Sims, James Marion

Sims, James Marion,

1813–83, American gynecologist and surgeon, b. Lancaster co., S.C., M.D. Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, 1835. He initially practiced in Mt. Meigs and Montgomery, in Alabama, and then (1853) in New York City and later in Europe. Regarded as the founder of modern gynecology, he introduced new operations and instruments (including a vaginal speculum) and wrote the important Clinical Notes on Uterine Surgery (1866), but the fact that his work was based on experimental surgery involving enslaved African-American women has tarnished his reputation. In 1855 he founded Woman's Hospital in New York City; he advocated the establishment (1884) of New York Cancer Hospital.


See his autobiography (1884).

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Sims, James Marion

(1813–83) gynecologist; born in Lancaster County, S.C. Practicing in Alabama, he gained a reputation by performing difficult and unorthodox surgery – in particular, for dealing with fistulas in women; he perfected his technique after 30 operations on an unanesthetized 17-year-old female slave named Anarcha (1849). His work, published in the American Journal of the Medical Sciences (1852), gained him such attention that he went to New York City in 1853, where he taught his procedure to other doctors; this led to the establishment of the New York Woman's Hospital (1857). He spent most of 1861–65 in Europe where he performed various operations to considerable acclaim. Taking up his practice in New York City, he went to France during 1870 to perform surgery in the Franco-Prussian War. His Clinical Notes on Uterine Surgery (1866) contributed to the founding of modern gynecology.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.