Fonds P116 - Burton Chance Fonds

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Burton Chance Fonds

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the documents in the fonds.

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  • 1922-1942 (Creation)
    Chance, Burton, 1868-

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Physical description

7 cm of textual records

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Burton Chance was a practicing ophthalmologist and notable historian of ophthalmology who was born in 1868. He received his medical degree from the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania in 1893. He began his residency at Wills Eye Hospital in 1894 and was the Chief Surgeon from 1916 until 1933 when he withdrew consulting status. During the intervening years, he became the Assistant Dispensary Surgeon at the Eye Dispensary of the University of Pennsylvania in 1895 and served as Physician-in-Charge of the Children's Department at St. Joseph's Hospital from 1895 to to 1898. In 1899, He became Assistant Surgeon at Wills Eye Hospital and opened his private practice. He was Ophthalmic Surgeon to the Pennsylvania Railroad and Ophthalmologist to the Germantown Dispensary and Hospital in 1909.

He had a personal interest in colour blindness due to two colour-blind uncles. He served as a consulting editor at the American Journal of Ophthalmology and authored over 250 publications, including case studies of neoplasms and colour blindness in addition to articles on biography and medical history. He became a Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1900 and was active in its Section on Ophthalmology. He wrote several books, including "Ophthalmology" (1939) and "Early printing of medical books..." (1948).

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Biographical history

Casey Albert Wood (1856-1942) was an ophthalmologist, an ornithologist, and a bibliophile. He was born to American parents in Wellington, Ontario on November 21, 1856. Wood attended school in Ottawa and graduated from the Ottawa Collegiate Institute in 1874. He then attended Bishop’s College in Montreal where he graduated with an M.D.C.M. degree in 1877. Wood was awarded an ad eundem degree in 1906 following Bishop’s College merger with McGill University. He also received D.C.L, LL. D honorary degrees from these institutions. Under Sir William Osler (1849-1919) Wood became the first clinical clerk at Montreal General Hospital, which began a close lifelong friendship.

On October 28, 1886, Casey Wood married Emma Shearer, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Shearer, a prominent Montreal family.

Based in Montreal from 1878-1886, Wood practiced general medicine and surgery and taught chemistry and pathology. By 1886, Casey Wood decided to make Ophthalmology and Otology his speciality, beginning further studies in New York followed by Europe. In 1890, Wood settled in Chicago where he practiced, taught and published extensively. He also travelled, held various appointments, and conducted research during this time.

From 1916-1920 Wood served in the United States Army Medical Reserve Corps as a member of the Office of the Surgeon General for the majority of his military career. In Autumn 1917, Major Wood was put in charge of Camp Sherman Hospital’s Ophthalmology Department in Chillicothe, Ohio. Then in December 1917, he was transferred to the War Department in Washington, D.C. where he served until his retirement in 1920 holding the rank of Colonel.

Casey Wood's research in ophthalmology extended to an interest in the history of ophthalmology, comparative ophthalmology, ornithology, and finally into a passion for collecting books and other materials on these subjects. In 1917, Wood published the monograph ""Fundus Oculi of Birds, Especially as Viewed by the Ophthalmoscope," a major milestone in his career. He also translated many hitherto untranslated works of historical interest on ophthalmology and ornithology.

From 1920 until mid-1930, Casey Wood, his wife Emma, their niece Marjorie Fyfe, and their beloved parrot John III travelled extensively to study birds in their natural habitat. They explored Europe, British Guiana, India, Ceylon, Kashmir, the South Pacific, Northeast and Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Wood was supported in his travels and research by friends, researchers, book dealers, libraries, museums, and locals. Wood also continued to produce publications and was an active member in many international ornithological societies, unions, and associations. Wood also taught ornithology at Stanford University beginning in 1927 and was research associate at the California Institute of Technology in 1932.

In 1911, Wood presented a large collection of rare books on the subject of diseases of the eye to McGill's Medical Library and in 1919, he established and endowed the Emma Shearer Wood Library of Ornithology. The Blacker Wood Library of Biology, established in 1988, resulted in the fusion of the Emma Shearer Wood Library of Ornithology with the Blacker Library of Zoology founded and endowed by his friends Robert Roe Blacker (1845-1931) and his wife Nellie Canfield (d. 1946) of Pasadena, California in 1920. During his travels, Wood actively collected materials for the Emma Shearer Wood, Blacker, and Medical Library collections at McGill University and other institutions.

In 1931, Wood published one of his most extensive works "An Introduction to the Literature of Vertebrate Zoology, based chiefly on the titles in the Blacker Library of Zoology, the Emma Shearer Wood Library of Ornithology, the Bibliotheca Osleriana, and other libraries of McGill University, Montreal." The volume was well received and provided a thorough catalogue of works published on vertebrate zoology.

Wood’s last work, published after his death and written with his niece F. Marjorie Fyfe, was "the Art of Falconry," a translation of Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen’s De Arte Venandi cum Avibus.

Casey Wood passed away on January 26, 1942 at the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California, survived by his wife Emma. Wood was cremated and buried in Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Custodial history

Old accession number 476

Scope and content

Fonds documents Burton Chance's links with Casey A. Wood from 1922 until Wood's death in 1942. The fonds contains correspondence between the two men, reprints of C.A. Wood and letters from various correspondents concerning C.A. Wood.

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Immediate source of acquisition


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  • English

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The documents are in English

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Items can be requested for consultation online via the Library Catalogue or by email at Advance notice is recommended.

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