Willard Parker, an eminent American surgeon, was born at Lyndeborough, N.H., on September 2, 1800, the son of Jonathan and Hannah (Clark) Parker. After receiving his A.B. from Harvard in 1826, Parker served an apprenticeship with two of America's greatest surgeons, John C. Warren and S. D. Townsend, in Boston, earning his medical degree in 1830. He held a series of faculty positions at various medical colleges for the next seven years before settling in New York City for what would prove to be his last job, professor of the principles and practice of surgery in the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Parker held this post until his retirement in 1880, the last ten years serving as professor emeritus.
According to the New York Times, Parker was an unusually skilled surgeon. He was said to be ambidextrous and able to perform surgery equally with either hand. Among his other accomplishments, in 1867 he became the first American to remove a ruptured appendix successfully, and he was the author of several monographs on cancer, including a volume of case histories of breast cancer that was published posthumously in 1885. In addition to building an extensive surgical practice in New York City, Parker served as consulting physician to five urban hospitals during his teaching career. Further, he was extremely active in the associations of the profession, and served as an organizer of the New York Pathological Society, the Society for Widows and Orphans of Medical Men, the New York City Board of Health, and the New York Academy of Medicine, of which he was President in 1856.
Willard Parker was married twice: first, on June 21, 1831, to Caroline Sarah Allen, daughter of Dr. Luther Allen of Stirling, Mass.; second, on May 25, 1844, to Mary Ann (Bissell) Coit, daughter of Josiah and Henrietta (Perkins) Bissell. He had two children by the first marriage and three by the second. One of his sons from the second marriage, Willard Parker Jr., followed his father into medical practice, and a daughter, Mrs. Lindley (d.1870), became a missionary.
Willard Parker died at his home at 41 E. 12th Street in New York City on April 25, 1884. He is buried in New Canaan, Conn., where he owned a farm for many years.