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J. Marion Sims

AKA James Marion Sims

Born: 25-Jan-1813
Birthplace: Lancaster, SC
Died: 13-Nov-1883
Location of death: New York City
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY

Gender: Male
Religion: Presbyterian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Doctor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Father of gynecology

A pioneer in vaginal surgery, Dr J. Marion Sims developed a surgical treatment for vesicovaginal fistulas (a complication of childbirth in which internal damages allow abnormal connections to develop between a woman's bladder and vagina, leading to incontinence and great discomfort). Sims rented female slaves and used them as guinea pigs, refining his technique by performing dozens of un-anesthetized surgeries on the sexual organs of women he considered subhuman, before using his technique on white women. The procedure was a striking success, and in technologically advanced societies surgical repair to vesicovaginal fistulas is now considered a minor surgery.

Sims also conducted early research into lock-jaw in infants, and invented the Sims speculum, a gynecological tool used to hold back the perineum, exposing to view the upper areas of the vagina. The morals of his era allowed physicians to examine the genitalia of white females only by hand, never by direct observation, but such modesty was not at issue when examining slaves. After bending a pewter spoon into a U-shape to make the first Sims speculum and examining the interior of a slave women, he wrote in his journal, "I saw everything, as no man had ever seen before."

He later opened a hospital for women's diseases in New York, and assumed the title of Surgeon in Chief, but quit when the hospital's board would not allow large crowds to observe his surgeries. He was elected President of the American Medical Association in 1876, and hailed internationally as the father of gynecology, which gained status as a separate medical specialty largely through reports of Dr Sims' work. A statue in his honor stands in New York's Central Park.

Father: John Jarrett Sims ("Jack", county sheriff, b. circa 1803)
Mother: Mahala Mackey Sims (b. 1792, d. 1832)
Brother: John Jarrett Sims, Jr.
Wife: Eliza Theresa Jones (m. 21-Dec-1836, two sons, four daughters)
Son: Henry Marion Sims (physician)
Son: William Sims

    High School: Franklin Academy, Lancaster, SC
    University: University of South Carolina (1832)
    Medical School: Charleston Medical School (attended)
    Medical School: MD, Thomas Jefferson University (1836)

    American Medical Association 1875
    New York Academy of Medicine
    French Legion of Honor
    Scottish Ancestry Maternal

Author of books:
Clinical Notes on Uterine Surgery (1866)
The Story of My Life (1884, memoir, with H. Marion Sims)


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