San Francisco Call 1

Dr. Edwin H. Woolsey (October 14, 1843 – January 21, 1907) was Oakland's crusading Health Officer.

  • Born 1843 Rochester, New York
  • Died 1907 Oakland, California
  • Was the Oakland Health Officer in the 1880s.
  • Recognized the connection between poor sanitation and disease.
  • Worked to improve sanitation conditions in Oakland to prevent the spread of diseases such as typhoid fever.
  • Campaigned to stamp out the "twin evils of privy and private well."
  • His campaign was a resounding success, with homeowners replacing backyard wells and outhouses with clean, indoor flush toilets.
  • In 1889 Dr. Woolsey was listed in the Alameda County Society Blue Book as living at 12th and Jackson Streets, Oakland.

From San Francisco Call January 22, 1907 1

Dr. Elliott H. Woolsey, physician and surgeon of national fame and one of the notable figures in the professional and political life in this city, died of pneumonia this morning at 10 o'clock at the Hotel Metropole, which had been his home for years. He was seized last Friday with the disease and from the first his condition was considered desperate by the able medical men that attended him.

Dr. O. D. Hamlin, the physician In charge, and two nurses were the only persons in the sick room when Dr. Woolsey drew his last breath. Former Congressman Warren B. English and Edwin H. Clough and wife, long numbered among Dr. Woolsey’s closest friends, were at the Hotel Metropole when the end came but were not permitted to enter the patient’s apartment as he had lapsed into unconsciousness some hours before death. When it appeared yesterday that Dr. Woolsey's case was extremely critical  Dr. O. D. Hamlin consulted with Dr. J. D. Crowley and Dr. Frank Adams of this city and Dr. Fisher, a specialist of San Francisco. Everything that medical skill and knowledge could suggest was done to stay the progress of the disease but without avail.

The noted physician and surgeon was born near Rochester, Monroe County, N. Y., October 14, 1843 and was therefore in his sixty fourth year. As a youth he fought through the Civil War and at the close of hostilities he entered the Buffalo Medical College from which he received his degree in 1868. He then went to Europe for further study. He developed great skill and knowledge in surgery and medicine. He was a deep student of therapeutics and the causes and cure of and prevention of zymotic diseases. He read many essays on these topics before medical associations and meetings and was a frequent contributor to medical and surgical publications. Electricity as a curative agent was also studied by Dr. Woolsey and he made a series of experiments with guinea pigs and rabbits that attracted attention from specialists the world over. Despite his eccentricities his wonderful capacity for work and power of analysis caused Dr. Woolsey to be recognized as a man of brilliant mind.

He came to California in 1870 and followed his profession for a time in Oroville. In 1873 he located in Oakland and soon took rank with the foremost medical experts of the Pacific Coast. Dr. Woolsey retired from practice eight years ago and devoted his time to travel. Three year ago he made a tour of China, Japan and the Philippines, studying the climates and diseases of those countries. The estate is estimated to be worth from $300,000 to $400,000, consisting chiefly of local real estate. Dr. Woolsey was married in this city about twenty-five years ago to Miss Helen McGillvary, but they lived together but a short time and were divorced. Two brothers. John R. and Lorenzo Woolsey and a sister, Miss Para Woolsey, survive Dr. Woolsey and live in Egypt, near Rochester, N.Y. 

Links and References

  1. Pneumonia Fatal to Dr. Woolsey San Francisco Call January 22, 1907
  2. Dr. E. H. Woolsey Is Summoned to His Final Rest Oakland Tribune January 21, 1907 (p2)