Pioneering Arkansas Doctor, Philosopher Brought to Life at UAMS
Sept. 11, 2013 | The life and times of a pioneering doctor, farmer, philosopher, naturalist and independent thinker on the “wild frontier” of Arkansas during the last half of the nineteenth century was brought to life at a celebration of a new book featuring significant contributions from several UAMS faculty and library staff.
The UAMS Library hosted a book signing for “Fiat Flux: The Writings of Wilson R. Bachelor, Nineteenth Century Doctor and Philosopher” on Sept. 6 that featured its author, William D. Lindsey, Ph.D., and a wide range of immediate and extended family members of Wilson R. Bachelor, the nineteenth-century country doctor whose diary forms the basis of the book.
“The older I get the more interested in history I become,” said UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D. “I continuously come to the realization that we are all constantly a part of the same story. Thanks to the efforts of many people here today, we are all able to delve into a different life and time and experience it as if we were right there alongside Dr. Bachelor. Thank you to everyone who contributed to making this book happen and making this fascinating story available to readers.”
In addition to transcriptions of a diary of medical cases and philosophical writings by Bachelor, who moved from Tennessee to Arkansas's Franklin County in 1870 and died there in 1903, the book includes a foreword by Thomas Bruce, M.D., inaugural dean of the UAMS College of Public Health, former College of Medicine dean and a professor emeritus and an afterward by Jonathan Wolfe, Ph.D., a professor and director of planned giving in the College of Pharmacy. There also is a letter from former Sen. Dale Bumpers, an extensive introductory section and notes.
A descendant of Bachelor donated his diary to the UAMS Library’s Historical Research Center last year, and Library staff assisted with some of the research for the book. “Fiat Flux,” published by the University of Arkansas Press, is an important addition to the historical record of how medicine was practiced in western Arkansas in the late 1800s.
“This book truly brings to life the story of a man I would’ve wanted to know,” Bruce said. “After reading this, I think readers will have the same feeling. It’s truly a beautifully done book and one that I recommend to anyone.”
The University of Arkansas Press describes Bachelor and his writings:
Bachelor was an avid reader with wide-ranging interests in literature, science, nature, politics, and religion, and he became a self-professed freethinker in the 1870s. He was driven by a concept he called “fiat flux,” an awareness of the “rapid flight of time” that motivated him to treat the people around him and the world itself as precious and fleeting. He wrote occasional pieces for a local newspaper, bringing his unusually enlightened perspectives to the subjects of women’s rights, capital punishment, the role of religion in politics, and the domination of the American political system by the economic elite in the 1890s.
A descendent of Bachelor’s, Bill Russell, introduced several generations of extended family members who attended the event from many parts of the country.
“This book is as if someone took a diary from today and published it in the year 2156,” he said. “That is an amazing thought. But to have access back to a much simpler time in the late nineteenth century and tell this story took a lot of work from a lot of people who should be commended here today.”
Lindsey thanked the many UAMS contributors to his book and said Bachelor’s diary has an appropriate home within the campus library.
“Certainly within the walls here at a medical university in the state that Dr. Bachelor practiced and wrote so beautifully about his surroundings is where this work can be most appreciated,” Lindsey said. “This could not have been done without the help from many cooperative people who see the benefit in sharing and preserving all that Dr. Bachelor had to give.”
The book can be purchased at the UAMS Bookstore or online from the UA Press.