Israel Moses

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Among the children born to Joshua and Sara Rodriguez Brandon Moses—a group that includes Abraham, Isaac Jr., Lionel, Benjamin and Joseph—it is Israel about whom we know the most. This in large part has to do with his decision to pursue a career in medicine and the many places that career would lead him.

After his initial medical training and several years practicing as a physician in New York, Moses was appointed assistant surgeon in the US Army in 1847, serving at the occupation of Vera Cruz and Toluca during the Mexican-American War. His career in the army took him to Texas, Kansas, Wisconsin, and out to the territories of the Pacific Northwest. He published extensively during these years, including studies of diseases and of the health effects of sustained exposure to cold weather, and epidemiology among the Chinook Indians in the Pacific Northwest.

Moses resigned in 1855, and three years later submitted to Congress designs for a new and improved ambulance wagon to be used by the military. A board medical army officers wrote in their review, “After a close examination of the ambulance, the Board is of the opinion that it is well adapted for field and frontier service, and for the comfortable transportation of sick and wounded men on long marches; that the tent arrangement forms a valuable, useful, and comfortable shelter for hospital patients.” Despite this enthusiastic assessment, another report submitted to a House subcommittee was less sanguine about Moses’ designs, and nothing became of his ambulance.

He joined the staff of the newly established Jews’ Hospital (later Mount Sinai) in New York. On June 8, 1855, Moses successfully performed the hospital’s first surgery.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Moses resigned from the hospital and again joined the army, serving as a surgeon and military hospital director. At the end of the war, Moses moved to Philadelphia where he helped found the American Public Health Association and spent his remaining years engaged in campaigns for public sanitation.

Israel Moses

c. 1845–1866