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Civil War Medicine

April 15, 2014

“Medicine and the Civil War” will be explored by Dr. Robert Hicks, an academic authority on the subject, during a Tuesday, April 22, lecture, the final talk in Angelo State University’s 2013-14 Civil War Lecture Series commemorating the 150th anniversary of the conflict.

Hicks, the William Maul Measey Chair for the History of Medicine and director of the Mutter Museum and Historical Medical Library at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, will speak at 7 p.m. April 22 at Fort Concho’s Stables on Henry O. Flipper Street.  The presentation is open free to the public.

Featured speaker Hicks also directs the F.C. Wood Institute.  Formerly, he supervised exhibits, collections and educational outreach at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia. He has worked with museum-based education and exhibits for more than three decades, primarily as a consultant to historic sites and museums.  This work led Hicks to obtain a doctorate in maritime history from the University of Exeter, United Kingdom.

Concurrent with his museum consulting, Hicks worked for the Commonwealth of Virginia as a senior program manager in criminal justice, providing managerial assistance throughout the state.  Previously, he performed criminal justice work in Arizona, and obtained his B.A. and M.A. in anthropology and archaeology at the University of Arizona.  He also served as a naval officer with the U.S. Naval Security Group.

In the era before an understanding of antibiotics, Civil War physicians faced challenges not only in dealing with battlefield wounds but also in addressing epidemics among soldiers with various childhood diseases such as chicken pox and measles.  Poor camp hygiene and a variable climate, especially in the South, led to a variety of maladies, ranging from dysentery to malaria.  Some estimates place disease, rather than battlefield wounds, as the cause of three in five Union casualties and two in three Confederate casualties.

Despite the challenges, medicine made significant strides during the Civil War with some of the first uses of anesthesia, the development of the triage system for prioritizing battlefield wounds, the improvement in hospitals and the increase in professionalism of the Army Medical Corps.

The Civil War Lecture Series is sponsored by the ASU History Department and supported by Fort Concho; the Office of the ASU Dean of Arts and Sciences; ASU’s Gender Studies Program; the West Texas Collection; the Porter Henderson Library; the Texas Historical Commission; the National Endowment for the Humanities; and the Library of America.  The lecture on Civil War medicine is sponsored by the Fort Concho Foundation, Shannon Health Systems and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.