Willard Parker papers 1841-1877 (bulk 1861-1869)
Collection Scope and Content Note
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The bulk of the Willard Parker papers concern his activity as a consultant. The collection has been divided into two parts: Case Reports and Correspondence. The Case Reports document surgical practice, and include some postmortem reports (1855 November 20; 1857 December 23; 1864 March 14). The Correspondence Series is comprised of letters from patients describing their cases and letters from colleagues requesting Parker's professional opinion. The most interesting item in the latter category is a letter from Dr. Sylvester Willard of Albany (1855 November 21) describing the final hours of a distinguished colleague, T. Romeyn Beck, the American expert on medical jurisprudence. The cause of Beck's death was apparently a mystery, and Willard asks for Parker's thoughts on the matter, since Parker had been involved in the case of Beck's younger brother some years before.
The saddest and most personal letter is one from a Mrs. Ludlow, a friend and perhaps distant relative of Parker's, who writes concerning the death of her daughter Minnie (1875 April 2) asking: "Do you think each individual's health is ordered by God, or that we are free agents, or that death often occurs from errors of judgment, etc.?" Parker had intended a career in the ministry before his conversion to medicine as a Harvard freshman.