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Brigadier General Alfred Conrad Girard


THE MILITARY SURGEON, Volume 34, No. 3 (March 1914)

Brigadier General Alfred Conrad Girard, Medical Corps

(31 July 1841-31 January 1914)

Brigadier General Alfred Conrad Girard, U. S. A. (ret.), an active member of the Association, died in the Walter Reed General Hospital, Takoma Park, D, C., January 31, 1914, aged 72.

He was born in Bale, Switzerland, July 31, 1841, the son of Professor C. F. Girard of the University of Bale. He received his preliminary education at that university, and after taking his medical course at the University of Würzburg, Germany, was graduated from that in 1864.

He immediately came to the United States and entered the Army as acting assistant Surgeon, January 19, I865, serving in this capacity until May, 1867. On May 14, 1867, he was appointed First Lieutenant and Assistant Surgeon; he was promoted to Captain and Assistant Surgeon, May 14, 1870, and to Major and Surgeon, November 17, 1887. On May 9, 1898, he was made Lieutenant Colonel and Chief Surgeon of the Second Army Corps, U. S. Volunteers, and after serving through the Spanish-American War was honorably discharged, April 12, 1899. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and Deputy Surgeon General, October 8, 1900, and to Colonel and Assistant Surgeon General, June 28, 1902, and was retired at his own request with the rank of Brigadier General on account of Civil War service, April 7, 1905. During his military service he served in successively South Carolina, Indian Territory, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, at the United States Military Academy at West Point, in Washington and Montana Territories until 1884, when he was sent to the International Congresses at Copenhagen, Denmark, and the Hague. During this trip he visited a number of hospitals and on his return published the first report advocating antiseptic surgery. After another trip to Europe he brought out an Atlas of Clinical Microscopy. Just before the Spanish-American War General Girard was Army delegate to the International Medical Congress at Madrid. At the close of the war he was in charge of the Army General Hospital at the Presidio of San Francisco for three years, and during this time supervised the care of more than 19,000 patients, mostly invalided from the Philippine Islands. He was on duty in the Surgeon General’s office in Washington from July 5 to November 3, 1902, on the expiration of which time he was, at his own request, assigned to duty as Chief Surgeon of the Philippine Division. He returned to the United States in February, 1904, and served as Chief Surgeon of the Department of California until his retirement, when he moved to Chicago to become librarian of the medical department of the John Crerar Library.



Alfred Conrad Girard,
Brigadier General, Medical Corps,
U. S. Army

Alfred Conrad Girard (July 31, 1841-Jan. 31, 1914), Brigadier General, Medical Corps, U. S. Army, was born in Basel, Switzerland, the son of Professor Conrad F. Girard, of the University of Basel. He was given the degree of A. B. by the university of his home city in 1857, after which he entered the University of Würzburg, Germany, where he received his medical degree in 1864. Attracted by the opportunity for military service in the Civil War he came to the United States and was appointed an acting assistant surgeon in the Union army on January 19, 1865. He was serving at Charleston, S. C. when on May 14, 1867, he was commissioned as an assistant surgeon in the medical corps. While here he accompanied the 6th Infantry to Big Sandy Creek in the Cherokee Nation and attended the regiment through an outbreak of cholera. He spent the following four years in short tours at Fort Pike and Baton Rouge, La, and Forts McKevite, Duncan, Brown, and Ringgold in Texas. In December 1872 he went from Brownville to New York by boat and after short tours at Fort Pulaski, Ga., and Yorkville, S. C., he went to the United States Military Academy at West Point where he was stationed for the next three years. In October 1876 he took a leave and spent six months in the surgical clinics of Europe. He returned in April 1877 and from his next station at Fort Randall, Dakota, he sent A Report of the Materials Used in Lister’s System of Wound Treatment which was published in Circular Order No. 3, S. G. O., Washington, Aug. 20, 1877. He was an accomplished surgeon and a pioneer in the American employment of the antiseptic method in the operating room. He spent the years from 1878 to 1884 in the busy post of Fort Keogh, during which time he was in the field with Colonel Nelson A. Miles in a campaign against the Sioux in 1879. In 1880 he accompanied an exploring party which spent two months in the Yellowstone National Park. After a short tour of duty as attending surgeon at Department headquarters at Fort Leavenworth in 1884 and another short period at Fort Porter, N. Y., he went to Boise Barracks, Idaho, where he spent the years 1885 to 1889. He had reached the grade of captain on May 14, 1870 and on November 17, 1887 he was promoted to the grade of major. Two years of post duty at Fort Niagara, N. Y. (1889-1891), were followed by four years (18914895) at Fort Sheridan, Ill. In 1893 he was a delegate to the meeting of the American Medical Association at Milwaukee. He served at Fort Douglas, Utah, from November 1895 until the onset of the Spanish-American War, which found him in Madrid, Spain, as a delegate to the Ninth International Congress of Hygiene and Demography. Returning to the United States in May 1898 he was on temporary duty at West Point and then was commissioned a chief surgeon of volunteers with the rank of lieutenant colonel and assigned to the 2nd Army Corps at Camp Alger, Va. He was on this duty, later at Camp Meade, Pa., and Camp McKenzie, Ga., until April 12, 1899, when he was discharged from his volunteer commission and ordered to San Francisco. Arrived here in May he was appointed a medical inspector and assigned to the construction of a general hospital at the Presidio of San Francisco. He was appointed commanding officer of the hospital June 1, 1899 and held this place until June 29, 1902. During that time there were 19,000 admissions to the hospital, the majority invalided back from duty in the Philippine Islands. He was promoted to the grade of lieutenant colonel on October 8, 1900, and to colonel on June 28, 1902. Upon his relief from the Presidio hospital he was presented with a silver loving cup by the officers of the hospital in token of their admiration and esteem.

Colonel Girard served in the office of The Surgeon General in Washington from July to November 1902 and then at his own request was sent to Manila as chief surgeon of the Department of the Philippines. After a year of this service he returned to San Francisco in February 1904, where for the following year he served as chief surgeon of the Department of California. He was promoted to the grade of brigadier general on April 6, 1905, and was retired the following day at his own request.

The annual reports of The Surgeon General carry numerous case records which testify to Colonel Girard's understanding of

surgical pathology and to his skill as an operator. In civil life he may well have achieved a successful career comparable to that of Dr. Nicholas Senn, a fellow Swiss and close friend. He made a study of the effects of bullets from the new small calibre rifles and presented a report to the Washington meeting in 1894 of the Association of Military Surgeons, of which he was one of the earliest members. He translated and edited Alexander Payer's Clinical Microscopy (1885) from the manuscripts of two German editions.

After his retirement General Girard went to Chicago and was appointed librarian of the medical section of the John Crerar Library. He had married early in his army career while stationed at Charleston, S. C., Anna Rebecca Epping, daughter of a German-born resident of that city. A sister married Egon A. Koerper, also of the medical corps. In 1910, on account of Mrs. Girard's health, they went to Germany, where they spent a year mainly at Carlsbad. Returning to the United States in 1911 they took up their residence in Washington where Mrs. Girard died in 1913. General Girard died from appendicitis in Walter Reed General Hospital in the following year. Both are buried near the Ft. Myer, gate in Arlington Cemetery. Four children survived their parents. A son, Alfred O. Girard, was a business man in Chicago. Three daughters, Alice, Flora, and Violet, married Issac C. Jenks, Ross L. Bush, and Arthur R. Kirwin, respectively, all infantry officers of the army.

Though General Girard was essentially a professional man who kept always abreast of medical progress he was also by instinct and training a soldier, with a high concept of duty for himself and his subordinates. He had a full measure of kindly dignity. He had a wide knowledge of modern European languages, and a fine command of English, marked to the last, however, by a pronounced foreign accent. Physically he was a large man with a strong face, abundant hair, full beard and moustache.

(Military Surgeon, March 1914, Pacific Med. Jour., San Fran., 1914, p. 153. Records of the War Department. Family information and personal acquaintance.)

James M. Phalen,
U. S. Army, Retired