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The Medical Society of the State of Pennsylvania convened in Philadelphia, at the First Reformed Church, on Wednesday, May 31st, 1876, at 3 P. M.
The President, Dr. CRAWFORD Irwin, of Blair County, occupied the chair, supported by the Vice-Presidents Drs. ANDREW NEBINGER, of Philadelphia County, A. H. HALBERSTADT, of Schuylkill County, R. L. SIBBET, of Cumberland County, and J. F. Ross, of Clarion County.
The Permanent Secretary, Dr. WILLIAM B. ATKINSON, of Philadelphia County, the Assistant Secretary, Dr. JAMES Tyson, of Philadelphia County, the Corresponding Secretary, Dr. THOMAS M. DRYS. DALE, of Philadelphia County, and the Treasurer, Dr. B. LEE, of Philadelphia County, were present.
The session was opened with prayer by Rev. DAVID WINTERS, of the Westminster Presbyterian Church.
The Chairman of the Committee of Arrangements, Dr. Thos. M. DRYSDALE, of Philadelphia County, addressed the Society as follows:
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN OF THE MEDICAL SOCIETY OF THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA: We extend to you, in this old and beautiful city, the mother city of medical science, in this jubilee year of commemoration and congratulation, a most cordial centennial welcome.
Not the medical profession of Philadelphia alone, which has often rejoiced to greet you for communion and counsel, as brethren of VOL. XI.
the same noble calling, but the authorities of the great exhibition and the people of the city itself, accustomed to regard health as among the chiefest of blessings, and the guardians of health as the best of benefactors, delight upon this occasion to extend to you their heartiest welcome.
From north, and south, and east, and west of our great Commonwealth you reverently gather, to watch the century plant as it bursts into blossom; and, most familiar with the aloe, you notice the growth and swell of a hundred years, as its petals expand in the centennial, and from all over our States and the kingdoms and empires of the world, the multitudes press to the cosmopolitan exhibition of the arts and sciences.
Gentlemen, this is a year when, in every direction, the arts, the sciences, the trades, the professions, are instructively contrasting the present condition of things with the condition of things one hundred years ago; and can I do better in welcoming and congratulating you than by following the common current of thought, and glancing for a few moments at the progress of American medical education through the century ?
It is peculiarly appropriate that our profession should assemble here at this time to assist in celebrating our national centennial; for, if we cannot regard this as the exact centennial of American medicine, we can, at least, claim that American medicine and American independence had the same birth-place.
It is a fact not generally known that, “ in one of the large apartments of the State House," in the building which gave birth to American independence, was delivered the introductory lecture on anatomy by Dr. William Shippen, in the autumn of 1762. number of students who attended his course amounted only to twelve. This was the origin of our medical schools.” Dr. Shippen had given three courses of lectures unconnected with any institution, when, May 3d, 1765, Dr. John Morgan laid before the trustees of the college a plan for establishing a medical school under their auspices, accompanied by a letter from the honorable Thomas Penn, recommending the plan to their patronage.
In September, Dr. Shippen addressed a letter to the trustees, stating that the institution of a medical school had been his favorite object for seven years; and that he had proposed it three years before in his first introductory lecture; upon which he was immediately and unanimously chosen Professor of Anatomy and Surgery." The anatomical lectures were regularly delivered, from year to year, until the fourteenth course, which was in the winter of 1775, when they were suspended by the war of the revolution,” and Shippen entered the medical department of the army in the year 1776, and became its Director-General. Thus intimate were the relations of the birth and early history of American independence and of American medicine. In this city, then, American medical education bad its origin.
The question, bas medical education grown equally with our growth as a nation and with collateral sciences, has been mooted so often of late, that it is to be approached with hesitation; but without entering deeply into the subject, let us compare the facili
ties of acquiring a knowledge of our science before and during the time of Rush, with the present, and, also, glance hastily at its early history, and at some of the prominent men of those times.
That we may do this understandingly, let us see what was the usual method of medical education before the establishment of the first medical school, and what means of instruction the teachers had at their disposal.
A young man wishing to become a doctor, after an academical course more or less complete, was apprenticed to a surgeon or phy. sician, by whom he was supposed to be taught all the science and practice of physic. The greater number of these teachers had never received a medical degree nor a proper medical education themselves; nor had they the facilities for teaching, even had they been competent; for, to do this, required books and instruments; but, it is well known, that these were rare, and came mainly from England, as at that time there were no native medical works and no American instruments. Medical journals were unknown, for no medical journal was published in America until near the close of the eighteenth century. This want of material for teaching was so well known, that later, Dr. John Fothergill, who took a great interest in the affairs of our colony, employed Rimsdyck, one of the first artists of Great Britain, to execute a series of crayon paintings, which exhibited the whole structure of the human body of the full size, and the gravid uterus, with many of the varied circumstances of natural and preternatural parturition, and presented them to the Pennsylvania Hospital, which had just been erected.
Yor were there any institutions, such as hospitals or dispensaries; for the Philadelphia Dispensary, the first institution of its kind in the United States, only came into existence in 1786, and the Pennsylvania Hospital in 1756.
With such teachers and with so little to aid him in acquiring a knowledge of our art, the pupil could not be expected to be very proficient.
At a period anterior to the formation of the medical school, which may be called the period of dependence, there were about 3000 physicians in the colonies to prescribe for 3,000,000 of people. To be a trained doctor, it was necessary for the aspirant to cross the ocean, to spend some years attending lectures in Edinburgh, to stop for a few months in London, and then to come back courtly and conceited, to give British pills and potions to the colonists, as he had learned to compound them on British soil. But the greater proportion of these men were, as we have seen, wholly uneducated in medicine. Hence the few well-trained physicians in that period of ignorance shine so brightly among their compeers.
With the early emigrants came to this country, in time, a number of competent practitioners. And it is early in the century that we find John Bard and John Redman apprentices to Kearsley, an Eng. lish surgeon in Philadelphia; for at that day apprenticeship was required equally for a clerkship in a store, an attorney's office, and for medicine. Kearsley was a churl and a tyrant, and Bard, the intimate friend of Franklin, was restive at making fires, chopping
wood, doing errands, polishing shoe buckles, and helping Mrs. Kearsley on wash days.
The system of medical teaching in those times was merely reading withi an instructor, and following and assisting in his practice, until those who had the means could complete their education in Europe.
John Redman, the other apprentice of Kearsley, thus finished his training in Europe, and, in his day, ranked among the most eminent of the faculty in Philadelphia, and was the first President of the College of Physicians. He early in life declined the practice of surgery and midwifery, and confined himself to the practice of physic.
With Redman studied Benjamin Rush, the true father of American medicine, and this brings us to the next period of progressthat of medical independence, whep Americans could attend lectures without departing from their native land. But, before leaving this part of our subject, let us have a word or two more on the primitive old 18th century doctor.
Excluding a large proportion of practitioners, who were intensely ignorant and inexpert, although probably quite as competent as were a large class at that time in Great Britain, we have as the early representative men of American medicine, Bard, Shippen, Morgan, Kuhn, and others of that standing, as splendid specimens of manhood, manners, and skill as the world could present. Samuel Bard visited his patients dressed to the minutest detail of a substantial, cultivated gentleman, with his hands enveloped in a muff, lest the winds of New York should dull his fine sense of touch ; and in his palmy days he carried off the greater portion of practice in the diseases of women, from his extraordinary reputation with the sex. The Shippens were proverbial for their calmness and unfailing good humor. Kuhn with his queue hanging down his back, his powdered hair, his cocked hat, his short clothes, gold knee and shoe buckles always shining brightly, will stand forth as a model physician of the early revolutionary period. And Redman, though deaf and nearly blind in his later years, was down to old age cheerful, even facetious, charitable and eminent in all the graces of a devoted Christian. From him Rush learned bleeding and the use of mercury. He considered bleeding in old age as the very first of remedies.
But Benjamin Rush, his great pupil, rises to close that early period and usher in the era of American medicine. Like the others of whom we have spoken, perfectly educated, and courtly in manners, the farmer's boy came from the plow to be the angel of healing to the despairing population of Philadelphia, stricken with the yellow fever. There is no character in medical annals that will better bear the full blaze of scrutiny than that of Rush, calumniated and abused, as he was, by Cobbett and other libellers, on account of his good strong principles and unwearied philanthropy. His devotion to his profession is well known. “Medicine," be said, "is my wife, science is my mistress, my books are my companions." He was convinced, after learning all that could be taught abroad, that medicine, in his day, was only in its infancy. If the prejudice