Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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ATLEE, John Light, physician, born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 2 November 1799; died there, 1 October 1885. He was a son of Colonel W. P. Atlee, and grandson of Judge W. A. Atlee. He studied medicine with Dr. Samuel Humes in Philadelphia, and was graduated at the University of Pennsylvania in 1820. He returned to his native City, began practice, and soon became successful, especially in surgical cases. Dr. Atlee's operation for double ovariotomy, in 1843, was the first in the history of medicine, fie was one of the founders of the Lancaster city and county medical society in 1843, and twice served as its president. He assisted in organizing the Pennsylvania medical society in 1848, and became its president in 1857, and was also one of the organizers of the American medical association in Philadelphia, and was elected vice-president in 1865, and president in 1882. At the union of Franklin and Marshall Colleges, in 1853, he became professor of anatomy and physiology, and continued there until 1869. He was a school director for forty years, was president of the board of trustees of the Pennsylvania state lunatic asylum at Harrisburg, was elected honorary fellow of the American gynaecological society in 1877, and was a trustee of numerous public institutions.*His brother, Washington Lemuel, surgeon and author, born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 22 February 1808; died 6 September 1878. At the age of fourteen he was placed in a store, where he remained but eighteen months, when he entered the office of his brother. After studying there and with Dr. George McClellan, of Philadelphia, he received his diploma, in 1829, from the Jefferson medical College, in that city. Soon afterward he married, and settled in the village of Mount Joy, where he practiced until 1834. During the next ten years he practiced in his native place, and while there suggested the remarkable series of experiments on the body of an executed criminal, which are described in the "American Journal of the Medical Sciences" for 1840. In 1845 he became professor of medical chemistry in the medical department of Pennsylvania College at Philadelphia, but resigned his chair in 1853 and devoted himself to his private practice, which became very large. He was president of the Philadelphia county medical association in 1874, and of the state association in 1875, and was also vice-president of the American medical association. Dr. Atlee was noted for his advocacy of the difficult operation of ovariotomy, which he was one of the first to practice. He ably defended its propriety when it was in universal disrepute, and, by his great skill in over 300 cases, he aided in making it one of the legitimate operations of surgery. When he first performed this operation in Philadelphia he was denounced by medical men on all sides as a dangerous man. Few surgeons dared to be present at his operations, and there was even talk of having him arrested. Dr. Atlee was also noted for his skill in the removal of uterine fibroid tumors. He was a brilliant speaker and debater, and a copious writer on medicine, chemistry, and botany, having published over eighty articles in various journals. Among his writings are "Ovarian Tumors" (Philadelphia, 1873); an address before the Philadelphia county medical association, 1 February 1875, on "Struggles and Triumphs of Ovariotomy"; a paper on "Fibroid Tumors of the Uterus," read before the international medical congress in Philadelphia in September 1876" and a prize essay on the same subject.
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