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Dr. Mordecai Hiatt Fletcher
THE MEN most influential in promoting the advancement of society and in giving character to the times in which
they live, are two classes: the men of study, and the men of action. Whether we are more indebted for the
improvement of the age to the one class or the other, is a question of honest difference of opinion; neither can be spared and both should be encouraged to occupy their several spheres of labor and influence zealously and without mutual distrust. In the following paragraphs are briefly outlined the leading facts and characteristics in the career of a gentleman who combined in his make-up the elements of the scholar and scientist and the energy of the progressive man of affairs. Devoted to the noble and commendable work of alleviating the physical ills of human- ity, the late Dr. Mordecai Hiatt Fletcher, for many years one of the leading professional men of the city of Cincinnati, made his influence felt in a most potent manner in the State of Ohio, and he was not unknown to the wider scientific bodies of the nation, occupying as he did a prominent place in his profession and standing high in the esteem of scientists and investigators in other than his own particular field of endeavor.
Doctor Fletcher was born at Richmond, Indiana, September 18, 1849. He was a son of Francis Nixon Fletcher and Elizabeth (Hiatt) Fletcher. He came of Quaker stock, his parents having been "birthright" members of the Society of Friends. He was the fourth child in a family of nine children, seven brothers and two sisters, all of whom lived to maturity. He was reared on the home farm which his father owned near Richmond, where he did his share of the work during crop seasons, and here he developed a taste for outdoor life and the beauties of nature, which he retained through life. He listened with delight to the call of the quail, the chatter of the blackbird, and the soft notes of the dove, and, when only eleven years of age, he made a study of the articulation of the bones of a bird's wing and applied the mechanical principle involved to the study of aerial navigation, which he took up in later life. He seems to have been a born investigator of natural phenomena; a love of animals, birds, insects, plants, and trees, was quite pronounced among his attributes. Actual contact with the soil gives to a boy an enthusiasm, and zest for the study of nature, that is not supplied in any other way.
His early schooling was obtained at Hadley's Academy, in Richmond, Indiana, followed by subsequent attendance at Earlham College. At the age of fourteen, young Fletcher was apprenticed to a jeweler in Richmond. During his apprenticeship, besides mastering the use of delicate tools, he developed constructive ability of a high order. He built two working models of a steam engine, one of which he always kept in his office and which is still retained by his family. Four years later, when he had served his time, he bought out the jewelry store in which he had learned his trade, and ran it a number of years without very marked success, retiring from this, his only venture in the mercandle world, with this characteristic remark, "I cannot be truly honest and make money in this business; for if I say an article is eighteen carats fine, it must be so if I sell it." We next find him in New York City. A business career seemed to have little attractions for him, and, while casting about for a calling more suited to his tastes and ambitions, some one suggested that his superior knowledge in the handling of tools which he had acquired when a jeweler's apprentice, could be turned to advantage in dentistry, should he adopt that as a profession. The suggestion was followed up, and he soon became a student of dentistry in the office of Dr. J. W. Jay, at Richmond. Here he remained and received instructions until qualified to practice. He was successful from the start, working in a number of small towns within a radius of twenty miles of Richmond. However, he desired to further equip himself for his vocation; consequently, he entered the Ohio College of Dental Surgery at Cincinnati, which institution conferred upon him the degree of doctor of dental surgery in the spring of 1880. It was merely his intention at this time to follow dentistry as a means of gaining a livelihood until he could complete a course in medicine, and not make it a life-long profession. So, aside from the time he devoted to his dental practice, he attended lectures at Miami Medical College, in Cincinnati, where he made a brilliant record and received the degree of doctor of medicine in 1884.
Not yet fully satisfied with his future prospects, Doctor Fletcher began scientific research work in physiology and pathology, while prosecuting his medical studies. The field proved inviting to one whose mind was always bent on investigation. This collateral study along the lines of diseases of the mouth and teeth was of great advantage to him in his dental work, and made the practice of dentistry in his hands a constantly advancing profession. Remaining in Cincinnati, he early established himself as a leader in his chosen profession, both as an orginal research worker and as a practitioner. Although well qualified for a physician's career, he never practiced medicine in the ordinary acceptation of the term, but he turned all his medical learning to good account in dentistry. Being an expert mechanic, he knew how to fashion and temper steel; and whenever it was not possible to buy a tool such as he wanted, he made it. He was one of the earliest to practice the implantation of teeth into the living jaw, which he did at the request of a few patients, although opposed to it on the ground that the implanted teeth would be expelled in time as a foreign body. This he proved by implanting various teeth into goats and dogs, with the results predicted after some time. He was also one of the earliest workers in the Middle West in photo-micrography, and devised a remarkably simple and effective apparatus for this purpose adaptable to an ordinary microscope and oil lamp. He specialized on diseases of the mouth, many physicians sending obscure and baffling cases to him. He long enjoyed the distinction of being one of the foremost workers in his profession in the country. He practiced in Cincinnati from 1880 until his death, or during a period of thirty-four years, occupying the same quarters. His research work was never abandoned, and during the last twenty-five years of his life the results of his research work were embodied in more than forty papers and monographs, mostly reports of his findings in physiology and pathology. Many of these learned and interesting manuscripts were read before the American Medical Association, section of Stomatology, and the leading dental associations of the country. In 1887, he was invited to read a paper before the Oral Surgery section of the ninth International Congress, held in Washington, D. C., on the results of his investigations during the preceding seven years. At these gatherings he was recognized as an authority, and his papers received profound attention and, when published, always found a vast and appreciative audience.
In 1891, Doctor Fletcher tookĄ a course in embriology at Earlham College, and at the same time delivered a course of lectures on photo-micrography. At the close of the course, the college, in consideration and appreciation of the work which he had done along lines of scientific research, conferred on him the honorary degree of master of science. He also received the degree of electrical engineer, in 1895, from the National Electric College. In 1886, he became a member of the Cincinnati Society of Natural History, and at once took an active part in the proceedings of the society. In 1896, he was elected to the executive board, and was never after that out of the councils of the society. He filled every executive office with great credit and had abut completed a fifth term as president when death overtook him. He was intensely interested in securing funds for a new fire-proof building in which to house the society's collection.
As a dental physiologist and pathologist, he had few equals. His scientific studies were not confined to medicine and dentistry, but extended to research work in the chemistry of iron. Among other discoveries, he was the inventor of a new and improved process for casting iron pipes, which is said to be in successful operation at the present time. He was of a decidedly mechanical turn. All of his spare time was devoted to study and research work, and he was a botanist and naturalist of no mean order.
Doctor Fletcher was an original member of the Cincinnati Society for Medical Research, which body passed appropriate resolutions on his death at its meeting May 14, 1914. He belonged to the American Medical Association, was chairman of the section of Stomatology in 1893, and filled various other offices at times. He was chairman of the section of Oral Surgery of the Pan-American Medical Congress in 1893. He belonged to the Cincinnati Dental Research Society, and was also for six years a member of the Ohio State Board of Examiners in dentistry. He also belonged to the Ohio State Medical Society, the Academy of Medicine of Cincinnati. the Cincinnati Society of Medical Research, the Alpha Kappa Kappa, the Delta Sigma Delta, the International Medical Con-g, and other societies of minor importance. He also belonged to the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce. He was reared in the
Quaker faith, from which he did not depart until late in life, finally affiliating with the Presbyterian Church. He was a Republican in politics, but was never very active in public affairs, neither was he a club man, preferring to devote his attention to his professional and scientific work and to his home.
Doctor Fletcher was married on April 2, 1884, to Anne E. Perry, a daughter of Benjamin Paddock Perry and Elizabeth (Reynolds) Perry, of Richmond, Indiana, where the Perry family has long been prominent and where Mrs. Fletcher grew to womanhood. Nothing gave him greater enjoyment than an early spring day a-field with her, renewing his acquaintances with the jocund song birds that had just arrived from the South. While his professional work engrossed him, he found time for recreation, usually in the great outdoors. Of the broadest culture, there was no department of human activity that failed to enlist his interest. Beinggenial, obliging, and companionable, he had a host of friends wherever he was known, and when, on March 26, 1914, he was without warning summoned to take up his work on a higher plane of action, every one felt that his place could not easily be filled, all missing the charming congeniality of his companionship, which cannot be forgotten.
Barbara's Bordered Backgrounds