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Medical America in the Nineteenth Century

Readings from the Literature

edited by Gert H. Brieger

Publication Year: 1972

Students of the history of medicine and of American history in general will welcome this collection of thirty papers originally published in nineteenth-century medical journals and lay publications. Each highlights a specific problem or medical attitude of the period, and together they present an illuminating panorama of the medical profession and of public health in nineteenth-century America. Many of the problems faced by students, practitioners, and patients of the last century are surprisingly similar to those still being encountered today. Dr. Brieger has selected papers that illustrate the issues and developments in medical education, medical practice, surgery, hospitals, hygiene, and psychiatry. They range from Benjamin Rush's "On the Cause of Death in Diseases That Are Not Incurable," to a paper by Robert F. Weir "On the Antiseptic Treatment of Wounds, and Its Results" and an article by Stephen Smith, "New York the Unclean." The final selection, the Announcement of The Johns Hopkins Medical School, stands as a landmark that foretells the beginning of a new era.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. c-vi


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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xii

An increasing interest in the development of medicine in America makes the need for a source-book apparent. I have, therefore, collected a series of papers to illuminate various aspects of the historical development of the medical profession and the commitment to public health in nineteenth-century America....

I: Medical Education

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pp. 3-7

A glance at the section devoted to medical education in Professor Genevieve Miller's Bibliography reveals the extent of the interest in this aspect of the history of medicine.1 Coupled with the truly staggering numbers of inaugural discourses and graduation orations available in the medical journals and the bound pamphlet files of many libraries, there is material for many volumes....

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Practical Essays on Medical Education and the Medical Profession in the United States

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pp. 8-23

Daniel Drake (1785-1852) has long been a heroic figure in American medicine. His fame rests on his writings, which were voluminous and of very high quality, and on his efforts to bring good medical education to the western states. The fact that he represented the ideal frontier physician undoubtedly also enhanced his reputation. His fellow medical teacher Samuel D. Gross called him a...

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An Essay on the Means of Improving Medical Education and Elevating Medical Character

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pp. 24-36

Very little biographical data seem to be available on Andrew Boardman. He published a book in 1847 entitled A Defence of Phrenology (New York: Kearny), which would explain his remark on the first page of his essay where chemistry is compared to alchemy, astronomy to astrology, and phrenology to palmistry.>1...

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Annual Catalogue of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, in the City of New York, 1849-50

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pp. 37-42

The College of Physicians and Surgeons, one of two regular medical schools in New York in 1850, was a descendant of King's College, the site of the second medical school founded in the American colonies. Its successor is the medical school of Columbia University, which celebrated its 200th anniversary in 1967....

II: Medical Literature

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Report of the Committee on Medical Literature

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pp. 45-54

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-94) is probably best known as a writer and as the father of an eminent Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. For many years, however, the elder Holmes was professor of anatomy at Harvard. A thorough and popular teacher, he was one of the first Americans to stress the use of the microscope to his students. Today he is frequently cited for...

III: The Medical Profession

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pp. 57-61

The Oxford New English Dictionary defines profession as "The occupation which one professes to be skilled in and to follow. A vocation in which a professed knowledge of some department of learning or science is used in its application to the affairs of others or in the practice of an art founded upon it." The first listed use of the word in this sense dates from 1541 when Copland, in...

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The Actual Condition of the Medical Profession in This Country; with a Brief Account of Some of the Causes Which Tend to Impede Its Progress, and Interfere with Its Honors and Interests

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pp. 62-74

Ferdinand Campbell Stewart (1815-99) was one of the founders of the New York Academy of Medicine, in 1847, and a well-known New York teacher and clinician when he wrote the essay that follows. After completing his medical training at the University of Pennsylvania, in 1837, he spent several more years studying abroad, mainly in Edinburgh and Paris. In 1843 Stewart, who was...

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Orthopathy and Heteropathy

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pp. 75-84

Edwin Lawrence Godkin (1831-1902), an Irish-born lawyer, came to New York in 1856. Here he continued to play the role into which he naturally gravitated even before he left Great Britain, that of publicist. When a new liberal weekly journal, The Nation, was founded in 1865, Godkin became its editor. His interests were those of the magazine's subtitle: "A Weekly Journal devoted to...

IV: Medical Practice

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pp. 87-89

The title "Medical Practice" for this section is inadequate and perhaps misleading. "Therapeutics" would be too restrictive, but that is the focus of most of the following papers. Four of the writers (Bigelow, Bartlett, Davis, and Flint) address themselves to general questions of therapy, to treat or not to treat, as it were. Rush, Chapman, and Delafield are concerned with more specific problems....

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On the Causes of Death in Diseases That Are Not Incurable

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pp. 90-97

Benjamin Rush (1745-1813), one of America's most famous physicians, signer of the Declaration of Independence, medical writer and teacher, needs no introduction. His influence during the first decades of the nineteenth century was widely felt. Although the lancet and calomel purge that he favored so much...

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On Self-limited Diseases

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pp. 98-106

Jacob Bigelow (1787-1879) after receiving his medical degree in Philadelphia spent his professional career in Boston. Known as one of America's foremost early botanists, Bigelow was Harvard's first professor of materia medica and played an important role in bringing her medical school and the Massachusetts General Hospital to the forefront of medical education....

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Remarks on the Chronic Fluxes of the Bowels

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pp. 107-114

Nathaniel Chapman, 1780-1853, was a Philadelphia physician of wide influence and repute. He founded and edited the Philadelphia Journal of the Medical and Physical Sciences in 1820. Its name was changed to the American Journal of the Medical Sciences in 1827 by its new editor, Isaac Hays. In 1816 Chapman was elected to fill the prestigious Chair of the Theory and Practice of...

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An Inquiry into the Degree of Certainty in Medicine; and into the Nature and Extent of Its Power over Disease

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pp. 115-126

Elisha Bartlett (1804-55) practiced and taught medicine in several states from Kentucky to New England. In 1844 he published his Essay on the Philosophy of Medical Science, reflecting the Parisian influence. His reputation, like that of many historical figures before and since, has had its ups and downs at the hands of historians. According to his contemporaries, and many who followed,...

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Nature and Art. Their Relative Influence in the Management of Diseases. Are They Antagonistic or Co-operative?

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pp. 127-133

Nathan Smith Davis (1817-1904) is best known for his efforts to reform medical education. He was one of the principal founders of the A.M.A. and in 1859 helped to establish the three year curriculum at the medical department of Lind University (later Northwestern). Davis was also an energetic medical editor. He founded the Chicago Medical Examiner in 1860. With the establishment of...

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Conservative Medicine

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pp. 134-142

Austin Flint (1812-86), who taught in six schools in his forty-year teaching career, was a prolific writer of books, articles, and editorials. His text of 1866, A Treatise on the Principles and Practice of Medicine (Philadelphia: Henry C. Lea), was one of the most popular American medical books of its time. His case records alone are said to fill nearly 17,000 folio pages. His writings reflect...

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Clinical Thermometry

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pp. 143-151

Edouard Seguin (1812-80) was born and educated in France. He came to the United States at mid-century and soon established himself in the field of education for the mentally deficient. His son, Edward C. (1843-98) became a well-known neurologist in New York and, owing to the similarity of the names, is often confused with his father. The elder Seguin published several books on...

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Some Forms of Dyspepsia

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pp. 152-160

Francis Delafield (1841-1915) was born in New York, where his father was a successful teacher and practitioner; he thus belonged to that first generation of American physicians who helped transform medicine into a laboratory science as well as a bedside art. He spent much of his time doing what we would call pathology. In addition to numerous papers on a variety of subjects, Delafield...

V: Surgery

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pp. 163-165

In this section it is surgeons who are commenting on their specialty. Many nonsurgical writers of the nineteenth century, however, were perhaps in a better position to evaluate surgery's position and accomplishments. The Englishman Robley Dunglison, whom Jefferson brought to the new University of Virginia to teach medicine, told medical students in the 1840's about "the present improved...

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Three Cases of Extirpation of Diseased Ovaria

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pp. 166-168

Ephraim McDowell (1771-1830) has achieved immortality, though he wrote very little. Born in Virginia, McDowell grew to manhood in Kentucky. Little is known of his medical education, but he did attend some classes while in Edinburgh for the 1792-93 session. He was not, however, awarded a degree. He began to practice medicine in Danville, Kentucky in 1795.1...

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Insensibility during Surgical Operations Produced by Inhalation

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pp. 169-175

Henry J. Bigelow (1818-90) was born in Boston, the son of Jacob Bigelow. Henry was educated primarily at Harvard where he received the M.D. degree in 1841. In later years he became one of the leading surgeons of New England and made several contributions to surgical technique and surgical anatomy.1...

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The Surgeon

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pp. 176-181

Edmund Andrews (1824 -1904) was born in Vermont, studied in Michigan, and early in his career moved to Chicago. In 1855 he joined the faculty of the Rush Medical College, but soon collaborated with Nathan Smith Davis and others in establishing Lind University Medical School, later to become Northwestern University. Here in 1859 the first three-year medical course was instituted,...

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Impressions of American Surgery

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pp. 182-189

Born in 1818, Erichsen received his medical training at University College, London, where he subsequently became professor of surgery. He was best known in this country for his large textbook of surgery, first published in 1853 as The Science and Art of Surgery (London: J. Walton). By the fifth edition of 1869 it grew to two stout volumes, a format retained through a tenth and final...

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The Factors of Disease and Death after Injuries, Parturition, and Surgical Operations

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pp. 190-197

Samuel D. Gross (1805-84) was one of America's leading surgeons of the nineteenth century. Part of his fame, no doubt, was owing to his ever-active pen. Born and educated in Pennsylvania, Gross taught in four medical schools, but was most closely identified with medicine in Philadelphia. As early as 1839 he...

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On the Antiseptic Treatment of Wounds, and Its Results

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pp. 198-200

After Lister's appearance before the International Medical Congress in Philadelphia in September 1876 and his tour of eastern cities, more and more surgeons became converts to the new system. Robert F. Weir was one of these. He was born in New York in 1838, received his M.D. degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1859 and soon became a leader among the surgeons...

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The Comparative Results of Operations in Bellevue Hospital

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pp. 201-210

Stephen Smith's life (1823-1922) spanned the great epochs of anesthesia and antisepsis. Anesthesia had barely been introduced when he began to study medicine in 1847, and he himself was one of the early American champions of antisepsis. The author of numerous surgical papers and three surgical textbooks, Smith was an active member of Bellevue's staff for fifty years. During the Civil...

VI: Psychiatry

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pp. 213-214

Of all the afflictions that beset man none is more threatening than mental illness. In the nineteenth century, as today, experts argued over its causes, its treatment, even over its definition and classification. The majority of patients were sent to county almshouses, where care was purely custodial, or to state hospitals that were usually over-crowded and understaffed....

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A Glance at Insanity, and the Management of the Insane in the American States

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pp. 215-221

Pliny Earle (1809-92) was one of those nineteenth-century physicians who truly could be called an alienist. He spent his professional life caring for and treating the insane. From 1864 until 1886 he was director of the Northhampton Lunatic Hospital in Massachusetts. Earle was concerned by the phenomenon that has been called the "cult of curability" by Albert Deutsch....

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Address before the Fiftieth Annual Meeting of the American Medico-Psychological Association

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pp. 222-230

The eminent Philadelphia neurologist and writer Silas Weir Mitchell (1829-1914) was the son of the famed John Kearsley Mitchell. Weir Mitchell and his colleagues began their study of peripheral nerve injuries during the Civil War. In the postwar decades neurology began to grow as a specialty. Those who devoted themselves...

VII: Hospitals

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pp. 233-236

Many towns at the beginning of the nineteenth century cared for their sick poor in small infirmaries attached to the local almshouse. Needless to say, the medical and nursing care dispensed in these institutions was usually inadequate. This, coupled with the often squalid conditions under which patients were kept,...

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Appendix to Plain Concise Practical Remarks on the Treatment of Wounds and Fractures, "Camp and Military Hospitals"

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pp. 237-241

John Jones (1729-1791), friend and physician to Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, was doubtless one of the foremost American physicians of his time. The little book from which the following selection was taken earned Jones the fond title of "Father of American Surgery." At any rate, his was the first surgical text published by an American. Certainly his British and French...

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Hospital Life in New York

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pp. 242-250

W. H. Rideing (1853-1918), an American journalist and author, looked at some of the large hospitals of New York through the eyes of a nonphysician. Although his descriptions strike us today as somewhat overly sentimental, he probably reflected the views of the middle class readers of Harper's quite well. The picture we get of the ambulance surgeon, the hospital wards, and their staff...

VIII: Hygiene

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pp. 253-255

The nineteenth century witnessed the birth of sanitary science, or public health, as a professional specialty. As with most medical developments at that time, the movement for sanitary reform began in Europe, particularly in England. In recent years, more historians have been attracted to the history of...

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Why We Get Sick

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pp. 256-262

History abounds in recurring themes. One of the more fascinating is the supposed relationship of the hectic way of American life to various diseases. Robert Tomes (1817-82), a journalist, was an astute observer of the American scene a century ago. The following article appeared in a popular magazine in 1856, and much of it, except for some words and phrases that date it, could as...

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New York the Unclean

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pp. 263-277

Stephen Smith the surgeon has already appeared in Section V. He was equally well known for his public health work, begun in New York in the late 1850's, when he was a member of the New York Sanitary Association. This group and the New York Academy of Medicine helped introduce health bills for the city into the state legislature in Albany (which had most of the control over city...

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The Germ Theory of Disease and Its Relations to Hygiene

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pp. 278-292

It is perhaps unusual that a book of papers describing the development of medicine in America should include an essay by a layman on the germ theory, a scientific subject. Suffice it to say its author was an unusual man. Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard was born in Massachusetts in 1809, graduated from Yale in 1828, and then taught mathematics, natural history, and chemistry. In...

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The Essential Conditions of Good Sanitary Administration

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pp. 293-300

Dorman B. Eaton (1823-99) was a Vermonter who spent most of his adult life in New York, where he practiced law until 1870. Prior to his retirement he was already actively engaged in the health reform movement. Along with Stephen Smith, he helped draft the Metropolitan Health Bill, and he worked hard for its passage. He preceded Smith in testifying before the legislature in...

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The Registration of Vital Statistics

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pp. 301-310

John Shaw Billings (1838-1913) was one of the most versatile and influential physicians of his day. One of his talents lay in planning and administration, another in bibliographical work. After a tour of duty as surgeon in the Civil War, Billings remained in the army to organize the library of the Surgeon-General's office (now the National Library of Medicine). He then became a widely known...

IX: Announcement of The Johns Hopkins Medical School

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pp. 311-330


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pp. 331-338

E-ISBN-13: 9780801895210
E-ISBN-10: 0801895219
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801892684
Print-ISBN-10: 0801892686

Page Count: 350
Publication Year: 1972