Robert Davis Wiswall
compiled by Columbian staff in 1989
Blending medicine with politics earned a niche in local history for Dr. Robert Davis Wiswall, longtime local physician and state representative.
Wiswall served three terms in the Washington House of Representatives. He first was elected from Vancouver in 1932 on the Democratic ticket and was re-elected in 1934 and 1936.
Born in New York Oct. 12, 1870, Wiswall came west as a young man and received his medical degree from the University of Oregon Medical School in 1897. He practiced for one year in Pendleton, Ore., then moved to Camas where he set up a family practice.
Wiswall moved his practice to Vancouver in 1904 and remained active until Nov. 10, 1947, when he was fatally stricken by a cerebral hemorrhage. From 1930 on, he was associated with his son, Dr. Henry M. Wiswall.
Wiswall was Clark County health officer for several years and was instrumental in helping several local hospitals organize. He became surgeon for the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway when it came to Vancouver about 1908 and remained in that position until his death.
Wiswall was the first president of the Clark County Medical Society and active in several other community and fraternal organizations. Among his other honors, he was said to be the first physician in the county to own and operate an automobile, buying his machine in 1907 and starting the demise of horse-and-buggy doctoring.
Wiswall was also one of the first county physicians to use the X-ray machine. His fitted into a suitcase-like container and was battery-operated. He took it along on house calls.