R. Halsted Ward, M. D.
R. Halsted Ward, M. D.

Information on this page is from History of Rensselaer Co., New York by Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, published in 1880.

R. HALSTED WARD, M. D., a practicing physician of Troy, and also well known as a scientist, not only in this country but abroad, was born in Bloomfield, N. J., June 17, 1837. He was the eldest son and child of Israel C. and Almeda (Hanks) Ward, a leading family of that place, and prominently connected there as well as in the neighboring city of New York, where the business interests of the family were mostly located. During his thorough academic course of study at the celebrated local schools of James H. Rundell and Rev. E. Seymour (lately deceased), his taste and aptness for scientific studies were so marked that he was constantly sought as an assistant in the scientific work of the institutions. Entering Williams College at the age of seventeen, he was graduated in 1858, and three years later received the degree of A. M. During his college course he was distinguished as an original and analytical writer, and as an enthusiast in scientific studies. He was president of the "Philotechnician," one of the large literary societies connected with the college, and also one of the editors of the college magazine of the time, --The Williams Quarterly. He was one of the most active of the students in organizing and carrying out the "Florida Expedition," a college excursion to Florida and Georgia, in the spring of 1857, for the purposes of scientific study and collection, which not only enriched to an unexpected extent the natural history collections of the institution, but also set an example of a new method of scientific culture which has been extensively and profitably followed. After graduation, having a strong predilection for medical science, he pursued a specially thorough course of study under the preceptorship of Dr. N. S. King, a practitioner of Bloomfield, and at the leading medical schools and hospitals of Philadelphia and New York, graduating in 1862 from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the latter city. In the beginning of his medical career, the war of the Rebellion being then in progress, he offered his services to the government, and acted as assistant surgeon in the United States military hospital at Nashville, Tenn. After a few months, however, he was obliged to resign, on account of ill health, and removed to Minnesota, where he remained for more than a year, as a sanitary measure. He returned to the East in 1863, and settled at Troy, where he has since resided. For a short time previous to the death of the late Dr. Thomas W. Blatchford, he was associated in practice with that eminent practitioner, since which time he has carried on alone a very large and important family practice. In addition to an amount of medical labor which would overtax the strength of most persons, he has carried on his scientific work without intermission. Having commenced the study of botany while in college under the enthusiastic Professor -- now President -- Chadbourne, he has continued his researches in that branch of science with equal diligence and success, giving special attention to the departments of structural, philosophical, and economical botany. In 1869 he was appointed instructor, and the following year professor, of that science in the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, -- a chair which he continues to hold in connection with the duties of his medical practice. His methods of teaching are original and pointed, never losing sight of the practical uses of science. Though a skillful and successful practitioner and professor, it is in the field of microscopical research that he has attained the most distinction abroad. His work in this field was commenced during the early part of his collegiate course, and for many years he has been an acknowledged authority on the subject. In 1871 he became one of the associated editors of American Naturalist, an influential journal then published in Salem, Mass., but now in Philadelphia, and established in it a microscopical department, the first department of that kind added to any journal in this country, and antedating any journal relating to this branch of science now in existence here. He is the author of a large number of papers and editorials on this branch of science, nearly all of which have been republished abroad. He has, by his critical skill and original contrivances, contributed materially to the modern improvement of the microscope and its accessories; has done much work in medical microscopy, not only for the benefit of his own practice, but also for that of other physicians; has used the instrument in the study of blood stains, and other difficult and important questions in medical jurisprudence; has extended its use largely in the investigation of handwriting, forgery, and altered writing of various kinds; and has frequently appeared in the courts as an expert in criminal and other cases. In carrying out his favorite work of popularizing science, he has become well known as a lecturer upon his chosen studies; and being thoroughly imbued with the love of science, and always logical and suggestive in the presentation of it, he never fails to impart character and interest to his public efforts. Dr. Ward is a member of the Medical Society of the State of New York, and of the American Medical Association; also of the Rensselaer County Medical Society, of which he was president in 1877, and re-elected in 1878. He is a member and officer of the board of governors of the Marshall Infirmary, and holds office on the medical staff of that institution. His scientific associations are numerous and important. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, with which he has long been actively connected and repeatedly held office, having been the chairman of the microscopical subsection in 1876-1877; he was elected and served as first president of the Society of American Microscopists, which was founded in 1878; is member of the American Meteorological Society; was president of the Troy Scientific Association from its organization in 1870 until 1877, and has since been president of the microscopical section of the same. He was the originator of the American Postal Microscopical Club, and has been actively interested in various local societies, and other organized efforts to advance the interests of his department of science throughout the country. The Belgian Microscopical Society has conferred upon him the rare distinction of honorary membership; and, in addition, he is honorary and corresponding member of a large number of other societies in different parts of this country. During his short residence in Minneapolis, Minn., he was called upon to act as health officer, that being the only occasion on which he has been inclined to give the time or strength to serve the public in any other than a strictly professional capacity.

Dr. Ward was married June 10, 1862, to Miss Charlotte A. Baldwin, of Bloomfield, N. J., and has four children.

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