Dr. Ephraim McDowell

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Dr. Ephraim McDowell's Geni Profile

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Ephraim McDowell

Also Known As: ""the father of abdominal surgery""
Birthplace: Rockbridge, Virginia
Death: Died in Danville, Boyle, Kentucky, United States
Cause of death: Appendicitis
Place of Burial: Danville, Boyle, Kentucky, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Col. Samuel McDowell and Mary 'Mollie' Annette McDowell (McClung)
Husband of Sarah Hart McDowell
Father of Sarah Ann Clay McDowell; Susannah Hart Irvine; Isaac Shelby McDowell; Mary Thompson Young; William Wallace McDowell and 4 others
Brother of Sarah Wallace; Magdalena Reid; Maj. John McDowell; James McDowell, Col.; William McDowell and 6 others

Managed by: Maureen Diana Stephan
Last Updated:

About Dr. Ephraim McDowell

Ephraim McDowell (November 11, 1771 – June 25, 1830) was an American physician. He was the first to successfully remove an ovarian tumor.


  • Ephraim McDowell was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, the ninth child of Samuel and Mary McDowell. His father was a veteran of the French and Indian War and a colonel during the American Revolution.
  • In 1795, he returned from Scotland, settled in Danville, Kentucky and began his practice as a surgeon. In 1802, he married Sarah Shelby, daughter of Isaac Shelby, war hero and twice governor of Kentucky. They had two sons and four daughters.


  • In 1879, a monument in his honor was erected by the Medical Society of Kentucky in Danville.
  • In 1929, Isaac Wolfe Bernheim donated a bronze statue of McDowell by Charles Henry Niehaus to the state of Kentucky for placement in the U.S. Capitol's National Statuary Hall Collection.
  • In 1959, a United States stamp was issued in his honor.
  • Dr. McDowell's house, office, and apothecary in Danville are preserved as a museum and are designated a National Historic Landmark.
  • Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center in Danville is named in his honor.


as found on http://www.trolinger.com/judy/Selby-Shelby.html



Physician and surgical pioneer. Born Augusta County (now Rockbridge Co., Va.) in 1771. His family moved to Danville, Kentucky in 1784. He studied medicine with Alexander Humphreys in Staunton, Virginia, and traveled to Scotland in 1793 where he attended a series of lectures at the University of Edinburg School of Medicine. He returned to Danville in 1795 and established a successful medical practice where among those treated by McDowell was James Knox Polk. On December 25, 1809, he performed the world's first ovariotomy when he removed a cystic ovarian tumor weighing more than twenty pounds from Jane Todd Crawford. He performed the same proceedure eleven other times with the loss of only one patient. A founder of Centre College in Danville and a member of the board of trustees of that institution from 1819-1829. On December 29, 1802 Dr. McDowell married Sarah Hart Shelby a daughter of Isaac Shelby, the first governor of Kentucky. McDowell died in 1830 and is buried in McDowell Park next to the Old First Presbyterian Church in Danville. A statue of McDowell along with one of Henry Clay represent Kentucky in the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. capitol.

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Dr. Ephraim McDowell's Timeline

November 11, 1771
Rockbridge, Virginia
December 23, 1803
Age 32
Danville, KY, USA
July 4, 1805
Age 33
Danville, KY, USA
August 16, 1807
Age 35
Danville, KY, USA
December 24, 1811
Age 40
Danville, KY, USA
Age 42
Danville, KY, USA
January 31, 1817
Age 45
Danville, KY, USA
Age 47
Lincoln Co., KY
October 23, 1825
Age 53
Danville, KY, USA