World-Famous Surgeon, Dr. Nelson M. Percy, from Dexter, Iowa

World Famous Surgeon

Developer of the Percy System of Whole Blood Transfusion

I find it just fascinating that a world famous doctor was the product of such a small town  and its public school. And that he is the man credited with coming up with the idea of transfusing blood directly from one person to another!

Dr. Nelson Percy


Nelson Mortimer Percy was born in Dexter, Iowa, in 1875 to Mortimer and Mary (Amidon) Percy. (Both parents are buried at Dexter). Nelson attended Dexter public schools, graduating in 1892.

Founded in 1868, Dexter is a small town in central Iowa, in the southwest corner of Dallas County. The town’s population never exceeded 790 souls. When Nelson Percy was in high school there, Dexter had only 607 residents.

And yet, this young man went on to medical college. In 1899 he graduated Rush Medical College and interned at Augustana Hospital, becoming assistant to the chief surgeon, Dr. Albert J. Ochsner. The two men published Clinical Surgery in 1912. Dr. Percy became chief surgeon there in 1925, and chief of staff in 1935. He perfected the Percy Method of Whole Blood Transfusion (consisting of running a tube directly from the donor’s vein to the person needing blood), used by Chicago hospitals before WWII.

Dr. Percy was also a professor of clinical surgery at the University of Illinois.

During WWI, Dr. Percy organized the US Base Hospital No. 11 in France, serving as Lieutenant Colonel, Medical Corps. He was surgical director there.

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U.S. Army Medical Dept., Office of Medical History.

He became President of the Chicago Surgical Association in 1925, and also head of the American Goiter Association.

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Dr. Nelson Mortimer Percy, 1922.

He became Chief of Staff at the Augustana Hospital, Chicago in 1936.


A New Clinical Surgery by Albert John Ochsner and Nelson Mortimer Percy

A New Manual of Surgery, Civil and Military, also by Ochsner and Percy

Percy, Dr.
History of Dexter, Iowa, 1968, page 107.

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Dr. Nelson M. Percy died October 10, 1958 in Chicago. He is buried at Memorial Park Cemetery, Skokie, Illinois.

History of Medicine and Surgery and Physicians and Surgeons of Chicago, page 746.

Official Reference Book of Press Club of Chicago, 1922, page 10.

U.S. Army Office of Medical History, U.S. Army Medical Department, Chapter XXIV, Base Hospitals, pages 638f.

See also:  The WPA Guide to 1930s Iowa: see page 494.



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