US GenWeb

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

Joel A. Wing

Joel A. Wing was the eldest son ofJames and Lydia Wing, both natives of Massachusetts. Joel was born in Berkshire county, Massachusetts, on the 13th of August, 1788, where his early days were spent. Having determined upon entering the medical profession, he became a pupil of Dr. John De La Mater, (since a distinguished professor in the Medical school at Cleveland, Ohio.) During the period of his pupilage he directed his attention especially to the science of Anatomy, and prosecuted private dissections with great zeal, obtaining the material with many novel adventures and hair breadth escapes. He devoted himself to surgery also, but in early life he abandoned it as a speciality, on account of imperfect vision.

He became a licentiate of the Medical Society of Montgomery county, in 1811, and the ensuing winter attended the medical lectures at the College of Physicians and Surgeors in New York.

He returned to Columbia county in this state, and commenced practice. A few months after, on the recommendation of Prof. John Watts, he was appointed surgeon in the army, an appointment he knew nothing of until he received his commission.

He held the appointment under earnest and doubtful consideration for two days, anxiously debating whether he should enter the military sendee. But he decided in the negative and returned his commission, accompanied by a resignation, to the department at Washington.

He was shortly after, in 1814, appointed post surgeon to a garrison of the army stationed near Albany, and removed to this city and assumed the duties of the position.

In 1816 he united with this Society and ever continued one of its warmest and most reliable friends, filling some one of its various offices for many years. He was elected its President in 1826 and 1827.

In 1832 he became a member of the State Medical Society, and was elected President of that body in 1843, while absent from the country.

In 1825 Williams College conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Medicine. He was for several years, until the period of his illness, one of the managers of the New York State Lunatic Asylum, and was active in securing to it the services of its late distinguished superintendent, Dr. Brigham.

Dr. Wing spent thirty-eight of the forty-one years of his professional life in Albany, and in private practice few physicians became more extensively engaged. So exact was his system, that at the close of his practice he could refer to any prescription of importance that he had made within twenty-five years.

In 1832, while engaged nearly every hour in the twentyfour, scarcely allowing himself any rest or relaxation during the prevalence of the cholera, he was violently attacked with that fearful malady. His recovery was considered by his professional brethren, who were prompt and unwearied in their devotions to him, one of the most remarkable that occurred during the season. But he never afterwards enjoyed uniform good health, and in 1843 was obliged to relinquish his business under no flattering prospect of recovery, and repair to the mild and less variable climate of the West Indies. Here after several months, he so far recovered as to return, and once more plunge into the toils of his profession. With few brief interruptions, he continued actively engaged until the summer of 1851, when he became mentally and physically prostrated, and at length after a weary illness of nearly a year, he died at Hartford, Connecticut, on the 6th of September, 1852, in the 65th year of his age.

Dr. Wing was a man acute in his perceptions, ready and keen in his observations. In every respect he was admirably adapted for the profession of his choice. With great skill he united untiring energy of body and mind. His manners were modest, unassuming, unembarrassed, His habits were social, and in conversation he was winning. He at once enlisted the confidence of the patient and inspired him with hope. In the sick room he was kind and affectionate; there he was a model physician, and among his patients he had most devoted friends.

He read much and possessed an accurate and retentive memory, so that he was able to repeat pages, almost verbatim, that he had not seen in years. In health, his spirits were buoyant and gay; his laugh was contagious, his fund of anecdote inexhaustible, and used with great aptness. With an extensive acquaintance his society was much sought, and in the profession throughout the state he had a multitude of friends. For political distinction, he had no possible desire, and was, in his disposition, averse to the turmoils of such a life. Yet for many years he was intimate with the leading politicians of the State, and possessed a strong social influence with them.

Dr. Wing had some constitutional peculiarities, but none more annoying to his professional brethren than his habit of delaying his visits, and appointments for counsel, beyond the time specified. Indeed so proverbial was this, that years before he died he was known as "the late Dr. Wing," a title he enjoyed, whenever he heard it applied.

His counsels were frequently sought, and in critical cases almost uniformly adopted. The most desperate cases he was unwilling to abandon as hopeless. To the junior members of the profession he was uniformly courteous, and exercised towards them a kindness of manner, that has not always characterised seniors in the medical profession.

To the desponding he had always a word of encouragement, and not unfrequently wholesome advice for the presuming and impertinent. With a favorite volume, he took no note of time and was as regardless of the hours of sleep as of business. At length, with such a habit, sleep came unwillingly and with broken slumbers, until disease grew upon him, and he lost the power of yielding to its soothing and balmy influence. To the poor he was kind and liberal, bestowing upon them his best services without expectation or hope of reward.

Dr. Wing was in every respect a self made man; to society, and to the profession to which his whole life was enthusiastcally devoted he was a great loss. Few men have been more popular with the leading men of the profession throughout the state than was he.

Dr. Wing married the daughter of Matthew Gregory of Albany, in 1818; she died in 1837. He left two sons and two daughters; the latter reside in Geneva and Rochester respectively. The elder son, Matthew Gregory, being a graduate of Yale College, in 1847 was a valetudinarian voyageur, and resided in Europe several years. He died in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1860. Lieut. James W., late Acting Assistant Paymaster in the U. S. Navy, resides at Rochester.

Send comments or suggestions to:
Debby Masterson

Go Back to Albany County Biographies
Go Back to Home Page