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ALBERT VANDER VEER
“A wise physician, skill’d our wounds to heal. Is more than armies to the public weal.”
Pope – The Iliad.
AN ALBANIAN who stands at the head of his profession as a surgeon, and whose fame is extended far beyond the limits of the city, is Dr. Albert Vander Veer. Born in the town of Root, Montgomery County, NY, on the 10th of July, 1841, his earliest days were quietly passed amidst pleasing scenes of rural life. He is a son of Abram H. Vander Veer, who in 1828 erected for tannery purposes the first building at what is now called Rural Grove. He comes from good old Holland stock, a race which has done so much in the interest of colonization, civilization and the development of moral and intellectual powers.
His ancestors on his father’s side came from Alkmaar, Holland, in 1639, just nineteen years after the Pilgrim Fathers landed on Plymouth rock, where -
“Amidst the storm they sang,
And the stars heard, and the sea;
And the sounding isles of the dim woods rang
To the anthem of the free.”
They settled first on Long Island, then in New Jersey. His ancestors on his grandmother’s side were also Hollanders of the name of Vancovenhoven, a name which was gradually abbreviated into that of Conover; and this was his grandmother’s maiden name. This estimable lady lived amidst stirring times in our country’s history. When she was a little girl the battle of Monmouth was fought on the 28th of June, 1778, on her father’s farm in New Jersey. She witnessed the terrible conflict on that hot June day, and in the evening heard the groans of the wounded and dying as they were gathered and sheltered in the house and out-buildings of her father, where she carried water to cool their parched lips. In after years she loved to repeat to her children the story of that battlefield, impressing upon them the inestimable blessings of civil liberty.
The Vander Veer family has also been noted for their lofty, undying patriotism. William Vander Veer, a relative of the present doctor, was an officer in the Revolutionary army, and a surgeon in the war of 181 2. In the war for the Union Col. Frederick Vander Veer, a cousin of the doctor, conimanded a brigade under Hooker, at Lookout Mountain, and was one of the first to scale its rugged sides and plant the ” stars and stripes ” on its heights. General William Vander Veer, another relative of the doctor, originally settled in Iowa, where he became a member of congress, and also a general in the civil war. He now resides in California. Captain Garret Vander Veer, a brother of the doctor, was one of the bravest young men who died upon our country’s altar. The thunder of Sumter’s guns stirred his young patriotic spirit into action, and he could not rest till he enlisted in the service, raising a company by his own efforts. He made a splendid officer, but his career was cut short. In the fierce fight at Olustee, Fla., in 1863, he was wounded three times during the day, but refused to leave the field or turn his back upon the foe. He fought with desperate bravery, and after the conflict was over, he was removed to Beaufort, where he died of his wounds three days afterward, at the age of thirty-two. Had he lived a few days longer he would have received his commission as lieutenant-colonel of the 115th N. Y. Vols. Three years later his remains were brought back to his home in the north and consigned to their last resting place, at Fultonville, N. Y., with martial honors, and amidst the tears of loved ones and the friends of his youth. The G. A. R. post at Fultonville is named after this young man of Spartan courage.
Dr. Albert Vander Veer, the subject of our brief memoir, was sent at a tender age to the public school at Palatine. From a child he loved his books, and consequently his progress in the first lessons of education was not slow. In the old school-house at Palatine he was fitted for the Canajoharie academy, where he became a diligent and successful student, laying the foundation of a substantial intellectual fabric.
But there was one subject that from boyhood engaged his special attention. It was that of medicine, and his inclinations were so strong in this direction that when a mere boy he found great interest and satisfaction in dissecting birds and various small animals. The choice of his profession being now fully decided upon, at the age of eighteen he commenced the study of medicine in the office of Dr. Simeon Snow, of Root, N. Y., the father of Mrs. Vander Veer, and also of the late lamented Dr. Norman L. Snow, of Albany. He was now in his proper element, and for a year studied the various medical text-books with all the enthusiasm and devotion of a genuine student. He was desirous of learning all that was worth knowing within the range of his profession. To continue his education in a larger sphere he came to Albany and entered the office of Dr. John Swinburne, the well-known surgeon. It was even then his early ambition to rise to eminence in surgery, his chosen field of labor, and how successfully he attained this object his later career has fully shown.
In the autumn of 1861 he attended a course of lectures at the Albany Medical college. The civil war was now raging, and the call for surgeons as well as for soldiers was urgently made. Young Vander Veer, filled with ardor for his professional work, desired to go to the front, and prepare himself to attend to the wounded in the field or hospital. He first served at the Ira Harris hospital as a state medical cadet, and in May, 1862, was one of the original ” one hundred,” commissioned as a United States medical cadet, and ordered to report for duty at Columbia College hospital at Washington, D. C. While performing his regular duties at his post he also attended a course of lectures at the National Medical college there, where he had a wide field for study and observation, and where his attainments in his profession were soon so high that at the close of 1862 this institution conferred upon him the degree of M. D. He was immediately, on examination, commissioned by Surgeon-General S. O. Vanderpoel as an assistant surgeon of the Sixty-sixth regiment of New York volunteers, and in the following year was advanced to the grade of surgeon with the rank of major. In the army he performed most efficient service in behalf of the wounded soldiers, working day and night, and trying by all possible means to alleviate their sufferings and save their lives. He served thus faithfully with the Sixty-sixth regiment until the close of the war, and was mustered out in September, 1865. His medical record during the war was a splendid one. His experience as a surgeon was of inestimable advantage to himself as well as to his regiment, the fruits of which he “has ever since been gathering with abundant success.
Dr. Vander Veer is one of those physicians whose thirst after knowledge pertaining especially to his profession can never be satisfied, and to perfect as far as possible his attainments in medical science he attended a full course of lectures in the autumn and winter of 1865 and 1866, at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York city. In the spring of 1866 he returned to Albany – the scene of his earlier studies, and established himself in the general practice of his profession, where the passing years ever since have witnessed his remarkable success as a most skillful surgeon.
In the summer of 1869 Dr. Vander Veer was appointed to the chair of general and special anatomy in the Albany Medical College, from which, about the same time, he received the honorary title of M. D. He now became attending surgeon in the Albany hospital, and in 1874, was appointed to the same position in St. Peter’s hospital.
With a view of studying the various modes of treatment adopted by the great surgeons of the old world Dr. Vander Veer visited Europe in the fall of 1874, and there, during the winter, found time to gratify his special taste and to further enrich his stores of medical learning. Returning home in the following spring he was prepared to resume his professional work with renewed zest. On the re-organization of the Albany Medical college, in 1876, he accepted the professorship of the principles and practice of surgery. In 1882 he was appointed to the position which he still holds in the college that of professor of surgery.
Dr. Vander Veer has been president and a member of both the county and state medical societies. He is moreover a member of the Boston Gynaecological society; the British Medical association; the International Medical congress held at Copenhagen in 1884; the British Gynaecological society; the American Surgical association; the Holland society of New York, of which he is now vice-president for the Albany district: the American Medical association: the New York Medico-Legal society; the Albany institute, and the American association of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Dr. Vander Veer is already a prolific writer on surgical subjects, of which the following are among the principal contributions: * The Operation for Stone as observed in some of the London hospitals, together with a report of cases from private practice; ” ” Operation for Closure of Cleft of the Hard and Soft Palates: “‘ ” Report of three cases of Excision of the Rectum: ” “Report of eight cases of Uterine Fibroids: ” ” Report of ten cases of Gastric Ulcer, one case Malignant Ulcer of the Stomach, and two cases Perforating Ulcer of the Jejunum :’” “Defective Drainage,” a paper read at the Albany institute, October, 1882: Ã¢â‚¬Â¢* Report of cases of Trifacial Neuralgia: ” ” Some Personal Observations on the work of Lawson Tait. together with a report of five cases of Abdominal Section;” ** Case of Subcutaneous Section of Femur above Trochanter Major;” ” Cleft Palate and Hare Lip.” for Wood’s Reference Handbook of the Medical Science; ” Stone in the Bladder,” read before the American Surgical association; and among the latest of these, a pamphlet on ” The Operation for Ovarian Tumors,” published for the benefit of the profession. Necessity for Complete Removal of Uterine Appendages whenever Operation is called for;” “A case of Infantile Menstruation;” “Intestinal Obstruction; ” ” The Relation of the Abdominal Surgeon to the Obstetrician and Gynaecologist; ” ” To what extent can we classify Vesical Calculi for Operation ? ” ” Concealed Pregnancy – Its Relation to Abdominal Surgery; ” ” The Medico-Legal Aspect of Abdominal Surgery;” introductory address of the course of 1879-80 at the Albany Medical college, delivered October 7, 1879; ” Water Supply of Cities and Villages,” the anniversary address before the Medical Society of the State of New York, dehvered at Albany, February 3, 1886;” ” Obituary Notice of Alden March, M. D., LL. D.,” delivered at University Convocation, 1870. We may state here that the doctor is now paying the very closest attention to abdominal diseases at the Albany hospital and in his private practice, and that he has just given to the public a ” History of Abdominal Section in Albany,” with a report of seventy-five cases.
Besides his work in his study and in the lecture-room, and his attendance at the hospital, Dr. Vander Veer carries his daily private practice at his office, corner of State and Eagle streets. The poor as well as the rich receive the same careful attention at .the doctor’s hands, while many of the former have only their gratitude to return for services rendered. The doctor cannot turn a deaf ear to the calls of the suffering, and many a long trip does he make in response for medical aid. He is a member, and since the death of Judge Hand has been president of the special water commission. Has been for many years a member of the board of health of Albany. With a commanding presence, a large, and wonderfully active brain, a sound constitution and an iron will, and consummate skill in his chosen work. Dr. Vander Veer, now in the very prime of life, is pursuing his calling with his entire former ardor, and with the earnest wish among thousands of Albanians and others, that many more years may be added to his useful and notable career before he is called from his earthly labors.