Wood, Casey A. (Casey Albert), 1856-1942

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Wood, Casey A. (Casey Albert), 1856-1942

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  • Wood, Casey Albert, 1856-1942

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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.


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References used for biographical history include:
Abbaspour, P. (2013). Creating a Collection Description for the Blacker-Wood Collection of Ornithology and Zoology (Unpublished independent study paper). McGill University, Montreal.

Benjamin, M. (December 1970). Dr. Casey Albert Wood and the McGill Medical Libraries. Osler Library Newsletter, 55, 1-2. Retrieved from https://www.mcgill.ca/library/files/library/No5December1970.pdf

Hume, E. E. (1942). Casey Albert Wood (1856-1942): Colonel, Medical Corps, United States Army. In Ornithologists of the United States Army Medical Corps, Volume 1, pp. 476-489. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins Press.

Pennington, R. (Spring 1959). The Strange case of Casey Wood. McGill News, pp. 14-15.

Snyder, C. (March 1963). Casey Albert Wood. Archives of Ophthalmology, 69(3), 409–411. doi:10.1001/archopht.1963.00960040415025

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