Dr. Seymour I. Schwartz

Dr. Seymour I. Schwartz has assembled his significant collection of North American maps over the course of the last four decades—while pursuing a distinguished surgical career. His accomplishments in medicine and cartography have been characterized by the same intense intellectual curiosity and passion for teaching.

A New York City native, Dr. Schwartz received his B.A. from the University of Wisconsin. He returned to New York for medical training, obtaining his M.D. from New York University. He subsequently completed his surgery residency at the University of Rochester, where he was appointed to the faculty in 1957. He has been a tireless and enthusiastic teacher of physicians-in-training ever since. He served as department chair for eleven years, and he is the Distinguished Alumni Professor in the Department of Surgery. Dr. Schwartz has published extensively in his field and served as the founding editor-in-chief of the seminal textbook Principles of Surgery, now in its eighth edition.

His interest in maps began in 1964 when his wife, Ruth, suggested that he take up a hobby—something to broaden his intense focus on surgery. Curiosity led him to pick up a 50-cent book entitled Maps and Mapmakers which introduced him to cartography, a field with which he had previously been unfamiliar.

Discovering the visual and historical richness of the maps and the fascinating stories behind them, Dr. Schwartz was hooked. He soon began collecting, and as his understanding of cartogaraphy deepened, so did his appreciation for the maps. Perhaps someone with surgical training is uniquely qualified to recognize not only the scientific precision involved in producing a map, but also the skilled, human hand required to render geographical information in such an artistic manner.

Each map has a story and a personal connection. The 1508 Johann Ruysch map, the oldest collectible map depicting the western hemisphere, was the first major map Dr. Schwartz acquired. He can still recall deliberating over the high-priced purchase—a decision he has never regretted. Perhaps most treasured in his collection is a mid-18th-century manuscript map of the Ohio River Valley drawn by a then-unknown, 21-year-old surveyor named George Washington.

Simultaneously important pieces of American history and striking works of art, maps are not merely items to be acquired. For Dr. Schwartz, they merit—and demand—scholarly study. He has written five books in the field and is an internationally renowned historian of cartography. The Mapping of America (with Ralph Ehrenberg) is the best illustrated account of the cartographic history of the United States, and The French and Indian War 1754-1763 draws on the strong military map holdings in his own collection. His latest book, Putting “America” on the Map, chronicles the amazing story of the 1507 Waldseemüller map, the first map on which the name “America” appears. Dr. Schwartz remains engaged in research, writing, and teaching—continuing to share his knowledge and enthusiasm with students, scholars, and the public.