Bradford, Joshua Taylor

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Bradford, Joshua Taylor

(b. Bracken County, Kentucky, 9 December 1818; d. Augusta, Kentucky, 31 October 1871)

medicine, surgery.

The son of early Kentucky settlers, William and Elizabeth Johnson Bradford, Joshua attended Augusta College and began the study of medicine in the Augusta surgery of his brother Jonathan. He was graduated M. D. in 1839 from the medical school of the University of Transylvania in Lexington, Kentucky. After establishing a practice in Augusta, Bradford spent most of his professional life there and in the nearby Kentucky and Ohio counties. On 4 February 1845 he married Sarah Emily Armstrong of Augusta; their children were William and Emily.

A believer that boiled water was the best surgical dressing, Bradford became the most successful early ovariotomist of record, on either side of the Atlantic. In the early 1840’s, when the newly developed operation for the removal of ovarian tumor was being abandoned because of its danger, Bradford operated on thirty patients, with only three deaths. No other surgeon of his time approached Bradford’s accomplishment of keeping deaths at no more than 10 percent of all patients operated on.

During the Civil War, Bradford served as a brigade surgeon with the Union Army. In this period, especially in 1861–1862, he developed improved techniques of camp sanitation and battlefield surgery.

Ironically, in the later years of his practice Bradford devised and prescribed an ointment effective against skin cancer-but died at fifty-two of cancer of the liver.


I. Original Works. Among Bradford’s writings are “Selections From a Report on Ovariotomy”, presented to the annual meeting of the Kentucky State Medical Society, Louisville, Ky. (Apr. 1857), printed in Kentucky Medical Journal, 15 (1917), 142–165; “Report of Cases of Ovariotomy Occurring in Kentucky in 1857”, in Medical News (Aug. 1859); and “Complete Rupture of the Perineum of Ten Years’ Standing, Successfully Operated on”, in Lancet and Obstetrics (Feb. 1869).

An unpublished diary covering 1862 is on deposit in the Division of Manuscripts, Library of Congress. Unpublished letters and notes are in the possession of Helen Yoder Johnson (Mrs. Howard Johnson), Mrs. Charles Bradford, and the writer.

II. Secondary Literature. Works on Bradford include W. W. Anderson, “Dr. Joshua Taylor Bradford,” in Kentucky Medical Journal, 15 (1917), 140–142; Charles Clay, Results of the Operation for Extirpation of Diseased Ovaria (Manchester, 1848); E. R. Peaslee, Ovarian Tumors, Their Pathology, Diagnosis and Treatment (New York, 1872); and “Early History of Ovariotomy in Kentucky,” in J. N. McCormack, ed., Some of the Medical Pioneers of Kentucky (Bowling Green, Ky., 1917), pp. 105–107.

See also Cyclopedia of American Medical Biography; Dictionary of National Biography; and Biographical Encyclopedia of Kentucky (Cincinnati, 1876).

Charles O’Neill

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