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LEWIS BALCH, M. D., PH. D.
ONE of the physicians and surgeons of Albany, whose professional assistance has been sought often in consultation through the state, is Dr. Lewis Balch. He was born in the city of New York, corner of Great Jones street and Second Avenue, on the 7th day of July, 1847. Ancestry on both sides is a notable one. It is of English and French origin. Several of his ancestors have rendered no small service in this country in civil and ecclesiastical matters. He is the oldest son of the Rev. Lewis P. W. Balch, D. D., and Anna Jay.
His father was born in Leesburg, Va., in 1810, and died in Detroit, Mich., in 1874, where he was rector of Grace Episcopal church. Before the Rev. Dr. Balch moved to Detroit, where he resided but a year, he had filled many and important offices in the church, both in this country and Canada, having been for fifteen years secretary of the house of bishops of the United States. He was especially distinguished for his eloquence as a preacher. When a young man he was appointed a cadet at West Point, and served there three years, resigning to enter Princeton college preparatory to studying for the ministry. His mother, a lady of rare beauty and accomplishments, the daughter of the Hon. William Jay, died when the subject of this sketch was an infant. His grandfather, the Hon. Lewis P. W. Balch, of Leetown, Va., served as a volunteer at Fort McHenry in the war of 1812, and after the civil war was the only man able to take what was then known as the “iron-clad oath” in the valley of Virginia, and was appointed United States judge for that district. His great-grandfather, the Rev. Stephen Balch, was born in 1746; graduated from Princeton College in 1774; settled as pastor of a church at Georgetown, D. C, and died in 1833.
On his maternal side Dr. Balch’s grandfather was the Hon. Wm. Jay, the second son of John Jay. He studied the classics at Albany with the Rev. Thomas Ellison of Oxford, England, and while in this city formed a life-long friendship with James Fenimore Cooper. In 1818 he was appointed to the bench of Westchester County by Governor DeWitt Clinton. He assisted in forming the American Bible Society, and was one of the advocates of the modern anti-slavery movements. He died October 14th, 1858, leaving the fragrance of a good name. The great-grandfather of Dr. Balch on his mother’s side was the celebrated John Jay, our minister to Spain in 1778, our special envoy to Great Britain in 1794, and first chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. He was also governor and chief justice of this state. His eminent services adorn the pages of American history.
Dr. Balch was educated at the Maryland institute, Baltimore, MD., the Berkeley institute, Newport, R. L, and the Vermont Episcopal institute, Burlington, VT., where he prepared for college, but owing to over study, was obliged to suspend all work for a year in order to recover his health. At the lapse of that time, in the fall of 1866, he entered the medical department of McGill University, Montreal, Canada, where his father was then living. At the end of the college year, illness again forced him to seek rest, and he, following the advice of his physician, visited the Brazils in the winter of 1867-8. In the fall of 1868, he matriculated at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the medical department of Columbia College, in New York, from where he graduated in March, 1870. After a short rest, he entered and resided for one year, in the Brooklyn city hospital, further fitting himself for his life’s work. Before his graduation he had had service in the Montreal general hospital, the old New York hospital in Broadway, and the Children’s hospital on Ward’s island, New York harbor. After leaving the Brooklyn city hospital, Dr. Balch opened an office in New York and received the appointment of attending surgeon to the Northern dispensary.
In 1873, he moved to Albany and began the earnest practice of his profession. A few years after his coming to the latter city, he was made an attending surgeon to St. Peter’s hospital. When the Albany medical college was reorganized in 1876, Dr. Balch was appointed professor of anatomy, one of the attending surgeons to the Albany city hospital, and the surgeon of the Child’s hospital. For a while he was associated with the late Dr. John Swinburne, and with him was asked to take charge of the surgical division of the Homoeopathic hospital, which invitation he accepted.
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Dr. Balch was appointed one of the district physicians for the city by the Hon. A. B. Banks, and when the same gentleman served his second term as mayor, he offered Dr. Balch the position of city physician, promoting him to be health officer when that office became vacant in 1885. In 1886 the state board of health appointed Dr. Balch as secretary to succeed Dr. Carroll, and re-appointed him for a second term in 1889.
Shortly after graduation, Dr. Balch entered the service of the National Guard as an assistant surgeon, was promoted to be surgeon, and with the exception of four years, from 1873 to 1877, has remained in the service.
In 1870 Dr. Balch married Miss Jane B. Swann, a niece of Governor Swann of Maryland, by whom he has had one son, born in 1872.