The American Otological Society at its Sesquicentennial: Insights Into the Society's Formative Years

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Abstract

Objective:

To elucidate the sequence of events which led to the formation of the American Otological Society (AOS) in 1868 and to examine the lives and contributions of the nine founding members of the Society.

Methods:

Study of primary historical documents, biographical material, and previous histories of the AOS.

Results:

Earlier treatments of the history of the AOS minimally covered the events and personalities from the Society's formative period. The founders of the AOS were much influenced by recent advances in European Otology and the success of the nascent American Ophthalmological Society which had been founded in 1864. The AOS has long credited Elkanah Williams as its first president of the AOS, although he never actually served in this role and was not a contributor to otological literature. Documents suggest that 30 years old New York physician Daniel Bennett St John Roosa, recently returned from a grand tour of the leading European otological centers, was the principal advocate for the creation of the AOS.

Conclusions:

The 1860s were a pivotal period in the maturation of American Otology. Previously, most “aurists” were widely considered to be charlatans who practiced unscientifically and often unscrupulously. The AOS founder generation were a group of Ophthalmologists who strove to elevate otology from being a lesser appendage of the mother field to becoming a respected and scientifically based medical specialty in its own right.

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