The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 82, July 1978 - April, 1979 Page: 2
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
While the account that follows focuses upon and is mostly concerned
with Albert Myer's tour of duty as an army doctor in West Texas, it is
rounded out with some attention both to his formative years and to his
career after he left Texas. This is to put his Texas years in perspective
and to inform readers who otherwise might be unacquainted with his
major contributions to the army and to the development of a national
Albert James Myer was born in Newburgh, New York, on September
o20, 1828. He was reared by Serena McClanan, a maiden aunt in Buffalo,
following his mother's death in 1835 and his father's remarriage. After
graduation from Geneva (now Hobart) College in 1847, he studied med-
icine as a private student and attended a course of lectures at the Uni-
versity of Buffalo. He also worked in the Buffalo office of the New York
State, or Merchants' State, Telegraph Company, which used Alexander
Bain's electrochemical telegraph and an alphabet of dots and dashes that
was much like the Morse alphabet. For his medical degree, which he
took at Buffalo in 1851, Myer prepared a thesis on "A New Sign Lan-
guage for Deaf Mutes" in which he explained how the Bain telegraphic
alphabet could be adapted to a "system of sign writing" that would
serve as well by silent taps upon a cheek or hand as by a tattoo upon a
table and could be used and understood by both the blind and the deaf
Looking toward a possible medical career in the army, Myer inquired
about becoming a medical officer and began preparing for the examina-
tion. Then, without warning, while swimming in Lake Erie one day, he
experienced a bleeding that suggested tuberculosis. Upon medical ad-
vice he gave up all work until after Christmas, 1851. Then he went to
South Carolina, where he tutored at a plantation near Stateburg and
may have practiced medicine briefly. The next year, 1852, he went to
Florida and for about a year practiced medicine at Monticello, near
Tallahassee. There he saw a variety of patients, many of them slaves
with such names as Isaac, Daphne, and January, who were afflicted
with about everything from bad teeth to syphilis. For treating the latter
the young doctor administered caustic potash and mercury and charged
a fee of twenty dollars. Sometimes circumstances required that he spend
3Albert J. Myer, "A New Sign Language for Deaf Mutes, Being a Thesis for the Degree
of Doctor of Medicine," Buffalo Medical Journal and Monthly Review of Medicine and
Surgical Science, VI (June, 1851), 774-780. A fuller discussion of the facts concerning Myer's
life will be found in Paul J. Scheips, "Albert James Myer, Founder of the Army Signal
Corps: A Biographical Study" (Ph.D. dissertation, The American University, 1966), Fac-
simile No. 66-3393, University Microfilms, Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 82, July 1978 - April, 1979, periodical, 1978/1979; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101206/m1/22/: accessed October 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.