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Fairchild, David Sturgis
(September 16, 1847–February 26, 1930)

–pioneer physician, medical educator, and editor of the Journal of the Iowa State Medical Society (JISMS)—was the foremost compiler of Iowa's early medical history. Fairchild wrote numerous articles on early physicians and county medical societies for JISMS, before eventually writing his History of Medicine in Iowa in 1927.

    Fairchild was born in Fairfield, Vermont, where he began his medical education, serving a preceptorship under John Cromton. Fairchild attended the University of Michigan Medical School from 1866 to 1867 and ultimately earned his degree from Albany Medical College in 1868. He practiced medicine in Minnesota before relocating to Ames in 1873.

    In Ames, Fairchild continued his private practice, but also quickly emerged as a leader among local physicians. He organized the Story County Medical Society in 1873 and later became its president. Fairchild was named physician for Iowa Agricultural College in 1877. He also served as professor of anatomy at the short-lived Iowa Agricultural College of Medicine, organizing Ames's first modern hospital in 1885.

    Fairchild was named to the faculty of the Iowa College of Physicians and Surgeons (later to become the College of Medicine at Drake University) and spent two years as its president. He became president of the Iowa State Medical Society in 1895. He was also named president of the Western Surgical Association in 1898. His advocacy was vital to the establishment of the state-funded tuberculosis sanitarium at the State University of Iowa in 1904, a notable contribution to the state's public health.

    Concurrent with his activity as medical educator, Fairchild was engaged as the surgeon for the Chicago and North Western Railroad, covering all the lines within Iowa. He held a similar post for the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railway system. That experience allowed him to devote more of his attention to surgery. That, in turn, gave Fairchild ample cases to write up for medical journals.

    In the late stages of his career, Fairchild became editor of JISMS (1911-1928). He was a willing and valued adviser to authors, advancing medical science and practice in Iowa. As JISMS editor, Fairchild developed a keen interest in Iowa's medical history. He contributed many articles in that field, and he ultimately resigned his position as editor to devote more time to writing medical history.

    Much of what is known about Iowa medicine in the 19th century is due to Fairchild's diligent efforts to preserve the story of Iowa's pioneer physicians, many of them his peers. He wrote three monographs in the last three years of his life: History of Medicine in Iowa, Medicine in Iowa from Its Early Settlement to 1876, and The Iowa Medical Profession during the Great War. These are Fairchild's most enduring legacy.
Sources include Benjamin Gue, Biographies and Portraits of the Progressive Men of Iowa (1899); Benjamin Gue, History of Iowa (1903); "David S. Fairchild," Journal of the Iowa State Medical Society 20 (1930), 176–77; and P. B. Wolfe, Wolfe's History of Clinton County, Iowa (1911).
Contributor: Matthew Schaefer