FARRELL, EDWARD, physician, surgeon, educator, and politician; b. 25 Sept. 1842 in Dartmouth, N.S., second son of Dominick Farrell and Mary Gorman; m. 27 June 1870 Mary Walsh in Halifax, and they had eight children, two of whom became physicians; d. 1 Jan. 1901 in Halifax.
Edward Farrell’s father came to Nova Scotia from Waterford (Republic of Ireland) in 1839. Edward was educated at St Mary’s College in Halifax, and was awarded a ba in 1860. After a one-year apprenticeship in the office of Dr William Johnston Almon in Halifax, he registered at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City and obtained his md in 1864. Farrell served as assistant surgeon and house surgeon at Bellevue Hospital in New York for two years before returning to Halifax, where he was to build up a very successful practice.
In 1871 Farrell received an appointment as professor of surgery in the faculty of medicine at Dalhousie College. Two years later, because of Dalhousie’s financial difficulties, the members of the faculty petitioned the legislature to be allowed to set up a separate medical institution. The Halifax Medical College was established on 6 May 1875, and Farrell would serve as professor of surgery until his death. Since the HMC had no affiliation with Dalhousie, its students were awarded degrees from the University of Halifax, an examining institution for colleges supported by the province. Attendance was poor (only 24 students graduated in the period 1876–84), and in 1887 financial problems led the college to affiliate with a less straitened Dalhousie. Under the new arrangement, the revived medical faculty at Dalhousie taught subjects such as botany and chemistry, and the HMC was responsible for all medical subjects and clinical training. The students wrote Dalhousie examinations and were granted Dalhousie degrees. Farrell was dean of the faculty of medicine at Dalhousie from 1895 to 1900 and president of the HMC from 1899 until his death. The faculty of the HMC continued to control medical education in Nova Scotia until 1910, when the college was taken over by Dalhousie.
In 1867 Farrell had been one of four attending surgeons appointed to the newly organized Provincial and City Hospital, and he served as well as an attending physician at the Halifax Visiting Dispensary [see Frederick William Morris*]. An officer of the Halifax and Nova Scotia medical societies throughout much of his career, he was also a coroner of Halifax County (from 1869) and a government appointee on the provincial Board of Health. Thanks to his overtures to Archbishop Cornelius O’Brien, the Halifax Infirmary was established in 1886 by the Sisters of Charity to serve the poor of Halifax.
As a surgeon, Farrell had a reputation for excellence and innovation. For instance, in December 1889, in order to lengthen the leg of a 14-year-old boy he successfully grafted in a small section of a rabbit’s thigh bone. A frequent contributor to the Maritime Medical News (Halifax), he wrote on such topics as antiseptic surgery and cancer and described 37 surgical cases which he had attended at the Victoria General Hospital (the former Provincial and City Hospital) during the winter of 1894–95. In April 1893 he had visited the newly opened Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md, in order to examine its methods of scientific research and its surgical techniques. Impressed by the work done there, Farrell subsequently became receptive to the introduction of courses at the HMC which stressed the scientific aspects of medicine.
Farrell was active in politics. A Liberal and an advocate of the repeal of confederation, he represented Halifax County in the House of Assembly from 1874 to 1878 and was briefly minister without portfolio in Philip Carteret Hill*’s cabinet. He was asked to accept nomination as a federal candidate for Halifax on at least three occasions, but he stood only twice. With his running mate, Alfred Gilpin Jones, he was defeated in 1891 by the Conservatives Thomas Edward Kenny and John Fitzwilliam Stairs, and again in a by-election in 1892 after the election had been declared void following charges of corruption against Kenny and Stairs.
In 1899 Farrell was selected to be a member of the Canadian delegation to the international congress on tuberculosis in Berlin, and upon his return was one of the authors of a report on the bacteriologist Robert Koch’s alleged cure for the disease. Farrell died of acute pneumonia, brought on by a cold he had contracted while inspecting a possible site for the projected Halifax tuberculosis sanitorium.
PANS, RG 3, 2, no.325; RG 25, C, 10, no.1; RG 32, WB, 65: 160, no.203. Acadian Recorder, 25 Nov. 1890. Halifax Herald, 2 Jan. 1901. Morning Chronicle (Halifax), 19 April 1901. Canadian biog. dict. Cyclopædia of Canadian biog. (Rose and Charlesworth), vol.2. A cyclopedia of American medical biography, comprising the lives of eminent deceased physicians and surgeons from 1610 to 1910, ed. H. A. Kelly (2v., Philadelphia and London, 1912). C. D. Howell, A century of care: a history of Victoria General Hospital in Halifax, 1887–1987 (Halifax, 1988). Legislative Assembly of N.S. (Elliott). K. A. MacKenzie, “The Dalhousie Medical School: an historical sketch, 1863–1928,” Nova Scotia Medical Bull. (Halifax), 8 (1929): 53–55. A. E. Marble, Nova Scotians at home and abroad, including brief biographical sketches of over six hundred native born Nova Scotians (Windsor, N.S., 1977). Maritime Medical News (Halifax), 5 (1893): 68–70; 6 (1894): 449–51; 7 (1895): 140–51; 13 (1901): 34–36. N.S., House of Assembly, Journal and proc., 1875: 17.