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James Marion Sims

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This bronze, larger-than-life sculpture depicts Dr. James Marion Sims (1813–1883), who founded the Woman’s Hospital of New York at 83 Madison Avenue (1855) and who has been referred to as the “father of modern gynecology.” Sims is depicted by German artist Ferdinand von Miller II (1842-1929) in surgical wear; the monument sits opposite the Academy of Medicine at Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street. It was cast in Munich, Germany in 1892 and dedicated at Reservoir Square, now known as Bryant Park, two years later. Von Miller also sculpted Confederate memorials in North and South Carolina.

Raised in the South and beginning his medical career in Alabama before moving to New York in 1853, Sims left the divided United States for Europe during the Civil War (1861–65). After returning, Sims served as president of the American Medical Association in 1876. Sims’s groundbreaking surgical methods and inventions, including a silver wire for sutures, earned him worldwide notoriety. After his death, thousands of Sims’s medical peers and many of his own patients pledged money towards the monument’s erection. The statue was removed to storage in 1928 in preparation for a major restoration of Bryant Park in the 1930s. In 1934 it was reinstalled on a new stone pedestal designed by Parks Chief Consulting Architect Aymar Embury II (1880–1966) at its current location. In 1993 the Central Park Conservancy conserved the monument.

A companion to this piece is John Massey Rhind’s (1860–1936) bronze portrait bust of Alexander Skene (1838–1900) in Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza. Skene, a colleague of Sims, founded the American Gynecological Society (1886–1887), was a Professor of Gynecology at the New York Post-Graduate Medical School (1883–1886), and a Consulting Gynecologist at the Kings County Hospital (1893–1900). His most notable medical discovery was of the para-urethral glands, later named Skene glands. Dr. Skene, an amateur sculptor, fashioned a marble bust of Sims that stood for many years in his parlor and which was later bequeathed to the Kings County Medical Society.

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