Obituary of Dr. William Warren Greene

Although the heading is missing, this is obviously from a Portland, Maine, paper. The date, Sept 15, 1881, has been pencilled in the margin. Note that they have his birth year wrong. It should be 1831.

William Warren Greene

Yesterday noon a dispatch was received in this city from New York saying briefly that Dr. William Warren Greene of this city had died on the Parthia and was buried at sea the tenth instant. That brief telegram sent a chill to every heart of those who heard of it, and of course the news flashed through the city like wildfire. Dr. Greene was expected home on the 20th, and it was known by his friends that failing to secure passage by the Gallia of the Cunard line, which left Liverpool on the 3d of September for New York, he contented himself with a passage on the Parthia of the same line, which left Liverpool the same day as the Gallia, but is known as a slower boat. Dr. Greene made the outward passage on the Gallia and therefore would have preferred to return in her as he had made many pleasant acquaintances among her officers.

On the 9th of last July the Doctor left Portland for London to attend the International Medical Congress. When he departed he was in high spirits, but singularly enough, expressed himself to the writer as having a presentiment that he might not return. It was the day previous, the 8th, that, standing on the steps of his residence and saying good bye, he remarked this would be his first ocean voyage. He said he had a curious dream the night before to the effect that he was on his way to Europe and that his vessel had collided with another and sank, and he remarked he had an idea that when he came to his death it would be by a collision on the ocean, although he did not anticipate any such fate in the present instance. It is also odd enough that in a letter written to Dr. I. T. Dana of this city, and dated the 22d of August, he said "I never had such perfect and uninterrupted health, every hour, as since in London," and yet in the same letter, speaks of all the late accidents to ocean steamers and says the return voyage appears a serious matter. These presentiments were doomed to be realized, for he died within four days of port, and, a later dispatch states from uremia.

Dr. Greene's birthday is a matter of doubt. In the "History of leading physicians and surgeons of the United States" by Dr. Atkinson, March 1st, 1839, is given as the date. This, of course, is an error. His old school-mates in this city call him about 52 years of age, and, it is possible, he was only 49. He was born in North Waterford, where his father owned a farm. Young Greene attended the Bethel Academy and afterwards studied for a time at the Bridgton Academy. He did not receive a college education but graduated at Ann Arbor in the medical department of the University of Michigan in 1855. Before entering the medical school he studied for a time with Dr. Hunkins at Waterford, and taught the district school. From Waterford he removed to Gray, where he was quite successful in his profession and where, to this day, he had many patients whose faith in him was great. From Gray he removed to Pittsfield, Mass. He had already joined the Maine Medical Society - that event occurring in 1861, - and the Massachusetts Medical Society in 1863. In 1861 he was elected lecturer of the pathology and practice of medicine in the Berkshire Medical College, and professor of surgery in the same institution in 1862. The same year he was elected Dean of the College. These positions he resigned in 1868. In 1867 he was elected professor of surgery in the University of Michigan, but resigned after lecturing one year. In 1866 he was elected professor of surgery in the Maine Medical School and was still holding the position at the time of his death. In 1871 he was elected an honorary member both of the New York State Medical Society and Detroit Academy of Medicine, and a member of the American Medical Society. He was elected and filled the chair of professor of surgery in Long Island Hospital for the years 1873-74. In July, 1880, he was elected President of the Maine Medical Society for the year 1880-81. He was one of the six American surgeons elected to represent this country at the Surgical Congress held at Philadelphia in 1876, and was one of the twelve surgeons from the world at large invited to dine with Sir Jas. Paget, the President of the late International Congress in London. In fact throughout the late Congress he was highly honored by the London surgeons and, at their request, performed several important operations.

In 1868 Dr. Greene removed from Pittsfield to Portland and took up his residence on Congress street, next to Dr. Ludwig's, where he remained several years, and then removed to his late residence on High street. Here his great skill and success in treating the most difficult cases quickly won him a broad recognition, and his patients trooped to him from all parts of the country. It would be fair to say that, although comparatively young, he wore himself out in his profession. His operations were not only quoted in medical and surgical papers of New England but also those of the foreign capitals. His description of his operations for goitre were copied into the London Lancet and called the attention of the leading foreign surgeons to him. He was author of "Litigation of Veins," "Cases of Successful Extirpation of Bronchocole," an article on "Ovariotomy," "Successful Caesaraean Section Operations," "Reduction of Dislocations," and "Cotton Wool Dressings," also of "Greene's Illustrations of Surgery," a medical text book. He took part in the discussions in the late International Congress.

As a medical instructor Dr. Greene stood exceedingly high. His explanations were clear and concise, and his students always referred to his admirable qualities as a teacher. Dr. Greene was a born physician and surgeon. He seemed to have a peculiar intuition as to what was the matter with a patient as soon as he looked at him. As a man he was exceedingly genial and one of the kindest-hearted men that ever lived. It made no odds to him whether his services were wanted for the richest or the poorest man. His ideas seemed to be to alleviate pain. If he had been less generous he would have made more money. He was an exceedingly bold operator but his boldness, and his perfect command of his nerves, were two of his strongest points. He had a great knowledge of literature, and a perfect command of French and German. He was a man whose loss not only Portland, but all New England will feel, while, in this city, he will be mourned as few can hope to be. Dr. Greene was married twice. First to Miss Lizzie Carleton of Waterford, who did not long survive him, and to Miss Lawrence of Yarmouth, who died in 1876, by whom he leaves a son in college at Ann Arbor, and a young daughter in this city.

The following despatch from Dr. J. L. Little of New York, one of Dr. Greene's fellow passengers on the Parthia, was received by Mr. H.F. Furbish of this city last evening:

Dr. Greene on the evening of the 9th, was taken with vomiting and congestion of the kidneys. On the 10th he had two uraemic convulsions and died. He had complete suppression of urine. Dr. Sayre and myself with the ship's doctor, did all we could for him. His burial at sea was considered absolutely necessary. I will write full particulars this evening. His effects are in the hands of the purser of the Parthia.

He was a dear friend of mine, although we met for the first time on the Gallia, and his sudden death has robbed me of the pleasures of my trip. He was in a partially comatose state during his illness, but although we considered his sickness alarming we had no thought of such a sudden death. I was at his side when he died.