John Ware (1795 – 1864)

“John Ware was born in Hingham, Massachusetts, December 19, 1795, the son of the Rev. Henry Ware, who was minister in that town for eighteen years, and later Hollis professor of theology in Harvard College from 1805 to 1840, serving also as acting president of the college in 1810 and in 1828-29. The immigrant ancestor of the family was Robert Ware, who ‘came from his English home to the colony of Massachusetts Bay sometime before the autumn of 1642,’ and settled in Dedham, where he married and brought up his family, and was ‘the progenitor of a long line of moral teachers.’  John Ware’s mother was the daughter of the Rev. Jonas Clark, ‘the patriot parson of Lexington,’ and the granddaughter of the Rev. John Hancock of that town.

Graduating from Harvard College in 1813, John Ware entered the Harvard Medical School and received his M. D., in 1816. He began his medical career in Duxbury, Massachusetts, but in 1817 returned to Boston, where he acquired an extensive practice. In his diary he says: ‘I had always a great many patients, but for many years a very small income, and was obliged to have recourse to other means besides my profession for the support of my family. Some of my receipts were from dentistry, which I practised about ten years.’ From his diary it is learned that he also eked out his income by keeping school and by taking private “scholars.” In 1820 he records the receipt of the “Boylston Premium of fifty dollars.” In 1823-25 he was physician at the Boston Almshouse, which paid a small stipend. He also gave two courses of lectures and wrote for the “North American Review.” With Dr. Walter Channing he was editor of the “New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery,” from 1824 to 1827, and on the establishment of the “Boston Medical and Surgical Journal” in 1828, he served for a year as its first editor. This literary work was a valuable training, it gave him a good literary style and put him in touch with medical progress with which he was so closely identified in the succeeding years. After twenty years of unremitting effort he wrote, ‘My success in life, professionally, is, as often I reflect upon it, a matter of surprise to me. I came to Boston with no advantages of friends, or relations, or purse.’

In 1852 Ware was appointed adjunct professor to Dr. James Jackson; Hersey professor of the theory and practice of physic in the Harvard Medical School. Four years later he succeeded Dr. Jackson in the professorship, which he held until 1858. In 1839, with Drs. Jacob Bigelow, and Enoch Hale he founded the Boston Society for Medical Improvement, a medical organization with a most honorable history.  In 1842 Dr. Ware published a “Contribution to the History and Diagnosis of Croup.” He pointed out that ‘the only form of croup attended with any considerable danger to life is that distinguished by the presence of a false membrane in the air passages.’ This may be regarded as one of the earliest recognitions of the characteristics of diphtheria. He also published essays on delirium tremens and on hemoptysis. He was much interested in natural science, and he enlarged with original matter and re-published Smellie’s “Natural History” under the title of “Philosophy of Natural History,” by Ware and Smellie. He also wrote a memoir of his brother, the Rev. Henry Ware, Jr. Dr. Ware was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and from 1848 to 1852, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society. For a short time he was a visiting physician to the Massachusetts General Hospital, and on the organization of the Boston City Hospital in 1864, was appointed to the consulting staff. For the last twenty years of his life his health was somewhat impaired, and he spent his summers and leisure moments on his country place in Weston, although continuing in practice as a consultant. He died of apoplexy in Boston, April 29, 1864.

Dr. Jacob Bigelow said of him: ‘A favorite term used by Dr. Ware in enumerating the various causes of mortality was “hyper-practice.” He had an instinctive aversion to over-drugging. His prescriptions were simple, seldom containing more than one, two or three articles.’

Dr. Ware married April 22, 1822, Helen Lincoln, daughter of Desire Thaxter and Dr. Levi Lincoln, of Hingham, and had eight children. One of his sons was Maj. Robert Ware, A. B., (Harvard) 1852, M. D. 1856, surgeon of the Forty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry, who lost his life in the War of the Rebellion. Mrs. Ware died in 1858 and in 1862, Dr. Ware married Mary Green Chandler, of Lancaster, Massachusetts, who survived him.

Dr. Ware’s portrait may be seen in the Boston Medical Library in John Ware Hall, which was dedicated to his memory by his son-in-law and daughter, Dr. and Mrs. Charles M. Green. Dr. Ware’s memory is perpetuated in the Harvard Medical School by the endowment, in 1891, by William Story Bullard, of the John Ware Memorial Fellowship. At the same time Mr. Bullard established similar fellowships in memory of Dr. George Cheyne Shattuck and of Dr. Charles Eliot Ware (half-brother of John Ware).

At a meeting of the Massachusetts Medical Society held May 25, 1864, shortly after Dr. Ware’s death, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes read a poem in memory of John and Robert Ware, father and son. One stanza referring to John Ware, but applicable alike to his son, runs:

‘A whiter Aoui, a fairer mind,

A life with purer course and aim,

A gentler eye, a voice more kind,
We may not look on earth to find.

The love that lingers o’er his name
Is more than fame.’

W. L. B.

Ware Genealogy; Robert Ware of Dedham,
Massachusetts, 1642—1699, and his Lineal
Descendants, Boston, 1901.
Family records and Dr. Ware’s Dairy, thro-
ugh his daughter, Mrs. Charles M. Green.
Boston Medical and Surgical Journal. Com-
munications of the Massachusetts Medical
Society. Dr. Edward H. Clarke in a Century
of American Medicine, 1876.
History of the Boston City Hospital. 1906.
The Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell
Holmes.”

Source:  A Cyclopedia of American Medical Biographies, from 1610 to 1910, Vol. 2, by Howard A. Kelly, M.D., W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia and London, 1912, pages 475-6


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