Edward Cutbush

Portrait of Edward Cutbush

Dr. Edward Cutbush.

Dr. Edward Cutbush's arrival in Geneva was the culmination of a long and impactful medical career. In 1794, Cutbush was appointed the Surgeon-General of Pennsylvania. That same year, George Washington led a 14,000-person army against the Whiskey Rebellion occurring in the western part of the state. As Washington marched through Pennsylvania, he asked Dr. Cutbush to join and lend his medical knowledge. With the army, Dr. Cutbush would meet his lifelong friend, Major James Rees, an early settler and landowner in Geneva, and future chairman of the Board of Trustees of Geneva College. The two would correspond for the next three decades. Rees eventually invited Dr. Cutbush to become a professor at Geneva College.

In 1799, after his involvement in the Whiskey Rebellion, Dr. Cutbush was appointed the first Senior Surgeon of the United States Navy. For the next year and a half, he traveled with the fledgling Navy around the Caribbean Sea during the Quasi-War with France, learning and perfecting how to practice medicine, surgery, and sanitation for the US Military. He published his findings in what is believed to be the first book by a medical officer of the US Navy, titled, Observations of the Means of Preserving the Health of Soldiers and Sailors and on the Duties of the Medical Department of the Army and the Navy with Remarks on Hospitals and their Internal Arrangement. This became the premier medical handbook for the Army and Navy and the base of all military medicine in the United States. Because of this book, medical scholars have sometimes referred to Dr. Cutbush as "the father of naval medicine."

Edward Cutbush address at the laying of the cornerstone

A page from Dr. Edward Cutbush's address given at the laying of the cornerstone of the Geneva Medical College's first building, 1835.

In 1829, after thirty years of devotion to the US Navy, Dr. Cutbush submitted his letter of resignation due to “my age, which obliges me to wear spectacles; and my incapacity to perform the duties of a surgeon in the cockpit of a ship by candle light”. Dr. Cutbush was a vocal critic of President Andrew Jackson, and his inauguration that year likely catalyzed his resignation as well.

After news of his resignation reached Geneva, James Rees invited him to become a professor of chemistry at Geneva College. Dr. Cutbush happily accepted. When Geneva Medical College was founded in 1834, Dr. Cutbush, became the first dean of the medical faculty.

In 1839, Dr. Cutbush retired due to failing health.He passed away four years later. As a lifelong practitioner of medicine and as an educator, Dr. Cutbush requested that his body be given a postmortem examination by his former colleagues at the Geneva Medical College for the “benefit of the living”. He is buried at Glenwood Cemetery in Geneva, New York.