|Born at Natchez, Mississippi on 20th June 1862 during the Civil War, John Finney was the second son of the Rev.
Ebenezer Finney, pastor of the Greenwood Presbyterian Church. They had settled in Pennsylvania in 1720 having moved from Ulster in Ireland. His mother died when Finney was only five months old. He was educated at the local
high school and later later at the Academy at Bel Air, Massachusetts. He graduated from Princeton University on his 21st birthday. He underwent his medical training at Harvard and despite having a severe attack of typhoid in the
third year of his studies he qualified in 1889. He played football for both Princeton and Harvard. Finney served as a 'substitute' at the Boston Lying-in Hospital before becoming an intern at the Massachusetts General Hospital.
On 7 May 1889, the opening day of the newly founded John Hopkins Hospital at Baltimore he was appointed by William Halstead to the surgical staff and served there for the remainder of his life. He was initially Halstead's first assistant
and whilst Halstead lived he was prevented from admitting his own patients to the wards at the John Hopkins. Instead he developed his practice at the Union Memorial Hospital. Having been brought up by a Afro-Caribbean nurse he
converted part of the hospital to the Provident Hospital for Negroes for whom he showed a benevolent interest. As early as 1893, when he was only 30 years old he was offered the chair of surgery at the University of Texas at Galveston
and many years later he refused the chair of surgery at Harvard. In 1894 he paid his first visit to Europe but brought back from Germany a memory of ruthless and inhuman surgery. He found much of interest in the clinics of Bassini
at Padua, Kocher at Bern and Billroth in Vienna though Billroth himself had died earlier in the year.
In 1898, at the outbreak of the Spanish-American war, he was commissioned as a Major in the Medical Corp of the Maryland State Militia and became brigadier-general and surgeon-general to the State Governor. In 1913 he was appointed a
a first lieutenant in the Medical Reserve of the United States Army and in 1917 was sent as the director of the John Hopkins Unit at Base Hospital 18 in France. He was promoted colonel and brigadier-general with post of chief surgical
consultant, American Expeditionary Force. He was decorated DSM and received both French and Belgian orders. In 1922 he was appointed Professor of Surgery at the John Hopkins, a post which he resigned in 1925. Finney took an
active part in several surgical societies. He was an original member (1903) of the Clinical Surgical Society organised by William Mayo and Harvey Cushing. He was appointed President of the American Surgical Association in 1921 and
the first President of the American College of Surgeons (1913-15).
Finney married Mary Gross on 20th April 1892, a member of the first class to Graduate from the John Hopkins Nursing School. His wife survived him with three sons, a daughter and 15 grandchildren. His eldest son and namesake
followed him in surgical profession as did his second son George Gross Finney. His third son became and architect. Finney died at Baltimore on 30 May 1942. Finney was regarded internationally as an excellent general surgeon
and played an important part in the rapid development of abdominal surgery that took part at the end of the 19th century. His operation of pyloroplasty, which he described in 1902, was his most valuable contribution. He was a
sound man in much demand on administrative and education boards. He was a practicing Christian and a prominent member of the Presbyterian Church. He operated on more medical men, nurses, students and religious ministers and many
other eminent surgeons ..and always without a fee. By the end of his life he was without question the foremost citizen of Maryland and in 1937, in his honour the, Finney-Howell Foundation for Cancer Research was founded.
Not so recent papers
Finney J M T. A new method of pyloroplasty. Johns Hopk Hosp Bull 1902; 13: 155
Finney J M T. Three years' experience with pyloroplasty. Surg Gynec Obstet 1906; 2: 163.
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