Albert Vander Veer, born in the Montgomery County town of Root in 1841, became a surgeon in the Civil War and then had a long career as a physician and Albany Medical College professor.
The son of Abraham Harris Vander Veer and Sarah Martin, Albert attended Union Free School in Palatine and Canajoharie Academy. He studied medicine initially with Dr. Simeon Snow, a physician in the hamlet of Currytown in Root. Vander Veer married Margaret Snow, Dr. Snow’s daughter, in 1867.
Before that Vander Veer studied medicine with Dr. John Swinburne, a surgeon in Albany in 1861. Then Vander Veer joined other medical students at a hospital treating the wounded from Civil War battles near Richmond, Virginia.
He enlisted in the Union Army the next year and held the rank of major. He earned his medical degree at what became George Washington University in the nation’s capital.
He was a surgeon with the 66th regiment of the New York Volunteers, taking part in most of their major engagements starting in 1864. He witnessed Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia in 1865.
Archivist Jessica Watson at Albany Medical Center wrote, “In 1869 he became professor of anatomy at Albany Medical College, professor of surgery in 1876 and dean of the college in 1896. Additionally, he served in the Albany Hospital as surgeon in chief and senior consulting surgeon.”
He was credited in 1886 with being the first surgeon to successfully remove a thyroid gland. He wrote professional articles primarily on the topic of abdominal surgery. He also was the first physician to use a plaster of Paris jacket to treat curvature of the spine.
With Dr. F. C. Curtis, in 1880 Vander Veer began the publication, Albany Medical Annals. He was president of the American Surgical Association in 1895 and president of the American Medical Association in 1916.
He was a delegate to the International Medical Congress at Copenhagen in 1884, and was honorary president of the International Medical Congress held at Lisbon in 1906.
He built a summer home in 1907 at Big Moose Lake in the Adirondacks and lived to enjoy it for 22 years.
His wife Margaret died in March, 1924 at their winter home in Sea Breeze, Florida. Their Albany residence was on Eagle Street.
The Vander Veers had six children. Three of them, Edgar, James and Albert, survived to be adults and all became doctors. Two grandsons also became physicians.
Vander Veer served the state for 31 years as a member of the Education Department’s Board of Regents. He was the Regents’ vice chancellor starting in 1915, the year he resigned his post as a surgery professor at Albany Medical College.
He was named the Regents’ chancellor in 1921 but resigned the next year because of poor hearing. He was praised for advocating high standards in college education, especially medicine.
Vander Veer had an interest in history, especially his Dutch ancestry, and he belonged to several historical societies, including the Holland Society of New York. His paternal ancestors emigrated from Holland to America in 1639.
Albert Vander Veer died at age 88 at his home on Eagle Street in Albany in 1929. His three sons were attending to him. He was buried at Albany Rural Cemetery.
Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt commented, “The cause of health improvement throughout the state has lost one of its greatest exponents and friends.”
The Albany Evening News wrote, “Albany knew his good works and it knew him as a kindly man, always interested in his fellow men and in his city. His patients loved him.”
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Anyone with a suggestion for a Focus on History topic may contact him at 346-6657 or [email protected]