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Transactions of the Southern Surgical Association: Origins & History of the Association

This guide provides an overview of the Transactions of the Southern Surgical Association digital collection, as well as instructions on how it can be searched, browsed and used for historical research.

William Elias Brownlee Davis

W. E. B. Davis

Founders List

William D. Haggard, First President

Image Credits

William Elias Brownlee Davis: From W. E. B. Davis' obituary within Transactions (Vol. XVI, 1903). The archival copy scanned here was owned by his brother and includes a few handwritten annotations within the obituary.

John Daniel Sinkler Davis: From J. D. S. Davis' obituary within Transactions (Vol. XLIV, 1931).

Founders List: Inside paste-down of Transactions (Vol. I, 1888).

Alabama Medical & Surgical Journal: Title page of the March, 1887 number, held within the Reynolds-Finley Historical Library.

William D. Haggard, First President: From William D. Haggard's obituary within Transactions (Vol. XV, 1902).

Origins of the Southern Surgical Association

Davis & Davis Infirmary

The Southern Surgical & Gynecological Association was founded in 1887 by Birmingham brothers and surgeons, Drs. William Elias Brownlee Davis and John Daniel Sinkler Davis. The brothers ran an infirmary in Birmingham, and also later helped found the Birmingham Medical College. Their initial ventures of creating an Alabama state-wide surgical association and a related publication, the Alabama Medical and Surgical Journal, were short-lived due to political resistance within the state medical profession. Therefore, having already named numerous honorary members from out-of-state, W. E. B. Davis solicited responses from these individuals on whether the failing state organization might be expanded to a Southern association. The story of the association's founding by the Davis brothers is told in detail in the 1962 Presidential Address by Robert M. Moore from Volume LXXIV. Moore explains,

"Although only a few from outside Alabama attended the first - and only - meeting of the Alabama Surgical and Gynecological Association, on the basis of the 80 favorable replies the Secretary had received from out-of-state, the Southern Surgical and Gynecological Association was formed on the second day of the meeting, October 12, 1887. Dr. W. D. Haggard [of Nashville] was elected President, and Dr. W. E. B.Davis, Secretary. Dr. J. S. Cain of Nashville was elected Chairman of the Judicial Committee and Dr. John D. S. Davis, the older brother, was named Chairman of the Committee on Arrangements for the first meeting of "the Southern" (p. 4).

On the inside paste-down of the first volume of archival transactions is a handwritten list, noted "Founders 1887" (shown on the left), believed to be in the hand of one of the Davis brothers. A loose scrap of paper found inside reads "Drs. Davis & Davis Infirmary" (shown above). Additional handwritten notes on the Members list inside the volume further confirm this list of the association's founders.

The first meeting of the Southern Surgical & Gynecological Association was held on December 4-6, 1888, in the Hall of the Young Men's Christian Association in Birmingham.

History of the Southern Surgical Association

Below are some noteworthy events that occurred during the first 100 years of the Southern Surgical Association:

1889 - The first volume of Transactions (Volume I, 1888) is published in Birmingham. The first constitution and by-laws of the organization are included.

1905 - The first scientific paper with more than one author (C. H. and W. J. Mayo) was published in Vol. XVII (1904) of the Transactions.

1909 - First of many meetings to be held at the Homestead Hotel in Hot Springs, Virginia

1912 - In honor of the 25th anniversary of the association, a 25 year index was published in the Transactions (See the index of Volumes 1-25 online in three parts: Part I, Part II, Part III).

1912 - The organizational meeting of the American College of Surgeons was held privately during the 25th anniversary meeting of the Southern Surgical & Gynecological Association. It is not recorded in the minutes but verified from other sources.

1916 - The name of the association is changed to the Southern Surgical Association. The change is noted in the Minutes of the Transactions Vol. XXIX (1916).

1933 - Papers from the 1932 meeting are published in The American Journal of Surgery, beginning a three year arrangement with the publisher, Paul B. Hoeber, Inc., to provide a wider distribution for the scientific articles within the transactions.

1935 - Papers from the 1935 meeting are published in the Annals of Surgery, beginning a long-time arrangement with the publisher, J. B. Lippincott Co. of Philadelphia.

1942 - Due to wartime restrictions on travel, no meeting was held in 1942, the only year this has occurred in the history of the organization.

1947 - The second meeting to be held in Florida initiates the regular alternation of a Florida resort hotel as a meeting place.

1961 - Dr. Joseph M. Donald of Birmingham dies while in office as the President of the Southern Surgical Association.

1987 - The Southern Surgical Association celebrates its 100th anniversary. Also, Lister Hill Library (now a part of UAB Libraries) of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) becomes the archival repository for the Southern Surgical Association. An endowment fund named in honor of Dr. Joseph M. Donald is established at UAB solely for the benefit of the Southern Surgical Association historical collection.



"The Last Chapter: Farewell to the First Century and Welcome to the Second," The Southern Surgical Association: The First 100 Years, 1887-1987, Edited by Robert S. Sparkman (Published for the Association by J. B. Lippincott Company: Philadelphia, 1989).


Image: The Southern Surgical Association Historical Collection within the Reynolds-Finley Historical Library, UAB Libraries, University of Alabama at Birmingham.

John Daniel Sinkler Davis

J.D.S. Davis

Alabama Medical & Surgical Journal

Articles Pertaining to the History of the SSA

Brown B. Annual address of the President: The Southern Surgical and Gynecological Association - Its origin, objects, and aims. Trans South Surg Assoc 1893; 6: 1-21.

Davis WEB. Annual address of the President. Trans South Surg Assoc 1902; 15: 1-20.

Royster HA. Southern Surgical Association historical sketch. Trans South Surg Assoc 1940; 53: 437-446.

Royster HA. The Southern Surgical Association, its history and its traditions. Trans South Surg Assoc 1950; 62: 340-342.

Moore RM. The Davis brothers of Birmingham and the Southern Surgical and Gynecological Association. Trans South Surg Assoc 1962; 74: 1-3.

Kirtley JA, Jr. A panorama on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Southern Surgical Association. Trans South Surg Assoc 1963; 75: 1-7.

Sawyers JL. Presidential address, The origin and early development of the Southern Surgical Association. Trans South Surg Assoc 1987; 99: 1-9.

Gray LA, Sr. The role of gynecologic surgeons in the Southern Surgical Association. Trans South Surg Assoc 1987; 99: 16-24.

Williams GR. Southern Surgical Association: The ninety-seven Presidential Addresses 1888-1987. Trans South Surg Assoc 1987; 99: 33-40.

Sabiston DC, Jr. Publication of the Proceedings of the Southern Surgical Association. Trans South Surg Assoc 1987; 99: 41-48.

Bland KI. 16th Annual Joseph M. Donald History of Medicine Lecture: The Founding Fathers versus Jerome Cochran: Organization and Development of the Southern Surgical and Gynecological Association in Birmingham. Presented at the 129th Annual Session of The Southern Surgical Association, The Homestead; Hot Springs, Virginia, December 4, 2017.

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