July 1 – Happy Birthday Dr. William H. Robb

On February 28, this Blog recognized the Birthday of Dr. Charles Stover, beginning his post with the the sentence, “He just may have been the greatest and most influential medical doctor to ever practice in our Rug City.” We were forced to use the phrase “May have been,” because today’s Birthday Celebrant Dr. William H. Robb battled him for that distinction back before the turn of the Twentieth Century and the two legendary physicians in fact were partners for a four year period. Based on the historical information we’ve read, Doctor’s Robb & Stover did as much for the practice of medicine in Amsterdam as Masters & Johnson did for the practice of sex in America.

French was the older of the two. He was born of the South Side of Amsterdam in the Town of Florida on July 1, 1843. His family moved to Saratoga for a time but returned to Amsterdam in time to see Robb graduate from Amsterdam Academy in 1862. With the Civil War raging, he taught school for a year and then began studying medicine under another Amsterdam Doctor named Jacob Snell. He then formally graduated from Albany Medical College in 1865 and went into his first partnership with Snell in 1866 and remained with him for the next 7 years, before striking out on his own. It was during this time when he took the young Stover under his wing as a student and and in 1880, the two went into partnership for the next four years.

In a tribute written by yet another Amsterdam physician named S. H. French, Robb was described as “the most prominent physician and surgeon that ever practiced in Amsterdam…his capacity for work was enormous…Naturally an optimist, he carried his breezy hopefulness into the sick-room and inspired courage and confidence in his ability wherever he went.”

Working with Stover, he led the efforts to lobby Amsterdam’s City government to construct both the public drinking water and sewer systems. He and Stover are credited as the driving forces behind Amsterdam’s first city hospital. He championed and then chaired Amsterdam’s first free public library.

Robb’s reputation extended beyond Amsterdam. He was one of the founders of the New York State Medical Association and one of its most active and respected members. In fact, it was while in New York City for an 1897 meeting of the state association that Robb was stricken with the illness that would eventually take his life. He was hospitalized there for several weeks before returning to Amsterdam. When he did not recover his strength, it was decided a warmer climate would be beneficial and Robb went to Selma, Alabama, where he died in January of 1898.

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