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Biographical entry Graham, Evarts Ambrose (1883 - 1957)

Hon FRCS 8 April 1943; BA Princeton 1904; MD Rush 1907; FACS 1915; MS Yale; Hon FRCS Ed; Hon ScD Princeton and Western Reserve; Hon LLD Glasgow and Leeds.

19 March 1883
4 March 1957
St Louis
General surgeon


Born in Chicago on 19 March 1883 son of Dr David W Graham (1843-1925), surgeon to the Presbyterian Hospital, and Ida Barnet Graham his wife, he was educated at Princeton and took his clinical training at Chicago, qualifying from Rush College in 1907. After holding resident posts at the Presbyterian Hospital he was assistant (1909-11) and lecturer in surgery (1911-16) at Rush College but at the same time was pursuing his own graduate education. He spent two years in the study of advanced chemistry, and from 1911 to 1914 was associated with Rollin T Woodyatt at the Sprague Institute of Clinical Research. His interests at this period were mainly pathological and he took an active share in the meetings of the Chicago Pathological Society, publishing articles also in the Journal of experimental Medicine and the Journal of infectious Diseases. When America entered the war in 1917 he was employed on an "empyema commission", working at Baltimore, and his report was influential. He was then sent to France as a surgical specialist. He had already married Helen Tredway Graham, but when the war ended was somewhat at a loss, intending to practise surgery but having spent all the previous years in research.

He was invited in 1919 to fill the new Bixby Professorship of Surgery in the Washington University School of Medicine at St Louis. Here he made his life's work. He was able from small beginnings to build up a great teaching school of surgery, and was given a free hand to develop the Barnes Hospital and his teaching duties in the way he thought best. He was also surgeon at the St Louis Children's Hospital. He held the chair until 1951 when he retired with the title Professor Emeritus. In these thirty-two years Graham established his reputation as probably the greatest teaching surgeon in the world, and had the pleasure of seeing his pupils established in leading professorships in America and abroad. He served as President of the leading national surgical societies such as the American College of Surgeons, American Surgical Association, American Association of Thoracic Surgeons, American Board of Surgery (1937-51) and the International College of Surgeons (1953).

His earliest work was on blastomycosis; after the war he continued his studies in empyema and was working also on biliary surgery. Later he made his mark as a thoracic surgeon in connection with treatment of cancer of the lung. He was the first surgeon to perform a successful total pneumonectomy, when in 1933 he removed an entire lung for a squamous carcinoma involving the bronchus of the upper left lobe. The patient was able to return to a busy practise as a gynaecologist and outlived Graham.

In 1939 an annual lecture was founded and named in his honour at St Louis. Graham was awarded the Lister medal in 1942, but delivered the oration only in 1947. He was elected an honorary Fellow of the College, at the centenary of the institution of the Fellowship in 1943. He edited the Yearbook of Surgery 1926-39 and was on the editorial boards of Archives of Surgery 1920-43 and the Journal of thoracic Surgery from its inception in 1931. He served as temporary Professor of Surgery at St Bartholomew's Hospital in 1939 and was elected a perpetual student. After his retirement, the issue for July 1952 of Annals of Surgery (vol 136, no 1) was dedicated to him. It contains a valuable survey of his early career by E D Churchill and a contribution from Graham himself.

He died in St Louis on 4 March 1957 just before his seventy-fourth birthday, survived by his wife and children. Graham was a large, heavily built man of determination and pertinacity. He was a most inspiring teacher, gaining a retaining admiration and affection, and setting an example of unwearied patience and resource. He was a pattern of the virtues of his Scottish Presbyterian ancestry.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Washington University School of Medicine Addresses at Memorial Service for E A Graham, 31 March 1957, Curriculum vitae and list of his publications, St Louis 1957, 50 pages with good portrait; Bull Amer Coll Surg 1957, 42, 138 by W H Cole and pp 222-225 funeral oration by Alfred Blacock; appreciations by Lord Brock and others in The Times 6 March 1957, Brit med J 1957, 1, 648, and Thorax 1957, 12, 91].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England