Lane Library

Levi Cooper Lane in Europe

Dr. and Mrs. Lane boarded the Cunard Steamer, Algeria, at Jersey City on 18 July 1874. Nine days later, weary and sick from rough seas, they disembarked at the Irish seaport of Queenstown. From there they traveled to Dublin where Dr. Lane was warmly received by Stokes, Corrigan, Colles and other physicians whose names are still associated with their signal contributions to medicine.

After a most congenial visit among "the quick, impulsive and ready-witted Celts," he crossed over to the land of the dour Scots in September, stopping first in Glasgow. It was there that Joseph Lister, greatest of the English Quaker physicians and foremost British surgeon, established the principles of antiseptic surgery. Lister had by the time of Lane's European tour returned to the University of Edinburgh where he received his earlier training under Scotland's renowned Professor James Syme. In Edinburgh Lister continued the historic investigations that gave surgeons "the power to perform the majority of operations without occurrence of the inflammation which formerly hung like the sword of Damocles over every grave surgical procedure."

It was in Edinburgh that Lane visited Lister whom he described as "a quiet, retiring man, and free to communicate with us, and even to give us the recent improvements which he has made in his antiseptic formulae." In Lane's view at the time "much remains to be done to perfect the method of Lister, yet, in its present state, its excellencies are so great, that it has been introduced into the majority of the great hospitals of Europe." While visiting on Lister's hospital wards at the University of Edinburgh, Lane was conscious of witnessing, in the presence of its genius, the advent of a new era in surgery. [60]

October of 1874 found Lane in London where he avidly attended the numerous public lectures made available there by notables in science and medicine. He was much impressed by the series of eighty-four lectures delivered by Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895). Doctor Huxley, a medical graduate of London University in 1845, was England's greatest student of natural history and the ablest interpreter and supporter of the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin.

Lane climbed eleven flights of time-worn granite stairs to reach the natural history museum, laboratory and unpretentious lecture room of "the plain, simple and unostentatious Huxley who in every word, movement and act presented that modesty and want of display which always indicate and reveal the scholar. If we stop and hear one of his lectures, the qualities mentioned shine forth even more manifestly. Once having heard him, no one asks for further evidence of the universality of his knowledge in his department. . . I was happy to find, for once, a man who is not over estimated. [61]

While in London Lane also critically appraised medical education, hospitals and prominent surgeons. The following are his observations on the English system for granting diplomas. His clarification of that system is relevant to the debate on examination for the medical degree which so agitated the medical profession in California prior to the enactment of legislation on medical licensure in April 1876 to which we have already referred. [62]

On inquiring in regard to medical institutions, we learn that instead of one or two great schools, London has eleven medical Colleges, the eleventh and youngest being the Female Medical College, established two years ago. Besides these metropolitan institutions, there are a few Provincial medical colleges, viz., one at Liverpool, one at Manchester, one at Leeds, and one at Birmingham. Yet none of these has the power of granting diplomas; this power being invested in two boards, resident in London, and known respectively as the "Royal College of Physicians" and the "Royal College of Surgeons." The former confers the title of M. D.; the Royal College of Surgeons confers merely the title of Member or Fellow.

It is claimed that this isolation of the power that confers degrees from that which teaches, is a great improvement over the system which now obtains in America. This would be so, were the two really isolated; but unfortunately, such separation does not exist there; and, I may remark here, that it does not exist anywhere in Europe. In London, both of the corporate bodies which confer degrees, are composed mainly of men who are professors in the medical schools. Such is the case in France, and such is the case in Germany; so that in these respects, I regret to say we do not differ materially from the Old World; for it would be a great improvement if teaching and examining were in part, at least, committed to different persons.

Lane's lucid explanation of the English system showed that the Europeans had not succeeded, in actual practice, of separating the teaching from the degree-granting function in medical education as was their original objective. Dr. Gibbons, Sr., and other advocates of the English model had in recent years learned by trial and error the impracticality of such a separation.

Also while Dr. Lane was in London, the Court of Examiners of the Royal College of Surgeons of England "deliberately examined him and found him to be fit and capable to exercise the Art and Science of Surgery. " Having so concluded, they admitted Dr. Lane a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons on 29 January 1875, thus entitling him to add the goodly "M. R. C. S., Eng." to his medical credentials. [63] [64]

Early in March 1875, Dr. and Mrs. Lane gladly forsook the grand but gloomy city of London with its smoke, rain and sturdy medical traditions. They crossed the Channel and under the blue sky of la belle France traveled south, by-passing Paris, to take up brief residence in the ancient city of Avignon. From there Dr. Lane addressed a letter on 15 March to the Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal. [65] His remarks in the letter were devoted to Avignon's Roman, ecclesiastical and literary history, and to the celebrated past and disappointing present of the nearby and once-famous Montpelier Medical School.

The Lanes spent the summer of 1875 in Paris where, after the staid atmosphere of the London scene, Dr. Lane was captivated by the polished oratory of the French professors; the dynamic and cosmopolitan atmosphere of the School of Medicine. There were also the grand old Hotel Dieu, mother of French hospitals and medical schools; and the felt presence in art and history of a glorious medical lineage including such savants as Ambroise Paré (1510-1590), military surgeon of the Renaissance; Laennec (1781-1826) and Trousseau (1801-1867), pioneers in pulmonary diseases; Dupuytren (1777-1835) and Velpeau (1795-1867), clinical surgeons par excellence. Fluent in French, Lane wrote his lecture notes in la langue française

The stay in Paris was a brief six months for his command of the German language and respect for German institutions drew him inexorably to Berlin, the cultural center of Germany and seat of the University of Berlin. There he arrived with his wife in October 1875 to spend the following winter and spring.

It was typical of his tireless commitment to self-improvement that his European Wanderschaft should conclude with a formal doctoral program of study at the Medical School of the Wilhelms Universität of Berlin.

Lane's principle faculty advisor for the program was Professor Bernhard von Langenbeck (1810-1887), the greatest clinical surgeon and teacher of his day in Germany. The Professor taught and operated at the Klinicum Hospital where Lane attended his lectures and observed on his clinical service. [66]

Lane's other mentor at the University of Berlin was the noted Rudolph Virchow (1821-1902), Professor of Pathology and Director of the Pathological Institute at the Charité Hospital. On 1 November 1875 Lane registered for Professor Virchow's courses which included Demonstrative Pathological Anatomy, Microscopical Pathology and Lectures on General Pathology. In addition to these formal courses, Lane worked every second forenoon in Virchow's Laboratory so that he was in a position to speak knowingly of this remarkable man: [67] [68]

Of all the men now living I can cite no none who exhibits so many phases of mental character united in one person as he. For example, he possesses most wonderful powers of analysis, as shown in his unfolding the complexities of disease, until he has found the minute cellular aberrations which have caused it.

Besides his work as a professor, he writes and supervises an immense mass of printed matter; he is a member of the Prussian House of Deputies, where he delivers, at least once a week, one of the most remarkable speeches of the day; he belongs to the Democratic or people's party, and is now fiercely fighting the fusion of Church and State, which many are aiming at. In reference to a recent act of the Government looking in that direction, he boldly asked to know by what right the Emperor took such a step. He has also a place in the Berlin Municipal Government, delivers, now and then, a lecture abroad, and also one almost weekly before one of the most popular associations or Vereins. He has been challenged by Bismarck, and declined to fight until Bismark would become his peer in morality.

Such is Virchow - without an equal as disseminator of knowledge among the popular masses, and almost without a peer in the political arena of Prussia. In the still higher sphere of medical science, he has done yet more, since he has reduced to a simple system, by means of a half dozen generalizations, the hitherto inextricable maze of Tumors; and in the chaotic domain of the Pathology of internal Medicine, his genius has wrested from the unknown, more territory than any other man of the present or past.

In addition to didactic and clinical studies, Lane's doctoral program included preparation and defense of a dissertation entitled Fractures of the Femur and their Treatment, comprising a review of the literature and a detailed exposition of the mechanism, management and prognosis of the lesion. Upon successful completion of the requisite studies, dissertation and examinations, Dr. Lane was awarded the degree of Doctor of Medicine and Surgery, magna cum laude, by Berlin University on 7 March 1876. [69]

In a statement appended to his Dissertation, Lane graciously thanked Professors Virchow and Langenbeck "for the courtesies received from their hands, and especially for the ideas learned from their teaching." [70]

In spite of the heavy demands of the doctoral program at the University, Lane did not neglect his rigorous personal agenda of language study, as indicated by the note in his Diary for 26 December 1875: [71]

Read Greek, Latin and French, the usual linguistic studies of Sunday. Also read the section of Logic upon the Fallacies.

Lane's Diary is an impressive example of his remarkable aptitude for language. It includes entries in French, German and Spanish, the last of which he learned during the two years he spent off the coast of Central America while in the U. S. Navy. [72]

In addition to the primary goal of study and observation at Europe's chief medical centers, Dr. and Mrs. Lane's foreign excursion was also a cultural pilgrimage. Mrs. Lane's delightful diary of their wide-ranging journey, published in a book entitled, Letters of Travel, is a perceptive and lively commentary on the arts, history and contemporary life at sites visited by the Lanes from Scandinavia and St. Petersburg in the north, through Switzerland and Italy to the pyramids of Gizah in the south.

Unfortunately, we have discovered no personal information about the talented Mrs. Lane. Aside from the bare announcement that she was married to Levi Cooper Lane on 16 March 1870, we have so far seen no reference to her except for the following entry in Dr. Lane's Diary on New Year's Eve, 1870: "The year has been one of success in business, in health, and above all in a fortunate marriage." We shall in due course learn more of Mrs. Lane's significant role in support of her husband's lofty objectives, but of her prior life we are to remain woefully uninformed. [73]

Dr. and Mrs. Lane spent the last days of their Grand Tour in London where he made the following final entry in his Diary: [74]

20 August 1876, London. Tomorrow we leave for Liverpool whence we sail for America on the 26th of this month. Today, Sunday, it has been raining until a few minutes ago, when the sun appeared and is now throwing an autumnal sheen on Queen's Square to which I regret to bid adieu.

We have no further word of Dr. Lane until he appears on the podium at Calvary Church on 2 November 1876 to deliver the Valedictory Address at the commencement Exercises. Thereafter, he was increasingly involved in the affairs of the College.

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Dr. Lane's Finances

Before leaving the subject of Dr. Lane's European travels, we should ask how it was financially possible for him to absent himself from practice for a period of two years from mid 1874 to mid 1876. We recall that he entered surgical practice with Elias Cooper in the Spring of 1861 at the age of thirty-three. He had spent the previous year in study abroad and, as a result, probably used up his savings from prior service in the U. S. Navy.

Upon the death of Elias Cooper in October 1861, Dr. Lane inherited his practice which, as we have seen, grossed about $ 8000 per year. Ten years later, in 1871, Lane's meticulous financial records show that he consistently earned more than $ 18,000 annually in gross income. By this time he had acquired considerable real estate - a rancho in Napa Valley, and rental property on Fulsom, Steiner and Washington Streets in San Francisco. He continued to maintain the office and residence on Mission street as Cooper had done, a convenient and economical arrangement since the original Cooper school and Infirmary had been on those premises. Regarding his affairs in general, Lane made the following entry in his Diary on his birthday in 1871: [75]

9 May 1871. Have finished my 43rd year, one of the most successful of my life. Have a good wife, have made enough money, and have been well.

Thus, prior to his European sojourn, Lane prospered from a busy medical practice and bought real estate as an investment. Although financial records for the years following his return in 1876 are not as revealing as those he previously kept, his office log books provide ample evidence of a thriving practice during the remaining years of the decade. During that same period we know that he purchased stock, and that he continued to invest in real estate for by the early 80's he had acquired fourteen properties in San Francisco as well as acreage in the Fresno and Los Angeles areas. As further evidence of increasing affluence, Dr. Lane continued to maintain an office at 652 Mission Street, and in 1878 purchased a residence at 2302 Clay Street at the corner of Buchanan where he had office hours every evening at seven thirty. [76] [77] [78]

As the decade of the 1880's opened, Dr. Lane, now in his 52nd year, had been engaged in teaching and a lucrative medical practice for twenty years. He and Mrs. Lane had no children and his nightly vigils of study, writing and cultivation of the classics were uninterrupted. A prodigious number of articles, lectures, translations, and chapters of his own masterwork, Surgery of the Head and Neck, flowed from his pen. Meanwhile his financial affairs prospered and his fortune grew apace, as though tended by an unseen hand, and for a purpose that he would yet "be given to see."

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