More on: http://www.harvard-magazine.com/issues/so97/vita.html
See note for achievements of these 3 generations of Bigelows with MA general Hosptial.
See "Forge" Apr 1999, Vol. 28, No. 2,p. 28.
Article written by Thomas LaMarre for "Money Talk", a copyrighted production
of the American Numismatic Association, 818 N.Cascade Av., Colorado Spgs,CO
80903,e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, contributed by Phillip Bigelow, Bellingham, WA.
Related "Forge" articles:
Vol. 20, No.3, Jul. 1991,
Vol.21, No.2, Apr 1992,
The secretary of the Harvard class of 1871 once
wrote to William Sturgis Bigelow requesting some news, "or a story." Bigelow
replied, "Story? God bless you, I have none to tell, sir. Since '81 I have
spent about seven years in Japan, when [sic] I saw a great many folks of
high and low degree, got together some things of various sorts for the Boston
Museum of Fine Arts...and learned a little about Eastern philosophy and religion.
I have neither wife nor children, written no books, received no special honors
and I belong only to the regular clubs and societies."
This extraordinary understatement combined Buddhist self-abnegation with the inner confidence of an affluent, private, and talented Boston Brahmin. In fact, those "things of various sorts"--numbering, according to one estimate, 26,000 pieces of painting, sculpture, ceramics, and manuscripts--formed the heart of one of the world's greatest museum collections.
As to the Eastern philosophy, he studied and then embraced Buddhism, as did his friend Ernest Fenollosa, A.B. 1874. Bigelow's 1908 Ingersoll Lecture at Harvard explained "Buddhism and Immortality" in scholarly detail, and was later published.
Bigelow was truthful in saying he had no wife or children, but not in denying that he had written books or received honors. Japan awarded him the Imperial Order of the Rising Sun, with the rank of Commander, the highest distinction bestowed in that country on persons not in official life (he wears it in the charcoal portrait above, drawn by his friend John Singer Sargent).
Bigelow was profoundly affected by the death of
his mother when he was three. (His Ingersoll
Lecture states that "Maternal love is the source
of all human virtues.") His father, the renowned surgeon Henry Jacob Bigelow, was
something of a martinet, and young William was evidently something of a rebel: his
report card from the Private Latin School in 1865 rated him twenty-second academically
in a class of 55, but fifty-fourth in "conduct."
After graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1874, Bigelow went to Europe.
stayed five years, studying in Vienna, Strasbourg, and finally in Paris under Pasteur. He
brought back to Boston the new research on bacteria, and established privately one of
this country's first laboratories in that field. This displeased his father,who
wanted the line of distinguished Bigelow surgeons at Harvard and Massachusetts General
Hospital to continue. William was duly appointed surgeon to outpatients at the MGH. "Few men,"
wrote medical historian John F. Fulton, "could have less taste for surgery than the
sensitive Bigelow, and it was not long before he gave up all thoughts of practice."
In 1881, believing that the world was moving too fast and that much of
life in Boston
was ugly, he went to Japan, following Edward S. Morse and Ernest Fenollosa, who were
among the first Americans to study Japanese culture. He later called the cruise to Japan
the turning point of his life. During his prolonged stay he studied, traveled, and collected the
treasures that the Japanese were discarding in their rush to become Westernized.
After returning to Boston in 1889, Bigelow devoted much of his time to the
study of art
and Asian religions. He also entertained lavishly at his home at 56 Beacon Street, often
welcoming such College friends as George and Henry Cabot Lodge, Brooks and Henry
Adams, and Theodore Roosevelt, who regularly made Bigelow's home his Boston
headquarters. He became an active trustee of the Museum of Fine Arts and continued to
collect paintings, often consulting with Isabella Stewart Gardner. Reportedly somewhat
reserved in his dealings with the opposite sex, he once wrote to her coyly, in the third
person: "She is very attractive." At his favorite spot in America, however, a summer
house on tiny Tuckernuck Island, off the shores of Nantucket, he entertained men only,
and his guests wore pajamas, or nothing at all, until dinnertime, when formal dress was
required. A staff of servants provided food and fine wines; the library contained 3,000
volumes,"spiced with racy French and German magazines," one chronicler reported.
Henry Adams described Bigelow's retreat as "a scene of medieval splendor"; George
Santayana, A.B. 1886, may have modeled Dr. Peter Alden, the father of the protagonist
in The Last Puritan, after Bigelow.
The Boston Evening Transcript, the unofficial gazette of Boston's Brahmins,
bold headlines on October 6, 1926. One told of Babe Ruth's still unexcelled feat of hitting
three home runs in a World Series game, but the larger headline reported the death of
William Sturgis Bigelow. His funeral, at Trinity Church, was conducted by his classmate
William Lawrence, the former Episcopal bishop of Massachusetts. His ashes were
divided. Half were interred in Mount Auburn Cemetery, which had been envisioned by
his grandfather Jacob Bigelow as a spiritually uplifting as well as "hygienic" burial site.
But the rest were buried by a Buddhist temple, overlooking Bigelow's favorite lake in
Bigelow Society,The Bigelow Family Genealogy, Vol II, pg 114;
Howe, Bigelow Family of America;
FORGE, The Bigelow Society Quarterly. Vol.6, No.2, pg 23-24
Encyclopedia of American Biography;
records of Mt. Auburn cemetery, Cambridge.
FORGE, The Bigelow Society Quarterly. Vol.6, No.2, pages 23 and 24, has an interesting article on William S. 8, Henry Jacob 7 and the grandfather Jacob 6 - all learned physicians/Surgeons and the dedication of the upper eight stories of the thirteen story Massachussette General Hospital building to these three generations of doctors.
From Guy Bigelow:
Referring to the book that was published by "Bob Vila's This Old House - 1981" following the TV program which covered the remodeling of Dr. Henry J. Bigelow's home in Newton, I find no specific address given for the property. It was, however, located on the top of Oak Hill which is a high point in the Newton area. Current maps of the area around Newton show a residential subdivision approximately 3 miles south and a bit east of Newton, city center. This may be the area where the old Bigelow house is located. More specific information might be obtained by contacting the Newton Historical Preservation Association or the Newton Chamber of Commerce. I have no information on contacting either of these organizations but you might search on the internet. Guy Bigelow
Tuesday 06/10/2003 7:29:55pm
Name: Isabel Bigelow
I am interested in William Sturgis Bigelow. Don't know if I am related but searching him got me to this page