William Baltzell IV, 86, doctor

Posted: March 30, 2006

William Hewson Baltzell IV, 86, an otolaryngologist who was a descendant in a long line of Philadelphia physicians dating back to the 1740s, died of pulmonary fibrosis Sunday at home in Chestnut Hill.

The third son of a "nutty mother and an absent, alcoholic father, Pop was a determined hard worker," said his son, Hewson.

Although the family lost much of its money in the Depression, the name remained in the Social Register and the young man was a quintessential Chestnut Hill blue-blood. His late brother E. Digby Baltzell, a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania who studied the upper class, is credited with inventing the acronym WASP.

After graduating in 1938 from the former Montgomery Country Day School, Dr. Baltzell earned a bachelor's in English in 1942 from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1946, he got his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College, where he was an intern for a year before joining the Army. He was a doctor in post-World War II Germany, and was in charge of a surgery unit near Wiesbaden. He was discharged in 1949.

Dr. Baltzell became an otolaryngologist in 1950 at Jefferson and also had a private practice. He also taught there. During his 50-year career, he was a surgeon at Pennsylvania Hospital, Chestnut Hill Hospital, Germantown Hospital, and others. He retired in 1987 but continued to teach until 2004.

In 1937, he moved into the family mansion on Rex Avenue in Chestnut Hill, where he lived the good life. Dr. Baltzell, a gracious gentleman, amused those he entertained.

"When a priest and nuns once visited us for a swim in the pool," said daughter Virginia, "my father brought them martinis on a silver platter."

Dr. Baltzell married Sarah Handy Edwards in 1954 and they had two children. They divorced in 1974.

In 1975, he married Martha Pickman Biddle, who brought three children to the marriage.

In addition, to his wife, son, daughter and ex-wife, Dr. Baltzell is survived by eight grandchildren; stepsons David Biddle and Christopher Biddle; and stepdaughter Margot Biddle Milcetich.

Donations may be made to Thomas Jefferson University Department of Otolaryngology, 925 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, 19107.

A funeral service will be held at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow at St. Thomas' Church, Camp Hill Road and Bethlehem Pike, Fort Washington. Burial will be in the church cemetery.

Contact staff writer Gayle Ronan Sims at 215-854-4185 or gsims@phillynews.com.

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