Joseph Sailer, M.D., 1867-1928

Dr. Joseph Sailer

Dr. Joseph Sailer lived from 1867 to 1928. One of the pictures in the gallery on this page shows him in his uniform as a member of the U.S. Army Medical Corps, in which he served in World War I. Other images show him at the time of his engagement and with some of his children. Click on any of the thumbnail images below to see the full image.

He was my grandfather, the husband of Mary Lowber Strawbridge. In the family papers there is a typed document with the heading “Joseph Sailer,” with the author listed as David Riesman, M.D., Sc.D. It evidently was written as a tribute upon the death of Dr. Sailer. Its two and a half pages give an account of the highlights of his life, largely from a medical perspective. I will set forth a few excerpts here.

According to this document, Dr. Joseph Sailer received his Bachelor of Philosophy (Ph.B.) degree from the University of Pennsylvania at age 18 and received his M.D. degree several years later, in 1891. He then served as an intern at Presbyterian Hospital and at Philadelphia General Hospital. He next spent three years studying in Europe, mainly in Zurich, Paris, and Vienna, focusing especially on neurology and pathology. He later became instructor in clinical medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, then assistant professor, and, in 1912, full professor.

He also became an expert in the newly developed field of gastroenterology, in which he presented and published many important papers. In 1921 he was elected president of the American Gastro-Enterological Association. At the banquet of that association in 1923, Dr. Sailer gave a “delightful personal account of his interest in travel and exploration, in Ghengis Khan, the great Mongol Conqueror, [which included] his incidental reference to the versatile Thomas Young, physician, physicist, Egyptologist, and expert dancer.”

Besides gastroenterology, Dr. Sailer did considerable work in neurology, general clinical medicine, and cardiology. He was a founder of the American Heart Associa tion. In World War I he served as medical consultant at Vichy in France.

Dr. Riesman also included some personal notes in his sketch. He spoke of his friendship with Dr. Sailer, which “was renewed when we became near neighbors on 16th Street. Whenever we would have a little leisure we would be together. Once or twice a week, usually after eleven at night, we would play a game of chess at either his or my office. In order not to disturb the household a knock at the front window of the lower story was the agreed signal that the play might begin. With characteristic thoroughness Sailer had mastered the game so well that I seldom emerged as victor. But by and by his knock grew rarer and rarer. I began to suspect that another game was absorbing his interest. My surmise was correct for in February 1901, he married a charming young lady, Mary Lowber Strawbridge. The union was blessed with ten children.”