Wylie, Walker Gill

1849–March 13, 1923

Not only did Wylie bring new ideas into the medical community, by the mid1890s he had become interested in engineering and the process of converting water into electricity. Wylie partnered with James Buchanan Duke to create Duke Power Company, now Duke Energy Corporation.

Gynecologist, surgeon, industrialist. Wylie was born in Chester, South Carolina in 1849, the son of Alexander Pearson Wylie. He enlisted in the Confederate army at age sixteen and, as a lieutenant, commanded a company in Johnston’s retreating army during Sherman’s March to the Sea. After the war he attended the University of South Carolina and graduated in 1868, receiving a degree in civil engineering. He then entered the Bellevue Medical College in New York City, where he received his M.D. in 1871. The next year he went to Great Britain to study hospital construction and nurses’ training. He returned to the United States in 1873 to begin private practice in New York. Wylie was closely associated with James Marion Sims (1813–1883), and interned at the New York Women’s Hospital established by Sims in 1855. For a number of years, beginning in 1877, Wylie served as Sims’s operating assistant. Both men were South Carolina natives who had moved to New York City.

Like Sims, Wylie was an accomplished abdominal surgeon, and he gained a reputation for laparotomy that was unmatched during his time. He was one of the founders of the New York Polyclinic, and he also was a dominant figure in establishing the Nightingale system of nurse training at Bellevue.

Wylie was married in Northampton, Massachusetts, on June 13, 1877, to Henrietta Frances Damon, daughter of Edward Dane Damon, a city merchant. They became the parents of five children: Juliet, who married Alexander Dickinson; Lucille Damon, who married Eskel Berg; Sims Gill; Edward Alexander Gill; and Walker Gill.

Wylie was appointed visiting gynecologist to Bellevue Hospital in 1882, and he held that post for the next twenty-five years. In 1882 he also became professor of gynecology at the Polyclinic School of Medicine, and he lectured there on gynecology and abdominal surgery for the next twenty years. Wylie was a member of a number of professional organizations including the New York Academy of Medicine, the New York County Medical Society, the New York Pathological Society, the New York Obstetrical Society, the American Gynecological Society, and the Royal Society of Medicine in London.

Not only did Wylie bring new ideas into the medical community, by the mid1890s he had become interested in engineering and the process of converting water into electricity. Wylie partnered with James Buchanan Duke to create Duke Power Company, now Duke Energy Corporation. Duke was a multimillionaire before the end of the nineteenth century from tobacco production, but, by the turn of the century, he was looking for something else to do. Wylie’s revolutionary ideas of building hydroelectric dams and running high-powered electric lines to the point of use convinced Duke to finance the endeavor. Together they raised funds to build a hydroelectric power plant located at Portman Shoals on the Seneca River, approximately eleven miles west of Anderson, South Carolina.

Wylie and Duke constructed their next plant on the Catawba River, only six miles from Rock Hill and eighteen miles from Charlotte. Subsequently the Catawba Power Company was organized under the laws of South Carolina, and Wylie became its president. Wylie’s plan was to utilize the entire fall of the Catawba-Wateree River to build a number of dams and run high-tension electric lines to the places of use, a concept that was, at the time, revolutionary. His efforts resulted in the Catawba River becoming the most electrified river in the country, with ten dams stretching from the headwaters of the Catawba above Marion, North Carolina, to the Wateree below Camden, South Carolina. Lake Wylie, which was formed by the construction of one of these dams, is named in his honor. Wylie died on March 13, 1923, in New York City.

Griffith, Steve. “Walker Gill Wylie: A Man for All Seasons.” Carolina Columns: University South Caroliniana Society Newsletter. Supplement (Spring 2008).

“Late Dr. W. Gill Wylie, The.” New York Times, March 20, 1923.

Wylie, Walker Gill. South Carolina Hall of Fame Files. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, S.C.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Wylie, Walker Gill
  • Coverage 1849–March 13, 1923
  • Author
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date December 2, 2022
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 3, 2016
Go to Top