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GEORGE S. MUNSON, M. D.
AN ALBANIAN who, by his talents and energy, has already risen to eminence in a special department of science, is Dr. George S. Munson, ophthalmologist and aurist. Born in the village of Waterford, Saratoga County, N. Y., on the 4th of April, 1856, he passed his infancy there. He is the son of Stephen Munson and Unice A. Munson, who were highly respected citizens of Albany. On his mother’s side he is a direct descendant of the celebrated theologian and metaphysician, Rev. Jonathan Edwards of Northampton, Mass., and afterward president of Princeton College, New Jersey. His mother was a native of Westfield, Mass., and possessed many of the ennobling qualities which have distinguished the women of the old Bay State. She died in March, 1886, at New Orleans, while traveling for her health with her youngest son. The parents of Dr. Munson removed to Albany when he was scarcely two years old. Here his father was then in the shoe manufacturing business on Broadway, and soon established the largest concern of its kind in the city. It continued to flourish from year to year, commanding a large patronage both in and out of the city. Here the tender years of Dr. Munson were spent under the parental roof, with the careful attention and instruction of loving and intelligent parents, who took a pride in witnessing the budding of his young life, unfold into manhood. Observing with interest and gratification his taste for books when a child, his parents determined to give him all the advantages of a good education within their power. He was first sent to a private school, and afterward placed under the care of a private tutor at home. He was soon prepared for the higher public school No. 2, on State Street, from which he graduated in 1868. His young and ardent desires for literary instructions on a broader scale were more fully gratified when, in 1870, he entered the Albany Free academy, then on State Street, in a building which is now used as a dancing school. Here the boy of twelve years pursued his studies with zest. His mind was wrapped up in his school-books, not in the usual sports of the majority of boys of the town. He found his pleasure and even recreation in trying to master the contents of his text-books. His especially favorite study was that of elocution, in which he made steady and commendable progress, his declamations showing careful study and graceful delivery.
After four years of very hard study at this academy, young Munson graduated with high honor, and was regarded as the best speaker in the institution. He never lost his interest in elocution, and has since spoken before different literary societies and in various churches. On leaving the free academy he was thoroughly prepared for a collegiate course. Princeton College, of which his mother’s ancestor Jonathan Edwards, was chosen to the presidency in 1757, and of which the Rev. Dr. McCosh was now the president, was selected by the parents of Dr. Munson, and accordingly the young man, in 1874, at the age of 16, entered that venerable, historic institution, with a cheerful heart and lofty purposes. There during four years, he pursued the usual college curriculum with the enthusiasm of a devoted student, and the success which follows a careful and persevering investigation of the wide fields of literature and science. Study, to him, was no toilsome work, but around it was thrown many irresistible charms. He delighted to live among books and breathe the atmosphere of the intellectual world, while at the same time he was not insensible to the beauties of nature around him or the wondrous manifestations of her powers. While at college, attending to his regular studies he continued to cultivate his taste for eloquence and a polished style of English composition.
In 1876 – the centennial year – he took the first college prize in oratory, a handsome gold medal, devised by Tiffany & Co., N. Y., and valued at $50. The title of his oration on that occasion was “The Spirit of 76; no Taxation Without Representation.” It is said to have contained a vivid presentation of the just cause of the struggling patriots and of the wrongs inflicted on them by Great Britain, and to have been delivered with great force and patriotic fervor. It was much applauded by the college faculty, students and others who were present, and at once established the reputation of young Munson as an earnest and graceful speaker. While at Princeton he also took a deep interest in the more profound course of study on Biblical criticism and philosophy, instituted by Dr. McCosh, whose lectures and class examinations were so thorough and instructive. And so high were his attainments in this sacred department of study, that on his graduation he took the Bible prize, offered by Dr. McCosh, for the best Bible student.
The choice of his profession was now more plainly indicated, and during, the last years of his collegiate course at Princeton, he devoted himself more particularly to the study of medicine under the direction of his brother, Dr. Frank A. Munson. By this means he shortened his regular medical college course by one year. Besides his general academical and collegiate studies his tastes from a boy also ran in the direction of medical science, and when a mere lad he loved the elementary study of anatomy and kindred sciences, trying his hand in dissecting animals, birds, insects, etc. He entered the Albany Medical college in 1878, and graduated from that institution in 1880. During his terms of medical instruction he was a student of Dr. Van der Veer, and particularly of Dr. Snow, whose profound and masterly teachings were of great advantage to him in after life. After his graduation, the late lamented Dr. Snow, as well as Dr. Van der Veer, continued to manifest a deep interest in his success, often sending him patients and assisting him in various other ways in his profession.
Shortly after receiving his medical diploma, his brother, Dr. Frank A. Munson, died. He was an accomplished oculist and aurist, and on his death left his valuable books and instruments to George, who now thought it to be his duty to take up the study of the special department in medical science in which his brother was engaged. And for the purpose of finishing his education in this department he went to New York and entered Dr. Knapp’s excellent ophthalmic and aural institute on Twelfth Street. After six months of close study and observation. Dr. Knapp made him his first assistant, and in this capacity he remained at the institution nearly two years, doing a great deal of fine and difficult work, especially in microscopic examinations, and in descriptions of the diseases of the eye and of the ear. In order to perfect as far as possible his studies in this new chosen field for life work, Dr. Munson while in New York at this time took a special course of instruction under Drs. Noyes and Agnew, both so eminent as specialists.
At the very time when Dr. Munson had fully completed his medicinal course, in 1882, his father’s establishment was burned down, entailing a heavy pecuniary loss, and it became necessary for the young graduate to go to work with all his energy for himself. To him his father’s loss was probably a blessing in disguise, for it called forth all his professional resources into greater activity. He first opened an office at 138 State Street in 1882, where he carried on his practice for about a year, when he removed to 47 Eagle Street, occupying the office of Dr. Stevens, who had recently changed his residence to New York City. In 1885 Dr. Munson returned to his former place. No. 138 State street, attending closely to his private practice, and filling the positions of ophthalmic surgeon to St. Peter’s hospital, Albany, ophthalmic and aural surgeon to the Schenectady hospital and dispensary, and assistant surgeon in the Albany City hospital. Having purchased the desirable house No. 30 Eagle Street, he removed there with his family on the 1st of May, 1889.
On the death of Dr. Robertson of Albany, Dr. Munson purchased his entire library, which contains a large collection of ophthalmic and aural books, some of which are exceedingly rare, one set of ten volumes alone costing $300.
Dr. Munson is a member of the Fort Orange club and of the Albany Medical Library and Journal association. He is a frequent contributor to the medical literature especially relating to his chosen department, and is the author of treatises on ” The Removal of Foreign Bodies from the Interior of the Eye by the use of the Magnet,” “Use and Abuse of Astringents in Eye Diseases” “Contagious Ophthalmia with History of Cases,” “Abscess of the Middle Ear with Brain Abscess, Death and Autopsy,” “Cold Applications in Eye Diseases,” etc. His knowledge of all the various branches of human learning is also quite extensive, the result of close, studious application from early youth.
Dr. Munson’s practice has increased till today it is one of the largest in his special line of work in the city. His practice is also largely drawn from the neighboring country. He is pleasing in his manners, courteous and gentlemanly in his attention to patients, and skillful in his treatment of the many different ailments of the eye and ear which come under his care.
In 1884, Dr. Munson married Miss May S. Downing, the accomplished daughter of George S. Downing, Esq., a lawyer and prominent citizen of Albany. By this union he has one child, a boy, who was born on the 31st of March, 1888.