical schools: how should we write their histories? An essay review (1980)
  • Folder 20: A look at the “Dozen and One Club” (1982)
  • Folder 21: Women in medicine (1982)
  • Folder 22: “Making fewer mistakes”: a history of students and patients (1983)
  • Folder 23: History of area’s hospitals (1984)
  • Folder 24: Lyons Hospital (1984)
  • Folder 25: “Kohn here” (1984)
  • Folder 26: Of grandes dames, surgeons and hospitals: Batavia, New York, 1900-1940 (1990)
  • Folder 27: The area’s first women doctors (1991)
     

BOX SIX

  • Financial subsidies for American medical education before 1940 [master’s thesis].  Baltimore, 1974.
  • “A modest but good institution … And besides, there is Mr. Eastman,” IN: To each his farthest star.  Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Medical Center, 1975.
  • “Commentary: Is nonintellectualism invading the medical school?” IN: Teaching the history of medicine at a medical center. Ed. by J.J. Bylebyl.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980, p. 99-102..
  • “Internal medicine,” IN: The education of American physicians. Ed. by R.L. Numbers.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.
  • “Hospitals in the USA, general,” IN: The Oxford companion to medicine. Ed. by J. ,Walton et al.  Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1986, v. 1, pp. 558-565.
  • “Women, surgeons, and a worthy enterprise: the general hospital comes to upper New York State,” IN: The American general hospital. Ed. by D.E. Long & J. Golden.  Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1989.
  • As some saw it: interviews recorded under the sponsorship of the George W. Corner History of Medicine Society, University of Rochester, 1971-1992.  Rochester, N.Y.: The Society, 1992.
  • “Clinical education since Flexner or whatever became of William Osler?” IN: Beyond Flexner: medical education in the twentieth century. Ed. by B. Barzansky & N. Gevitz.  New York: Greenwood Press, 1992.
  • [Contributions to:] An Annotated catalogue of the Edward C. Atwater Collection of American popular medicine. Comp. & annotated by C. Hoolihan.  Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press, 2001-08.  3 vols.
  • Some boys of Ridley: the Class of 1944. Rochester, N.Y.: publisher not identified], 2011.
  • Women medical doctors in the United States before the Civil War: a biographical dictionary.  Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press, 2016.
     

Edward C. Atwater, 2001

Edward C. Atwater, M.D., 2001

BOX SEVEN

Notes on women who graduated from medical school in the United States pre-1862: Surnames A-HO

BOX EIGHT

Notes on women who graduated from medical school in the United States pre-1862: Surnames HU-Z

BOX NINE

5 x 7” cards listing physicians in Rochester & Monroe County from the end of the 18th through the end of the 19th-centuries, Surnames A-Z

BOX TEN

8 x 5” keysort cards listing physicians in Rochester & Monroe County: Females, surnames A-Z; Males, surnames A-H

BOX ELEVEN

8 x 5” keysort cards listing physicians in Rochester & Monroe County: Males, surnames I-Z

BOX TWELVE

  • Folder 2: ECA research proposals (undated)
  • Folder 3: Notes for the catalog of American popular medicine, entries A-B
  • Folder 4: Notes for the catalog of American popular medicine, entries C-E
  • Folder 5: Notes for the catalog of American popular medicine, entries F
  • Folder 6: Notes for the catalog of American popular medicine, entries G
  • Folder 7: Notes for the catalog of American popular medicine, entries H-Hew
  • Folder 8: Notes for the catalog of American popular medicine, entries Hollick
  • Folder 9: Notes for the catalog of American popular medicine, entries I-L
  • Folder 10: Notes for the catalog of American popular medicine, entries M
  • Folder 11: Notes for the catalog of American popular medicine, entries N-R
  • Folder 12: Notes for the catalog of American popular medicine, entries S
  • Folder 13: Notes for the catalog of American popular medicine, entries T, V
  • Folder 14: Notes for the catalog of American popular medicine, entries W
  • Folder 15: Notes on 19th-century Monroe County physicians
  • Folder 16: Notes on 19th-century Monroe County physicians. Source of medical degree: Albany Medical College-Fairfield
  • Folder 17: Notes on 19th-century Monroe County physicians. Source of medical degree: Geneva Medical College-Yale
  • Folder 18: Notes on 19th-century Ontario County physicians
     

BOX THIRTEEN

  • Folder 1: Notes on 19th-century Rochester physicians
  • Folder 2: Notes on 19th-century Rochester physicians. Religious affiliations
  • Folder 3: Notes on individual physicians: Backus, Frederick F. Transcriptions of letters to Thurlow Weed
  • Folder 4: Notes on individual physicians: Bradley, Samuel Beach
  • Folder 5: Notes on individual physicians: Colman, Anson. Transcriptions of letters to his wife
  • Folder 6: Notes on individual physicians: Dolley, Sarah
  • Folder 7: Notes on individual physicians: Munn family
  • Folder 8: Notes on individual physicians: Potter, Marion Craig
  • Folder 9: Notes on individual physicians: Sherman, Marcena
  • Folder 10: Notes on individual physicians: Smith, Archelaus G.
  • Folder 11: Notes on the Avon mineral springs
  • Folder 12: Notes on graduates of the New England Female Medical College (Boston)
  • Folder 13: Notes on Syracuse Medical College
     

BOX FOURTEEN

  • Folder 1: Cards describing private and proprietary hospitals of the 19th and early 20th centuries in New York State
  • Folder 2: Survey regarding 119 Rochester physicians, 1925-1931 (1980)
  • Folder 3: ECA’s medical reprints, 1959-80