Simeon Edward Josephi was born in the city of New York on December 3, 1849. His father, Edward Josephi, was a native of St. Petersburg, Russia, but left that country with his parents for England when a boy. He afterwards came to New York, where he embarked in the jewelry business, becoming a prominent wholesale jeweler of that city and San Francisco. Returning to New York from a trip to the latter city, he was lost in the burning of the ill-fated steamer Golden Gate in 1862. The mother of Doctor Josephi is a native of England. She is one of the Spanish Mandoza family, her father having emigrated from his native country prior to her birth.
Doctor Josephi spent his early life in the city of his birth, and there received his literary education, chiefly in the public school. In 1863 he graduated from the grammar school. In 1863 he graduated from the grammar school and entered what was then known as the Free Academy (now the New York College) on Lexington avenue. After pursuing his studies there for a year, he accepted a clerkship in a mercantile house. Possessed with a desire to see the great West, he embarked for San Francisco on the steamer, Santiago de Cuba, via the Nicaragua route, arriving in California in September, 1866.
In January, 1867, he came to Portland, Oregon, to accept the position of book-keeper at the Oregon Hospital for the Insane, at that time conducted by Doctors Hawthorne and Loryea. There he commenced his medical studies under peculiar advantages. At that time the only hospital in Multnomah county was that connected with the asylum, and occupying a separate and detached wing of the asylum building. This general hospital was also under the direct supervision of Doctors Hawthorne and Loryea; so that there was not only the benefit to be derived from the study of insanity by close and personal contact with the insane, but also much experience in general medicine and surgery to be gained by practical work in the hospital wards.
In 1869, having prepared himself by close study, the subject of this sketch went to New York for the purpose of entering the Bellevue Hospital College. Here a question arose involving a sacrifice of convictions and principles on his part in exchange for financial advantage and the pursuance of his medical studies. He chose an adherence to his convictions, and thus lost the opportunities he had so long and earnestly looked forward to.
Returning to Oregon under many harsh and adverse circumstance, he temporarily abandoned the study of medicine and accepted a position in the banking-house of Stephens & Loryea in 1869. In April, 1871, he married Miss Hannah M. Stone, daughter of Lewis E. Stone, of Wisconsin. By this marriage he had five children, four of whom are living.
After his marriage he devoted a short time to reading law, but soon again resumed his medical studies, taking such leisure hours as he could obtain by rising very early and retiring late, and working at his desk during the intervening hours. Filled with a determination to obtain his medical degree, he toiled at study and work, saving little by little out of his salary, until finally he felt enabled to give up his clerical position with the Home Mutual Insurance Company (to which place he had been transferred upon the discontinuance of the banking business of Stephens & Loryea) and entered a medical college for his degree. This he did in 1876, matriculating at the Medical Department of the University of California; and in November, 1877, he graduated among the highest in his class. Returning to Oregon, he accepted the position of assistant physician at the Oregon Hospital for the Insane, under his old friend and preceptor, Dr. J.C. Hawthorne, in which and also in the general practice of his profession he continued until the death of Doctor Hawthorne, in February, 1881, when he succeeded his late chief as superintendent of the institution. He continued in charge until the discontinuance of the asylum in October, 1883, which occurred on account of the termination of the contract between the State of Oregon and the Hawthorne heirs, owing to the fact that the state was then for the first time ready to receive and care for its insane in its own building.
He then entered into general practice again in Portland, and so continued until May 1, 1886, when he was unanimously elected, by the board of trustees of the Oregon State Insane Asylum, superintendent of that institution. In this position he continued, administering the affairs of the asylum with capability and success, and effecting many improvements in its general conduct until July, 1887, when he resigned owing to the expressed wish of the then Democratic board of trustees (the old board having gone out in January, 1887) to run the asylum upon political lines, and fill the position of superintendent from a member of their own party. Realizing that, if the board were determined not to work in harmony with the superintendent, the usefulness of the institution must necessarily become impaired, he chose to sever his connection with the hospital rather than remain in charge under circumstances which would result in discord between the board and himself.
Returning to Portland, he again entered into general practice, and has so continued to the present time. During the professional career of Dr. Josephi, he has occupied various educational positions. In 1879 he was elected professor of anatomy and psychology in the Medical Department of Willamette University. In 1881, at his own request, he was transferred to the chair of obstetrics in the same college. At the reorganization of this college in 1887, he was offered the chairs of anatomy and obstetrics, but declined both. Later in the year 1887,the Medical Department of the University of Oregon was chartered; and Doctor Josephi accepted the professorship of obstetrics and psychology. At the final organization in the fall of 1887, he was elected dean of the medical faculty, to which position he has been re-elected each succeeding year, and which he now occupies.
He is a member of the Oregon State Medical Society, of which body he was president in 1884; and he was also president of the Portland Medical Society in 1885.
In 1885 Doctor Josephi was appointed by Governor Z.F. Moody one of the advisory board of pardons, his coadjutors being Honorable A. Bush and Reverend w. Hill of Salem. This position he filled until January, 1887, when he resigned upon the inauguration of Governor Moody’s successor. Though of Jewish lineage, Doctor Josephi has been a communicant of the Protestant Episcopal church since 1869. He is a member of the Orient Lodge and also of Ellison Encampment, I.O.O.F. He has several times represented his lodge in the state grand lodge, and was during 1883-84 one of the grand representatives to the sovereign grand lodge.