David Hayes Agnew

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David Hayes Agnew
David Hayes Agnew 3.jpg
Born(1818-11-24)November 24, 1818
Christiana, Pennsylvania[1]
DiedMarch 22, 1892(1892-03-22) (aged 73)
Alma materUniversity of Pennsylvania
Occupationsurgeon, professor
Known forThe Principles and Practice of Surgery

David Hayes Agnew (November 24, 1818 – March 22, 1892) was an American surgeon.


Agnew was born on November 24, 1818, Nobleville, Pennsylvania (present-day Christiana). His parents were Robert Agnew and Agnes Noble. Agnew grew up as a Christian. He was surrounded by a family of doctors and had always known he was going to become a physician. As a young boy, he had a sharp sense of humor and was very intelligent.

He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1838. He returned to Nobleville to help his father in his clinic. He worked there for two years. His father was an asthmatic and moved to Maryland in 1840 because the climate was more suited to his condition. Agnew moved with him. On November 21, 1841, he married Margaret Irwin. In 1852, he bought and revived the Philadelphia School of Anatomy. He held responsibility for ten years until 1862. During the American Civil War he was consulting surgeon in the Mower Army Hospital, near Philadelphia, and acquired a considerable reputation for his operations in cases of gunshot wounds.On December 21, 1863, he became the Demonstrator of Anatomy and Assistant Lecturer on Clinical Surgery at The University of Pennsylvania. Later, he was requested to assist the Professor of Surgery in the Conduct of the surgical clinics. In the year 1865, he gave summer instruction courses. For the next seven years, he worked for the University as Demonstrator of Anatomy. A large portion of his success was due to his wife's energy, intelligence, and determination. She gave him an impetus to try harder and not be satisfied with his first try.[2]

The Garfield Case[edit]

On July 2, 1881, President James A. Garfield was shot by Charles J. Guiteau. He held the position of chief consulting surgeon. When a committee came to give him his money for helping, Agnew said, "Gentlemen, I present no bill for my attendance to President Garfield. I gave my services freely and gratuitously". He was never optimistic about the President's case and was not fooled by fallacious beliefs. This procedure helped create Agnew's reputation.

The Agnew Clinic[edit]

Professor D. Hayes AgnewDr. J. William WhiteDr. Joseph Leidy - taking pulseDr. Ellwood R. KirbyDr. Frederick H. MillikenThomas Eakins - the artistMary U. Clymer - nurseJ. Allison Scott, M.DCharles N. Davis, M.DJohn T. Carpenter, Jr., M.DJohn Bacon, M.DBenjamin Brooke, M.D.J. Howe Adams, M.DWilliam C. Posey, M.DHenry Toulmin, M.DCharles C. Fowler, M.D.John S. Kulp, M.DAlfred Stengel, M.DClarence A. Butler, M.D.Joseph P. Tunis M.D.Frank R. Keefer, M.DNathan M. Baker, M.DGeorge S. Woodward M.D.John W. Thomas, M.DArthur Cleveland, M.DHerbert B. Carpenter, M.DGeorge D.Cross, M.D.William Furness, 3rd, M.DWalter R. Lincoln, M.DHoward S. Anders, M.DOscar M. RichardsMinford LevisClick to enlarge or move cursor over image to reveal names.
The Agnew Clinic by Thomas Eakins (1889) - move cursor over image to reveal names.

The Agnew Clinic is an 1889 painting by Thomas Eakins which depicts Agnew conducting a mastectomy operation before a gallery of students and doctors.[3]


David Agnew wrote The Principles and Practice of Surgery. It was a three-volume set that he published from 1878–1883. He also helped found the Irwin & Agnew Iron Foundry in 1846.


Agnew caught a severe attack of epidemic influenza in 1890. He never fully recovered. Following this, he had an attack of broncho-vesicular catarrh. On March 9, 1892, he was put to bed for a series of medical problems. After a few days his condition began to improve, but suddenly, on March 12 it became much worse. On March 20, he fell into a comatose condition. Agnew stayed like this until he died at 3:20 p.m. on March 22, 1892. He is now buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery.[4]


  1. ^ "Penn Biographies: D. Hayes (David Hayes) Agnew (1818–1892)". University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2015-08-07.
  2. ^ Adams, Jedidiah Howe (1892-01-01). History of the Life of D. Hayes Agnew ... F.A. Davis Company.
  3. ^ Adams, Jedidiah Howe (1892-01-01). History of the Life of D. Hayes Agnew ... F.A. Davis Company.
  4. ^ Adams, Jedidiah Howe (1892-01-01). History of the Life of D. Hayes Agnew ... F.A. Davis Company.


  • Who Was Who in America: Historical Volume, 1607–1896. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1963.
  • "Daniel Hayes Agnew, M.D.". Philadelphia Hospital Reports. Detre & Blcakburn. 1893. pp. 9–.

External links[edit]

Wikisource-logo.svg "Agnew, David Hayes". American Medical Biographies. 1920.