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Joseph Jones biographical papers

Joseph Jones biographical papers

Descriptive Summary

Title: Joseph Jones biographical papers
Creator: Jones, Joseph, 1833-1896
Inclusive Dates: 1895
Language(s): English
Extent: 1 folder(s)
Collection Number: ms1407
Repository: Hargrett Library

Collection Description

Historical Note

Joseph Jones (6 Sept. 1833-17 Feb. 1896), physician and scientist, was born in Liberty County, Georgia, the son of Charles Colcock Jones, a major planter and prominent minister to the slaves, and his first cousin, Mary Sharpe Jones. Joseph Jones was educated at South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina), Princeton College (now University, B.A., 1853), and the University of Pennsylvania (M.D., 1856). Between 1856 and 1861 he taught chemistry at the Savannah Medical College, natural sciences at the University of Georgia, and medical chemistry and pharmacy at the Medical College of Georgia. Jones' reputation as a leading student of health conditions in the nineteenth-century South was launched during these years. In 1859 he married Caroline Smelt Davis of Augusta, Georgia. The couple had three children. The Civil War interrupted Jones's budding scientific career. After six month's service with a local militia unit, he accepted a Confederate surgeon's commission. But Jones was a most unusual medical officer. Viewing the hostilities as an immense laboratory from which to learn valuable medical lessons, he prevailed upon Surgeon General Samuel P. Moore to allow him to investigate health conditions in the Confederacy's principal armies, hospitals, and prisons. He presented his findings to Moore in masterful reports; those on gangrene and Andersonville Prison are the best known. Jones returned to the Medical College of Georgia in the fall of 1865. The following spring he was elected to the chair of physiology and pathology at the University of Nashville. The excavation of some pre-Columbian Indian mounds along the Cumberland River, in which he found convincing signs of syphilis, was the high point of his stay in Tennessee. In 1868 Jones moved to New Orleans to accept the chair of chemistry and clinical medicine in the medical department of the University of Louisiana (now Tulane University) and to become a visiting physician at Charity Hospital. He was to spend the rest of his life here. Jones's first wife died in 1868, and in 1870 he wed Susan Rayner Polk, of New Orleans, daughter of Episcopalian bishop and Confederate general Leonidas Polk. This union also produced three children. Conditions in New Orleans--an elevated rate of morbidity and a large public hospital that offered easy access to patients and records--made it ideal for the study of disease, and Jones's career blossomed there. He was increasingly recognized as an authority on southern diseases, but it is for his work in public health that he is most remembered. The sickly image of New Orleans inexorably interested him in sanitary reform. Good health was thought in that era to depend upon sanitary precautions against pathogenic environmental factors and the battle against epidemic disease. Jones campaigned for a thorough cleansing of New Orleans and for sanitary reform. The most lethal epidemic disease was yellow fever. This historic scourge of the South slowly subsided in the region after the Civil War, with the only major visitations occurring in 1867 and 1878. The latter, however, was one of the most widespread and virulent in the nation's history. While Jones had first encountered this much-feared killer as early as the 1850s in the wards of the Savannah marine hospital, it was in New Orleans that he was introduced to epidemic yellow fever. By the great outbreak of 1878 he had become a yellow fever expert. Jones, like most of his contemporaries, erroneously attributed the disease to a specific poison of undetermined origin and called for preventive measures, mainly civic hygiene and a limited quarantine. Jones's tenure as president of the Louisiana State Board of Health was marred by a bitter conflict with the National Board of Health. Congress established this organization on 3 March 1879 in response to the demands for a national quarantine law and a central agency to administer it in the wake of the devastating yellow fever epidemic of 1878. From the outset there was strong opposition to the National Board of Health from those who saw it as federal interference in state health and quarantine policy. Jones, an ardent believer in states' rights, was its boldest opponent, loudly resisting the national agency's attempts to play a role in administering the quarantine along the Gulf Coast. The controversy lasted until the summer of 1882, when Congress slashed funding for the National Board of Health and drastically curtailed its functions. Jones's retreat from public life the next year did not slacken his interest in health reform. He enthusiastically returned to teaching and research. Jones was a prolific writer and during his long career published over 100 papers on a wide range of medical and scientific topics in the best journals of the day. He is chiefly remembered for his Medical and Surgical Memoirs. Consisting of four massive volumes, which appeared between 1876 and 1890, this work was a compilation of a lifetime of investigation of disease and observations on the practice of medicine. Jones died at his New Orleans home. American National Biography Online (Retrieved January 13, 2009)

Scope and Content

The collection consists of a biographical pamphlet and two letters to Liberty County historian, Rev. James Stacy. Both supplement Rev. Stacy's research for a biographical sketch of Joseph Jones. The first, dated 17 June 1895, from J. S. Winn gives much genealogical information. The second, a letter from R. Q. Mallard of 3 December 1895, recounts interestingly much Presbyterian history as well as material on Dr. Jones.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Joseph Jones biographical papers, ms 1407. Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries.

Related Materials and Subjects

Subject Terms

Chemistry teachers -- Georgia -- Augusta -- Biography.
Georgia -- Genealogy.
Historians -- Georgia -- Correspondence.
Jones, Joseph, 1833-1896
Mallard, R. Q. (Robert Quarterman), 1830-1904 -- Correspondence
Physicians -- Georgia -- Biography.
Stacy, James, 1830-1912 -- Correspondence
Winn, J. S. -- Correspondence

Series Descriptions and Folder Listing

1Papers, 1895