Friday, May 13, 2016


Readers of the Chicago Inter-Ocean newspaper of April 30, 1899 saw the following article on Page One:


President of Hahnemann College Drops Dead

While Performing an Operation.

Son Seizes Knife.

Under a Terrible Strain He Completes the Work

on the Patient in Time.

Victim of Heart Disease.

Veteran Physician Head of the Homeopathic School –

His Death a Great Loss to the Profession.

There was a tragic scene at Hahnemann hospital yesterday afternoon, when Dr. Reuben Ludlam, president of Hahnemann College and dean of the faculty, dropped dead while performing a delicate surgical operation, and his son, who was assisting him, was compelled, with steady nerve, to complete the operation and leave his father in other hands, not knowing if he was alive or dead.

Yikes!  Talk about an unnerving experience.  It is a tribute to Dr. Reuben Ludlam Jr., that he was able to see the operation through to completion.  Before we take another look at the death and aftermath for Dr. Reuben Ludlam, Sr., let’s take a look at his life and times.

Readers of this blog will be familiar with the name “Dr. Ludlam.”  Back on December 14, 2012, I told the story of Dr. Jacob Watson Ludlam (1807-1859), who was the first burial at Rosehill Cemetery.  Dr. Reuben Ludlam is the son of Dr. Jacob Ludlam and his wife Mary, nee Dennis (1808-1896).  Reuben Ludlam was born October 7, 1831 in Camden, New Jersey.  Reuben had seven siblings: James Dennis Ludlam (1833-1908), Jacob Watson Ludlam (1835-1912), Elizabeth Dennis Ludlam (1837-1908), Edward Mulford Porter Ludlam (1839-1907), Hannah Watson Ludlam (1841-1927), Mary Newkirk Ludlam (1842-1908), and John Lawson Ludlam (1844-1845)

Reuben Ludlam said in later years, that he could not remember a time when he hadn't wanted to be a physician.  While still a boy, he accompanied his father on his professional visits, taking the liveliest interest in the most difficult cases.  He graduated from the West Jersey Academy in Bridgeton, New Jersey with the highest honors of his class. At the age of sixteen, under the supervision of his father, he began a systematic course of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his M. D. degree in 1852,

In 1845, his father Dr. Jacob Ludlam was invited to visit Evanston, Illinois by his old friend Major Edward Harris Mulford.  Dr. Jacob Ludlam was so captivated by the town that he and his wife moved to Evanston shortly thereafter.  After Dr. Reuben Ludlam's graduation, he joined his parents in Evanston in 1853.

On October 24, 1856, Reuben Ludlam married Anna M. Porter (1832-1859) in Chicago.  Tragically, Anna Porter Ludlam died December 14, 1859 in Chicago of consumption (tuberculosis).  She was only 27 years old.

The 1860 US Census finds Reuben Ludlam living in Chicago's Second Ward, with his brother Edward, also a physician.  The 1861 City Directory for Chicago shows "Ludlam, R. & Bro." as physicians and surgeons with offices at 66 Adams Street.

On September 26, 1861 Reuben Ludlam married Harriet G. Parvin (1828-1900) in Chicago.  They were blessed with one child, Reuben Ludlam, Jr. (1865-1911).  As mentioned at the start of this article, Reuben Jr. followed his father and grandfather into the medical profession.

Shortly after Reuben Ludlam arrived in Chicago he became greatly impressed with the homeopathic theory of medicine, and finally adopted it himself.  When the Hahnemann Medical College was established in 1860 he became connected with it as a lecturer, and ultimately joined the faculty, moving from one chair to another until he became dean of the faculty, senior professor of surgical and medical gynecology.  When abdominal surgery began to develop, Dr. Ludlam took it up as one of the pioneers and gained a high reputation.  It was said that his personal practice was enormous and his income large.

In 1869, he became president of the American Institute of Homeopathy, presided at its meeting in Boston and delivered the annual oration.  He was also made president of the Chicago Academy of Medicine, the Illinois Homeopathic Medical Society and the Western Institute of Homeopathy.

The 1870 US Census finds the Ludlam family still living in Chicago's Second Ward.  The family consisted of 39 year old Reuben, a "Physician", 34 year old Harriet "Keeping House", and 4 year old Reuben Jr.  In addition there was a couple living with them, Mr. and Mrs. Emile Bradley and two domestic servants, Maggie and Thomas Burke.  The 1870 Chicago City Directory listed their address at 297 Wabash (now 410 S. Wabash.)  A parking lot occupies that space today.  The directory, also lists a medical practice consisting of Dr. Reuben Ludlam, his brother Dr. E. M. P Ludlam, and Dr. A. W. Woodward with offices at #87 Clark Street (now 121 N. Clark Street).  A high-rise office building occupies that space today.

The Great Chicago Fire was devastating to Dr. Ludlam.  Not only were his offices on North Clark street destroyed, his home on Wabash avenue was as well.  Not allowing himself to be deterred by tragedy, immediately after the fire he became a member of the medical department of the Relief and Aid Society while he rebuilt his home and office.  By the end of 1871 he had opened a new office at 231 W. Washington (now 912 W. Washington) and had moved his home to 526 Wabash (now 1101 S. Wabash).  Today there are high rise apartments at 912 W. Washington and a parking lot at 1101 S. Wabash.  In 1872 Dr. Ludlam moved his offices to 318 (now 1111) W. Washington,  (A commercial building sits on that spot today.)

When Illinois organized a state board of health in 1877 Dr. Ludlam was appointed a member,

The 1880 US Census finds the Ludlams still living at 526 Wabash Avenue.  The family consisted of Reuben Sr., his wife Harriet, and son Reuben Jr.  In addition, living with them was 23 year old William A. Barker, a physician and surgeon, servant Maggie MacDonald, and coachman Henry Hendrickson.  It was reported to the census taker that all of them could both read and write.

As is the case with many doctors, Reuben Ludlam was a voluminous writer.  For six years he was editorially connected with the North American Journal of Homeopathy of New York, and for nine years with the United States Medical and Surgical Journal of Chicago.

For seventeen years he edited "The Clinique," a monthly abstract of the work of the clinical society and of the Hahnemann Hospital.  Dr. Ludlam's greatest work was considered to be his "Clinical and Didactic Lectures on the Diseases of Women" published in 1871.  It went through at least seven updated editions and was used as a textbook in all homeopathic colleges, being accepted as an authority in this country and in Europe. Dr. Ludlam was fluent in French and so he translated a very valuable work from the French, "Lectures on Clinical Medicine," by Dr. Jousset of Paris.  Dr. Ludlam was also the author of "A Course of Clinical Lectures on Diphtheria," the first strictly medical work ever published in Chicago. Many of Dr. Ludlam's works were translated into French and German for use abroad.

In the late 1880s, Dr. Ludlam moved both his home and his office.  The new location for his home was 1823 S. Michigan Avenue (high rise apartments on that site today) and the new location for his office was 70 State Street (now 138 N. State).  There is a commercial retail building on that site today.  When you go so far back in an area like downtown Chicago that is constantly changing, it is almost impossible to encounter the original buildings on a piece of property.

For twenty-five years, from 1866 to 1891, Dr. Ludlam was Dean of Hahnemann Medical College of Chicago, presided at the meetings of its faculty and labored to his utmost for its success. Upon the death of Dr. David Sheppard Smith in 1891, Dr. Ludlam was elected president of the board of trustees, and president of the college, which positions he occupied at the time of his death.

He was a renowned lecturer and seasoned physicians as well as students just starting their careers in medicine flocked to his lectures until it became almost impossible to get a seat.  It was said of his lectures that, "Aside from qualifications in the minute and thorough acquaintance with his subject as a teacher, Dr. Ludlam is distinguished for the singular perspicuity of his thoughts, the ease with which he elucidates his points, and the force with which he impresses them on the minds of his students. His lectures are purely extemporaneous - no notes being before him - and are remarkable for their systematic and practical character.  Possessing all the ardor of a convert to homeopathy, his well balanced mind rendered his views and opinions comprehensive, liberal, peaceful, and progressive."

Here is how the Hahnemanian Monthly Magazine from June, 1899 described the final events in the life of Dr. Reuben Ludlam:

Dr. Ludlam's death, which was caused by heart disease, occurred at 5 o'clock.  The venerable surgeon had recently recovered from a long sickness, the result of a surgical operation.  The operation at the time of his death was one of the first he had attempted since his recovery.  It was a case of hysterectomy for the removal of a fibroid tumor.  The operation took place in a private  operating-room.  Dr. Ludlam was apparently in the best of health and spirits, and his hand had never been more steady nor brain more clear.  The operation was almost half completed when he uttered an exclamation of distress, the knife dropped from his nerveless fingers, and he sank unconscious into a chair.

His son, Dr. Reuben Ludlam, Jr., who was assisting him, glanced at his father, over whose face the pallor of death was gathering, then at the patient on the operating chair, and instantly took up the work where his sire had left off, while the attendants carried the venerable physician to another room and summoned Dr. Halbert and Dr. George F. Shears. They applied restoratives and did all they could, but in a few minutes the last sign of life disappeared.  Meantime his son had completed the operation with care and skill, though suffering under terrible suspense. The operation was wholly successful.  The remains of Dr. Ludlam were conveyed to his home, No. 1823 Michigan avenue.

The death of Dr. Ludlam will be learned with deepest regret throughout the country.  He stood at the head of the surgeons in the homeopathic field.  He had been connected with Hahnemann College since its establishment, thirty-nine years ago, and over 2500 physicians throughout the country have his signature upon their diplomas.  The faculty of every homeopathic college west of the Alleghenies contains professors who earned their degrees under Dr. Ludlam's tutelage, for Hahnemann is the pioneer homeopathic college of the West.  

Nor is Dr. Ludlam's fame confined to that of the teacher and the operator. He wrote several medical works of the highest standing, some of which have been  translated into French and German and widely read abroad. He was a veritable leader in the homeopathic school.  No man stood higher.  No man can fill his exact place.

To his wide circle of friends in Chicago the news of his death comes with more crushing force, for he was a man of great personality, possessing the most charming traits, well posted, a student of literature as well as of medicine, and a rare companion."

Like his father, Dr. Reuben Ludlam was buried in the Ludlam family plot in Section   of Rosehill Cemetery:

The History of Medicine and Surgery in Chicago, (Chicago, 1922) sums up the life of Dr. Ludlam this way:

"A bare recital of the positions held by Dr. Ludlam and the honors conferred upon him," says a commentator, "can give no adequate idea of the great influence exerted by him upon every one with whom he came in contact or the value of his life and teachings to the cause of homeopathy.  Tall of stature, of fine bearing, with irreproachable manners, courteous and affable in his intercourse with patients and brother practitioners, cultivated of speech, vigorous of thought, endowed with a fine literary sense, he could not be but a leader wherever he was placed. To a new sect struggling for a place, the possession of such a man was an unanswerable argument to the cry of 'knave or fool' so frequently applied to the homeopathic practitioner. His very presence at a mixed medical gathering gave dignity to the school and prevented indulgence in vituperation and his liberality of statement disarmed antagonism and builded for harmony.  He believed that homeopathy would build for itself a place not by town meetings and denunciations of an opposing system, but by the improvement of medical schools, by a proper education of its practitioners, by exemplification in the daily life of the physicians of the beneficial influence of the system and by observing the amenities of life."

Reuben Ludlam Sr., M.D.

Dr. Reuben Ludlam, Sr. - medicine was his life - may he rest in peace.

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