John Hamilcar Hollister was born in Riga, New York in 1824. His family moved to Romeo, Michigan shortly after in 1826. At the age of 17, the future physician began courses at the Rochester Collegiate Institute, and he received his medical degree in 1847 from Berkshire Medical College, which was one of the most highly ranked schools at the time. Upon returning to Michigan, he opened a private medical practice.
In 1855 Dr. Hollister moved to Chicago when he was appointed demonstrator of anatomy at Rush Medical College. In 1859 he was one of the founders of the Medical Department of Lind University, which became the Chicago Medical College, which then became the Medical Department of Northwestern University, the Northwestern University Medical School, and finally the Feinberg School of Medicine. At the college he held many positions, including chair of physiology, anatomy, pathological anatomy, and general pathology.
Beyond his work at Chicago Medical College, Dr. Hollister was also surgeon and clinical professor at Mercy Hospital for twenty years, attending physician and later staff president at Cook County Hospital, and trustee of the American Medical Association, as well as editor of its journal. He also held appointments as president and treasurer of the Illinois State Medical Society, president of the Chicago Medical Society, and charter member of the Chicago Academy of Sciences.
He was also active outside of his medical pursuits. He was a member of Plymouth Church for fifty years, as well as a Sunday School superintendent and teacher. He served as president of the YMCA, the Congregational Club, and the Chicago Bible Society. He was also vice-president of the American Sunday School Mission, a member of the board of guardians of the Reform School, and a director of the Illinois Home Missionary Society.
In regards to his work, Dr. Hollister believed that technical knowledge was important and absolutely necessary, but equally important was the dedication to a clean and morally upright life.
NOTABLE FACT: Dr. Hollister was the only founding member of the medical school to write an autobiography, Memories of eighty years, Chicago, 1912.
Updated: March 5, 2020