Scope and Content
Title: Wallace Irving Terry Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1892-1939
Collection number: MSS 50-1
Creator: Terry, Wallace Irving, 1868-1950
Extent: 2 boxes (26 folders)
University of California, San Francisco. Library. Archives and Special Collections.
San Francisco, California 94143-0840
Shelf location: For current information on the location of these
materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Collection is open for research.
[Identification of item], Wallace Irving Terry Papers, MSS 50-1, Archives & Special
Collections, UCSF Library & CKM
Wallace Irving Terry was born in Sacramento, California, on November 26, 1868. He
attended public schools in Sacramento and graduated from the University of California in
1890 with a B.S. degree. He obtained his M.D. degree from the University of California
Medical School in December of 1892, and then spent a year as intern at St. Luke's
Dr. Terry had decided to pursue a career in surgery, but felt he needed more time for
study and practical preparation, so after a short service as City Physician of
Sacramento, he began postgraduate work in March, 1894, at the New York Polyclinic under
John A. Wyeth and Charles McBurney; he also attended some of the clinics of Robert F.
Weir. Later he studied in Germany with Czerny, von Bergmann and Lungerhaus, and visited
clinics in France and England.
Returning to San Francisco in 1896, Dr. Terry began a private practice limited to
surgery. In 1899 he joined the teaching staff of the University of California Medical
School as an assistant in surgery. He advanced from this assistantship to the position of
instructor in surgery (1903-1907) and then to assistant professor (1907-1912). In 1912
the affiliated colleges (departments of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy) became an
integral part of the University. The medical school was reorganized and Dr. Terry was
appointed professor of surgery and head of the department, a position he would hold until
his retirement in 1930.
John Homer Woolsey has credited Dr. Terry, along with Drs. Stillman and Rixford, as
having brought modern surgery to San Francisco and environs. Indeed, every year Dr. Terry
spent a month or so visiting Eastern clinics, gleaning the best from each and bringing it
home to San Francisco. Some innovations he disseminated in this way include the first
direct blood transfusions from donor to patient by the use of Brewer's glass tube (it has
been noted that while the actual procedure "worked only after a fashion," it was the
beginning of a succession of improvements which resulted in the blood bank of today);
nitrous oxide anesthesia and anociassociation (also called anocithesia; the blunting of
harmful association impulses, designed to minimize the effect of surgical shock) at a
time when chloroform and ether were the only anesthetic agents in use; the use of the
first non-absorbable sutures (silk was used first, and later cotton); early removal of
drains from wounds, promoting more rapid healing by collapse instead of slower
granulation; elimination of the use of castor oil pre-and postoperatively, which helped
to conserve the patient's fluids at a time when the only fluid replacement was the
uncertain Murphy Drip; most importantly, the practice of careful asepsis (including the
use of rubber gloves), meticulous hemostasis, the careful handling and respect for all
tissues as a substitute for the speed and trauma of nineteenth-century surgery.
Perhaps the most significant of Dr. Terry's educational trips occurred in 1901, when he
spent an extended period of study at the Berne, Switzerland clinic of Theodore Kocher,
the "father of goiter surgery." Having noted a prevalence of goiter in Northern
California, Dr. Terry had a special interest in disease and surgery of the thyroid and
parathyroid glands. He assimilated all he could from his association with Kocher and
applied this experience to his practice and teaching. In an era before the advent of
iodine therapy, Dr. Terry dominated this specialty on the Pacific coast. In his lifetime
he performed more than 3000 goiter operations, frequently more than 200 per year, and by
so doing laid the foundation for the reputation of the University of California as a
center for the treatment and management of goiter.
Dr. Terry was a charter member of the American College of Surgeons, the American Board of
Surgery, and the Pacific Coast Surgical Association. He served on important boards and
committees of these organizations. He served as librarian of the San Francisco Medical
Society for several years just preceding his election to the presidency in 1906; in the
days following the great earthquake and fire of that year, he helped coordinate civilian
medical personnel with the authorities in charge. In 1908, when the City Emergency
Hospital Service need renovation, he served as its chief for two years. During World War
I, he served under the direction of Army authorities in the formation of Base Hospital
No. 30. Also during this period, Dr. Terry --along with Dr. Herbert C. Moffitt --was
instrumental in raising funds for the construction of the University Hospital, which
opened in 1917. In 1929, he was president of the Pacific Coast Surgical Association. He
served on the editorial boards of Surgery, Gynecology and Obstetrics, the Archives of
Surgery, and the Western Journal of Surgery. His contributions to the medical literature
were relatively small, some thirty-three in number, but most worthwhile and covered all
aspects of surgery in which he was interested.
Dr. Terry died on September 22, 1950. On December 14th, 1956, his family and associates
gathered at the new Moffitt Hospital to dedicate the Wallace Irving Terry Surgical
Scope and Content
Manuscripts and typescripts of materials written by Dr. Terry, plus typescripts of
materials written by others and collected by Dr. Terry.