This early 20th century novel is largely a tale of complex family and love relationships. It is the story of two brothers who vie for the love of the same woman, a competition that nearly destroys the men's friendship but that also leads the narrative into adventures on the frontiers of the Canadian Rockies during the building of the transcontinental railroad.

One of the brothers is inspired by a country surgeon to enter medicine and the middle third of the book deals with the physician training system of the time. The reader is introduced to representatives of both the finest and the most immoral of practitioners and practices. Running from his broken love relationship, the newly minted physician travels to the frontier where he assumes a pseudonym and practices medicine in the railroad camps. His work is inspired and he becomes a folk hero.

In a parallel narrative, the second brother, now a minister, also goes west, while grieving the fracture in his relationship with his younger sibling. Neither knows that the other has relocated to the Rockies. The remainder of the story details the doctor's work and eventual reunion with his estranged brother.


This work, one of many by Connor, is of interest to the medical humanist largely because of its frank and contemporaneous picture of the practice of rural and frontier medicine in the late nineteenth century. The means of acquiring the skill and/or the credentials (neither of which was always necessary ) to set up practice is reproduced with demonstrable historical accuracy.

Although dramatized for purposes of the fiction, the descriptions of diphtheria epidemics and railroad trauma in the mountain camps provide a peek at medical problems on the western frontier during its development. The work does suffer from sometimes long and not very engaging conversations among the many characters created by the author in a fashion typical of high volume writers of the period; however, once the reader accepts these flaws, the medical history content makes The Doctor a pleasant read.


Ralph Connor is a pseudonym for Charles Gordon William, who was a Christian minister in Canada.


Fleming H. Revell

Place Published

New York



Page Count