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Dr. William F. Whyte

1851 - 1926

Whyte, Doctor, b. 1851, d. 1926, Sec 6



(Picture, Watertown paper)


The death of Dr. William F. Whyte, a practicing physician of Watertown for forty years and one of the most widely known doctors in Wisconsin, occurred in the family home in Madison on Christmas day.  He had been in failing health for several months, but his critical condition was not known to his friends here until near the end.  When the news of his death reached here there were many expressions of sympathy and regret. The family moved to Madison after Dr. Whyte disposed of his practice here in 1914 but through frequent visits here kept up the friendships of former years. 


The funeral took place this afternoon, the body arriving over the Milwaukee road at 2:20 o’clock.  Services were held at the Moravian church at 2:45 o’clock, Bishop Karl A. Mueller officiating.  William Sproesser sang a solo during the service.  Attending the funeral were many prominent physicians and citizens of Madison and members of the state board of health were also in the party from Madison.  Burial was in Oak Hill cemetery.


Dr. Whyte was a native of Kinross, Scotland where he was born on February 14, 1851.  He came to America at the age of four years, settling in Watertown with his parents.


He was graduated from the medical school of Northwestern university in 1873 and after spending a year at Mercy hospital, Chicago, he came to Watertown where he practiced medicine for over forty years.


Dr. Whyte was for 26 years a member of the state board of health.  He was first appointed to that body by Gov. Scofield in 1898.  He was again reappointed by Govs. LaFollette, McGovern and Philipp.  In 1903 he was elected president of the board and re-elected every year since then, until 1923 when he resigned.


Served During War


When war was declared against the central powers by the United States in 1917, Dr. Whyte enlisted and served at Camp Custer and Camp Dix and won the post of contract surgeon with the rank of first lieutenant.   After his retirement he returned to Madison.  In recent years he has written a great deal, including a series of articles on historical subjects and sketches for the State Historical society.  Some years ago Dr. Whyte wrote a series of interesting articles for the Daily Times following a trip to the Holy Land.


Surviving Dr. Whyte are his wife, formerly Florence Kohn, sister of Charles A. Kohn of this city, and three children, John Whyte, professor at New York City college, Mrs. Homer Watt of East Orange, N. J. and Malcolm K. Whyte of Milwaukee.  There are five grandchildren.


Dr. Whyte was born of Scotch ancestry and possessed the sturdy traits and character of the race.  He was a man of liberal tastes and education and as a physician early took a high rank in the profession to which he devoted the better share of his life.  He was always the student with the faculty of retention in a remarkable degree.  His mind, broadened by study and travel, developed the faculty of imparting to others the knowledge thus attained and he was probably one of the best posted men on current events and the early history of this section of Wisconsin.


He was primarily the keen professional man but withal a man of liberal views and cultivation and possessed of a fund of diversified information.  Of a genial nature he possessed the social gift and capacity for wholesome and liberal enjoyment that never flagged during his life.  Bright, kindly, witty and most companionable, Dr. Whyte will long be missed by the many friends whom he attracted during his long and arduous life, especially in the community in which he passed the greater share of his being.  His life was an example of true manhood and he devoted the greater share of it and his best efforts to relieving as far as was in his power the sufferings of humanity.


His large practice brought him in contact with people in many sections of the country and his memory for names and faces was truly remarkable, easily recalling them years after the acquaintance was formed.


Contributed To Press


Dr. Whyte was a forceful and interesting writer and his many contributions to the local press were always read with interest and avidity.  He had a faculty for vivid description of the places he visited in his travels which possessed a literary as well as historical value.  His contributions to the State Historical society are of especial value, especially those treating of early days in Jefferson and Dodge counties, which form a valued part in the archives of that body.  His views and opinions on public matters were pronounced and not easily shaken and he was a power in debate but he always accorded to his opponent the same latitude which he retained for himself. 


Whyte, William Foote 1851 - 1926


Definition: physician, author, local historian, b. Kinross, Scotland. He migrated with his parents to the U.S. and to Wisconsin in 1855, settling in Watertown. He graduated from Northwestern Univ. (M.D., 1873), interned at Mercy Hospital, Chicago (1873-1874), and from 1874 to 1914 practiced medicine in Watertown. Whyte was a member of the State Board of Health (1898-1924), and was its president from 1903 to 1924. He was the author of numerous articles on local and Wisconsin history, and served for many years as a curator of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. After retiring from active practice in 1914, he moved to Madison, where he made his home until his death. Wis. Mag. Hist., 10; Wis. State Board of Health, Bull., 4 (12), 1926; Madison Wis. State Journal, Dec. 26, 1926; W. F. Whyte Papers.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]



1883      A Curious Specimen   /  Watertown Republican

06 20       One day last week there appeared here a member of the sable race, dark, uncomely and in tattered garments whose general appearance attracted considerable attention on the street.  He talked quite wild as to his origin, history, experience in life and other things.


The swarthy stranger gave his name as Aziah Cetewayo and insisted to all the curiosity seekers that he was the oldest son of Cetewayo, King of Zulu, whose warlike encounters with the English a few years ago will be remembered.  He said he had been captured and taken to England from his home in South Africa.  Many of his expressions and statements "gave him away" bad, and the general inference to be drawn from his remarks and demeanor was that he was a genuine negro tramp.  Yet notwithstanding all this, upon examination he proved himself to be a remarkably queer specimen of humanity. 


From his pockets he produced certificates from physicians showing that he was the happy possessor of two hearts and two sets of ribs.  At the office of Doctor W. F. Whyte before a select audience he bared his body and exhibited his peculiar anatomical makeup.  The heart beat was distinctly felt and heard on both sides, and he could at will stop the heart’s action so that it was imperceptible, and would remain in this condition for several minutes.  He also claimed to throw each heart down in the lower part of the abdominal region.  Whether or not this was done the heart’s action could be distinctly heard at these points.


He had complete control of the abdominal muscles and could at will cause the most uncouth motions in this region. Another peculiarity was the power, as he claimed, to cause one set of his ribs to descend down over the abdomen so that apparently the ribs covered the entire front of the trunk.


As a sample of his great strength he bent a one inch iron rod by striking it over the muscles of his arms. 


He is certainly a clear abnormality, and while some things in his makeup can be explained, others are surely out of the usual order of things.


He has been a study to medical men for years, and has visited all the leading medical schools and been examined by most of the eminent doctors of this country, they all pronouncing him a mystery.  Dr. Moulding was one of those who examined him and saw the same man in ’76 at the University of Michigan.  He was before the medical class and was examined by the different professors there. 


The curiosity there was equal to what was evinced here, and they could come to no positive conclusion as to the internal arrangements of the man.  The case has been cited in medical works as one of the curiosities of nature.



04 06       Audubon Society Founded

The meeting at the home of Mrs. W. F. Whyte last Wednesday, called for the purpose of forming an Audubon society, was well attended and resulted in accomplishing the desired end.  The society was launched on its laudable work of perpetuating bird-life with a membership of some thirty ladies, which will be materially increased as the movement grows in favor.  A meeting for a permanent organization and election of officers is to be held shortly.  WR


11 23       Appointment to State Board of Health and Vital Statistics

Friday last Dr. William F. Whyte received formal notification of his appointment by Governor Scofield as a member of the State Board of Health and Vital Statistics, to succeed Dr. F.H. Bodenious , of Madison, lately deceased.  The appointment is to fill the unexpired term, which ends the first Monday in February, 1904.  Dr. Whyte is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, and has been a successful practitioner here for twenty-four years. His medical education was also enhanced by attendance at the universities of Berlin and Vienna . . . The position is solely an honorary one, as no salary is paid to members of the board except the secretary.  When called on duty the members are paid their expenses out of an appropriation made annually by the state.   WR




Dr. William F. Whyte, one of Watertown's ablest and best-known physicians, has retired from active practice of his profession, much to the regret of the people of this city and vicinity.  Dr. Whyte graduated with the class of 1874 of the Northwestern University medical school and for a year following interned at Mercy hospital, Chicago.  He then came to this city and has been in continual practice here ever since, excepting while abroad on three different occasions, on one of which occasion in 1884 he studied for eight months in Vienna and Berlin.


Dr. Whyte was born on February 14, 1851, in Kinross, Scotland, and in 1854, came to this city with his parents.  In 1884 he was married to Miss Florence A. Kohn of this city, the result of the union being one daughter and two sons.


The doctor has served over 15 years of the state board of health, having been appointed first by Governor Scofield in 1898, and since then has been reappointed by Governors La Follette and McGoven, his present term not expiring till 1918.  He has been president of the board since 1903.


Last August Dr. Whyte announced his intention of retiring and associated himself with Dr. F. C.  Ableman, who now is his successor.  Dr. and Mrs. Whyte have gone to Madison and for a time will visit at the home of their daughter, Mrs. H. A. Watt, and about January 31st they will go to New York and sail on the Cunard steamer Caronia for Alexandria, Egypt, where they will remain a while and then visit Palestine, Greece and many other European countries, intending to return next fall to this state.  He is undecided as to whether he will make his home here, Madison, or elsewhere.  Our people all sincerely hope he and Mrs. Whyte will have pleasant time in their travels and that they will return to reside among us.   WG



Madison, Wis., Jan. 9. — The state board of health, at its annual meeting today, elected Dr. William F. Whyte of Watertown, president, and Dr. Edward S. Hayes of Eau Claire, vice-president.  Dr. C. A. Harper of Madison, holds the office of secretary at the pleasure of the board.   WG





09 11       John Whyte, son of Dr. Whyte

GONE TO GERMANY.  John Whyte, son of Dr. and Mrs. Wm. F. Whyte, left on Monday for Leipsic, Germany, where he will study for a year.  On Saturday he will sail on the steamer Pennsylvania of the Hamburg-American line.  Recently he received the Ottendorfer fellowship given by the University of New York.  Dr. L. Oswald of the Wisconsin University will be his travelling companion, having been appointed to the exchange teachership at Kiel, Germany.   WG



Cross Reference:

Whyte, W F, Dr 1907, physician.

Whyte, William F 1913, 500 Second, physician