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Joseph Lovell ( 1788 - 1836 )  Category ( Medical_Doctors ) [suggest a correction]

Joseph LovellJoseph Lovell learned early in life that big fish in little ponds often rise to the top quickly. And, a leaning toward intelligence, a few connections and good timing don't hurt in the least in this climb.

Josephd was born in Boston, Massachusetts to James S. Lovell and Deborah Gorham Lovell. His father attained the grade of major in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Joseph obtained his early education in Boston schools, then graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1811 in the first class to provide an M.D. degree. One month before the U.S. declared war against Great Britain, Lovell entered the U.S. Army as the regimental surgeon of the Ninth Ingantry. As one of the few medical-school trained physicians in the army, Lovell quickly gained recognition for his superior knowledge and organizational skills.

Lovell established several hospitals in the northern theater, including Burlington, Vermont and another in Williamsville, New York, that becamse models for military hospital organization.

During the winter and spring of 1818, Congress was engaged on a bill for the reorganization of the staff of the army. This bill, passed April 14, 1818 (3 Stat. 426), repealed certain previous legislation in regard to the medical department and carried the following section:

Section 2. And be it further enacted, That there shall be one Surgeon General, with a salary of two thousand five hundred dollars per annum, one assistant surgeon general with the emoluments of a hospital surgeon * * * and that the number of post surgeons be increased not to exceed eight to each division.

Pursuant to this legislation, Lovell was appointed the army's first Surgeon General from April 18, 1818, with Hospital Surgeons Tobias Watkins and James C. Bronaugh, assistants, one for each of the two divisions of the army.

With this status, Lovell was able to build an impressive Federal-style townhouse in 1824. Located in Washington, DC, this home later was purchased by Francis Preston Blair in 1937, who came to Washington to transform the Globe newspaper into a pro-Andrew Jackson publication. In 1859, Blair built a house next door for his daughter, Elizabeth Blair Lee, and her husband, Capt. Samuel P. Lee, a grandson of Revolutionary War patriot Richard Henry Lee and third cousin of Gen. Robert E. Lee. After the two dwellings were combined, the complex was occasionally called the Blair-Lee House, although Blair House is its official name today.

A dangerous crisis developed in 1830, when, in the midst of agitation for retrenchments, Secretary of War Eaton suggested the abolition of the office of Surgeon General. In a letter to Congress in support of his administration, Lovell was so far successful that he not only saved his own office but obtained an increase in the number of officers in the corps.

Lovell's wife, Margaret Masfield Lovell, to whom he was deeply attached, died about 1832. Lovell died in Washington on Oct. 17, 1836, near the end of his forty-eighth year, leaving an orphaned family of eleven children. A son, Mansfield Lovell, graduated from West Point and becamse a major general and corps commander in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

Lovell's office began the collection of medical literature which was to become the Library of the Surgeon General's Office, later called the Army Medical Library, the Armed Forces Medical Library, and finally transformed in 1956 into the National Library of Medicine. In 1842, the officers of the medical corps testified to their appreciation of Lovell's services to them and to their personal esteem for him by the erection of a handsome monument over his grave in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington.

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