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This biography is from ANNALS of the Medical Society of the County of Albany, 1806-1851, by Sylvester D. Willard, M. D.

William Bay

During the reign of that voluptuous monarch, Louis XIV of France, the Protestant Christians, known as Huguenots, suffered many and great persecutions on account of their religious faith, and were likewise deprived of most of their civil rights. The privileges guarantied to them under the edict of 1562 was revoked by that wicked sovereign under the edict of Nantes in 1685. So great had been the persecutions, that within a short time previous more than half a million of Huguenots fled into Switzerland, Germany, Holland, and England, notwithstanding the vigilance that was exercised to prevent their escape. Their industry and their skill found a welcome reception in those countries. The ancestors of Dr. Bay were of those Huguenots who fled first into Holland, and subsequently went to Ireland; from whence Mrs. Bay, his great grandmother, with her two sons, Andrew and William, came to America and settled in Maryland about the year 1720. Andrew was a clergyman of the Presbyterian church and lived for a time in Albany. William remained in Maryland. His son was John Bay who was born in 1743, and died in 1818. The wife of John Bay was Ann Williams, who was born in 1745, and died in 1845, at the age of one hundred years.

William Bay, the subject of this notice was the second of six children of John and Ann (Williams) Bay, and was born in the city of Albany in the reign of George the third, on the 14th day of October, 1773. William passed his boyhood in the city and so essentially were the population that but few of his play fellows could speak any other than the Dutch language. When he was a lad, his father removed to Claverack in Columbia county where no inconsiderable portion of his large property was located. At a suitable age William was sent to Princeton College, New Jersey, then the great literary school of the Middle States, where his father graduated in 1765. He remained in college until his senior year, when ill health obliged him for a time to relinquish his studies. Having determined to study medicine he went to New York in 1794, and became a private pupil of Dr. William Pitt Smith, an eminent physician in that city. The only medical school in the state was Columbia College, and in its corps of distinguished professors were Smith, Post, Mitchell, Kogers, Hosack, and Hammersley. Dr. Smith, in addition to his other offices, held the arduous and responsible one of health officer to the port, and in the discharge of its laborious duties fell a victim to inflammation of the lungs in 1795. In the interval between his death and the appointment of his successor (Dr. Richard Bailey), being about four months, the office was temporarily filled by Dr. William Bay. He next became a pupil of the eminent Dr. Samuel Latham Mitchell, and remained in his office until he graduated as doctor in medicine in May, 1797.

The subject of his inaugural thesis was, "The operation of Pestilential Fluids upon the Large Intestines, termed by Nosologists, Dysentery." This was published by T. & J. Swords, 1797, Svo., pp. 109.

A review of this dissertation was published in the New York Medical Repository (vol. 1, p. 110), and occupies over six pages. The review concludes thus:"Whatever variety of opinion or discordancy of facts may exist on this subject, we are persuaded that the most perfect unanimity will prevail in considering the principles set forth by Mr. Bay, and supported by so many powerful arguments, as highly interesting to the science of medicine, and the welfare of mankind; and we are convinced the same unanimity will be felt in ascribing to our author, the praise of diligence, ingenuity, and a comprehensive survey of the subject on which he treats. This early fruit of his studies, worthy a more advanced age and mature experience, leaves us no room to doubt that his future professional career will be alike honorable to himself and useful to his country."

Dr. Bay returned from New York to his home in Claverack, where he immediately began the pursuit of his profession. His business and his reputation alike rapidly increased, and his skill was sought throughout an extensive district; but after a few years he found a large country practice exceedingly laborious, and in 1810 he was induced to remove to Albany, where he formed a business relation with Dr. McClelland, who died a few months subsequently, and left Dr. Bay at once in a large field of practice. He was elastic with health, and in the vigor of early manhood, with zeal in his profession, and he at once became a leading practitioner. He was esteemed a skillful accoucheur, in which his experience was very large and valuable, and his medical brethren frequently sought his counsel in difficult cases.

Dr. Bay married Catharine, a sister of Wm. W. Van Ness in 1797; they had four children, three of whom are still living. Mrs. Bay was a beautiful example of a cultivated Christian woman; she lived with her husband sixty-eight years, and died at the age of eighty-seven years, on the 24th of January, 1864.

Dr. Bay continued in practice for sixty-three years; at first withdrawing from its more active duties, and at length entirely from its cares.

Upon the completion of his half century in practice, the profession of his native city gave him a public dinner, in honor of the occasion, and in appreciation of his long and faithful services as a citizen and a physician. The event took place at Congress Hall in April, 1847, and was one of delightful harmony and good feeling. His venerable colleague, Dr. Eights, was too ill to be present, but who, with Beck, and Wendell, and Wing, and many others who were present and gave dignity to the occasion, have passed away.

Several years later the Medical Society, in 1856, held its semi-centennial anniversary. Dr. Alexander Fonda, one of its original members was present. One other member survived, but Dr. Bay was the patriarch of the occasion, and was addressed by the orator in terms of cordial congratulations. He was present also at the festivities of the evening, and responded to the sentiment that called him to the floor.

Dr. Bay still survives, full of venerable dignity and full of years (since the death of John Rodman Coxe, on the 23d March, 1864), probably the oldest physician in the country. He stands like the venerable oak where the forests around it have fallen. His life time covers the period of the birth and growth of a great nation. Its infancy was in his boyhood; he has seen it wax strong, and now witnesses the conclusive struggle that threatens its downfall. May he still survive to know of its once more peaceful and united prosperity.

Dr. Bay was born in circumstances of affluence; his father was an educated and accomplished lawyer, conspicuous among his associates for his integrity, for his courteous and accomplished manners, a member of the committee of public safety, and associated with the public men of his times. His home was the abode of a cultivated and attractive hospitality. These influences gave his son the advantages of high social position, and the training of cheerfulness and amiability which has characterized his life, a life of professional energy, moral integrity, and of Christian worth and virtue. The shades of its evening are drawing on, and Dr. Bay in his ninety-first year, in remarkable mental elasticity and Christian cheerfulness, is patiently waiting the close of his long pilgrimage. May it be attended with every blessing.

A brother, Thomas Bay, was a lawyer of prominence, and mayor of Hudson; he died in 1832; a venerable brother John Bay, resided with the doctor until his death on the 15th of April, 1864, at the age of eighty-two years. His son, Dr. John W. Bay, graduated in New York in 1823, but abandoned the practice of his profession many years ago.



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