J. Julian Chisolm, M.D.
Dr. Chisolm & Helen Keller
It has been little appreciated that a critical decision in the life of Helen Keller was made by a graduate of the Medical College of South Carolina, who was also at one time its dean.
J. Julian Chisolm graduated from the Medical College in 1850, spent two years of study in Europe and returned to Charleston to practice surgery. He made a number of medical contributions during the civil war. He eventually returned to Charleston after the war and became dean of the Medical School. However, the dismal conditions in the South just after the war prompted his eventual move to Baltimore, where his conspicuous abilities gained him unbroken success for the rest of his life, not only in the specialty of eye, ear, nose and throat but also as a contributing public figure.
J. Julian Chisolm holds the distinction of having made the most important decision in the life of the most famous eye and ear patient who ever lived. In 1886, Helen Keller’s father brought her, a mute six-year old, deaf and blind since birth, to Dr. Chisolm. He confirmed for the last time that she would never see nor hear, but he was convinced that she could be educated. An extraordinary thought for the time, it required extraordinary efforts by extraordinary people. Chisolm referred Captain Keller to Alexander Graham Bell, who secured the teaching services of Annie Sullivan. The results were important to both our social history and our drama.
For more information about the history of MUSC, contact the Waring Historical Library.