This section is from the book "The Transmission Of Life. Counsels On The Nature And Hygiene Of The Masculine Function", by George H. Napheys. Also available from Amazon: The Transmission of Life.
Were man's life measured by his deeds, as the poet suggests, how brief would be the long years of many an octogenarian, and how extended the short span which has been allotted to not a few of the world's famous heroes!
This oft-repeated thought strikes us forcibly in considering the biography of the subject of this sketch. Closing his life at an age when most professional men are but beginning theirs, he had already studied broadly, had traveled widely over two continents, had gained credit and fame by the sword and the pen, and had amassed a fund of erudition and experience which the more lethargic lives of most men fail to approach after twice his length of days. It is eminently appropriate that a record of his busy career should be attached to the works on which his celebrity is chiefly based, and in which he most conspicuously displays that command of language and happy facility of imparting instruction for which he was so remarkable.
George Henry Napheys (pronounced Na'feez, the a as in fate) was born in the city of Philadelphia, March 5th, 1842. His parents died while he was still at a tender age, and he was placed with some relatives who resided in the city. From early years he was characterized by quick perceptions and a retentive memory. In the Philadelphia High School, from which he received the academic degree of Master of Arts, he was considered the best scholar in his class, a marked distinction in view of the large numbers which attend that institution. Besides acquiring the usual studies of the High School, he gave considerable time to phono-graphy, in which he became so skilled that he could report any ordinary speaker with entire accuracy. This subsequently proved a great advantage to him in his medical career.
After his graduation he repaired to Hartford, Conn., where he was offered and accepted the position of private secretary to a gentleman of prominence in the literary and religious world.
Thus he was engaged when the civil war broke out. "With his natural warmth of feeling and strong emotions, he entered the fray among the first, and went out as Lieutenant, and subsequently as Captain, Company F, 10th Connecticut State Volunteers. The regiment was enlisted for nine months, and was dispatched to Louisiana, General Banks then commanding the Department. It participated in engagements near Baton Rouge and on the Red River, in which Captain Napheys always acquitted himself with bravery and credit.
At the time the regiment was disbanded, an early preference for medical subjects led him to devote a year to the preliminary studies of that profession, but not waiting the full period required for a degree, he was appointed assistant medical officer on the U. S. steamer Mingo, of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. On her he passed a number of months, cruising off the coast of the Carolinas and Georgia, and ascended the St. John river.
These active duties prevented him from receiving his degree of Doctor of Medicine until after the close of the war, when, in 186G, his diploma was conferred upon him by the Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia, one of the most renowned institutions of our country.
After graduation, he opened an office in Philadelphia, and connected himself with the clinics which are held at the College for the purpose of supplying medicine and medical advice to the poor gratuitously, as well as for giving students an opportunity of witnessing various forms of disease. The practical experience he gained in this manner was considerable, and his natural ability soon recommended him to the authorities of the institution, who appointed him Chief of Medical Clinic of the College, a position he held for several years.
One of the advantages of this post was that it brought him into constant communion with many eminent medical men, and rendered him practically acquainted with their treatment of disease. His skill in phonography enabled him to take abundant notes of their lectures, and this led to his early connection with the periodical literature of the profession. Most of the reports he drew up were published in the Medical and Surgical Reporter, a weekly journal, devoted to medical science, published in Philadelphia. The series of reports commenced in April, 1866, and continued, with slight interruptions, until June, 1870. They are characterized by a clear and correct style, and a manifestly thorough grasp of the numerous topics treated.
The success which these ephemeral writings obtained turned his thoughts in the direction of authorship. His tastes and associations led him to employ his powers in two directions: first, in preparing for the general public a series of works which would acquaint them with anatomy, physiology, hygiene, sanitary science, nursing, and the management of disease, to the extent that intelligent general readers can and ought to know about these subjects; and secondly, in writing for professional men several treatises on the means of alleviating and curing diseases.
In the prosecution of the first mentioned of these plans, he was early impressed with the utter absence of any treatise on the hygiene of the sexual life in either sex, written in the proper spirit by a scientific man. The field had been left to quacks or worse, who, to serve their own base ends, scattered inflammatory and often indecent pamphlets over the land ; or else, had one or more of the points been handled by reputable writers, it was in such a vague and imperfect manner that the reader gained little benefit from the perusal. While all agreed that a sound treatise on these topics was most desirable, it had been openly averred that it could not be written in a proper style for the general public.
Strong in the conviction that pure motives, literary tact, and the requisite scientific knowledge qualified him to undertake this difficult task, Dr. Napheys prepared, in the early months of I869, his work on " The Physical Life of "Woman." Proceeding with caution, he first submitted the Mss. to some professional friends, and profited by their stions. After the work was in type, and before publication, he sent complete copies to a number of gentlemen, eminent as medical teachers, clergymen, educators, and liter-ateurs. Their replies left him in no doubt but that he had succeeded even beyond his anticipations. Almost unanimously the opinions were complimentary in the highest degree, and evidently written after a close examination of the book. As many of these have been printed to accompany the work, in the last and previous editions, it is need- do more in this connection than to say that they were penned by such judges as Dr. W. A. Hammond, late Surgeon-General U. S. Army; Dr. Harvey L. Byrd, Professor in the Medical Department of Washington University, Md.;