A History of the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania/Chapter IV


Foundation of the College of Philadelphia—Application of Dr. Morgan—His appointment to the professorship of theory and practice of physic—His public discourse—Dr. Shippen appointed Professor of Anatomy and Surgery—Organization of the medical department—Dr. Bond delivers clinical lectures in the Pennsylvania Hospital—Rules for the government of the medical department of the College—Dr. Wm. Smith’s lectures on natural and experimental philosophy.

The College of Philadelphia was founded in 1749, sixteen years before the medical school was engrafted upon it. This institution was intended to meet the demands of the population for education of a more extended nature than was afforded by the private schools in existence. As liberal pursuits engaged the attention of a greater number of individuals in the Province, and as preparation for the professions, as well as a diffusion of knowledge in arts and letters, became necessary, the importance of employing all the facilities at command was made apparent. “Franklin drew up the plan of an Academy to be erected in the city of Philadelphia, suited to the state of an infant country; but in this, as in all his plans, he confined not his views to the present time only. He looked forward to the period when an institution on an enlarged plan would become necessary. With this view he considered his academy as a foundation for posterity to erect a seminary of learning more extensive and suitable for future circumstances.”[1] Dr. Franklin, himself, was no classically educated scholar, but one of nature’s own perfecting, who probably derived his inspiration from his native Province, Massachusetts.

The gentlemen who were called upon to give their aid and counsel to this enterprise were among the most respectable in the community.[2] Five prominent physicians were members of the Board of Trustees in 1765, viz: Thomas Bond, Phineas Bond, Thomas Cadwalader, William Shippen, Sen., and John Redman. To such an organization was the proposal of Dr. Morgan submitted.[3]

Upon examining the records of the College and of the University, it will be found that for more than half a century medical men were admitted to participate in their government. No jealousy or suspicion appears to have been entertained towards them, and certainly it may be affirmed that medical men have as deep a stake in the prosperity of the schools as the representatives of other professions or occupations. Although the custom of electing members of the medical profession was for a time suspended, the return to it may be regarded as a happy omen, and the present honorable body may be congratulated upon the accession to its deliberations of such discreet and proper members as the medical gentlemen who now constitute a portion of its number.[4]

The impression which the arguments in his communication and his earnestness made upon the Board of Trustees, sustained by the letters from abroad which were submitted, prevailed with them to accede to Dr. Morgan’s propositions. The Trustees approved the scheme, and, as the minutes express it, “entertaining a high sense of Dr. Morgan’s abilities and the high honors paid to him by different learned bodies and societies in Europe, they unanimously elected him Professor of the Theory and Practice of Physic.” The first medical professorship in America was thus created. The date of this event is May 3d, 1765.

At the public Commencement of the College, which took place on the 30th and 31st of May following, Dr. Morgan delivered his famous Inaugural Address, entitled “A Discourse upon the Institution of Medical Schools in America.” It had been prepared in Paris. This discourse constituted a part of the Commencement exercises on both days of their continuance.

In noticing this performance, the “Pennsylvania Gazette” thus comments upon it: “We would not wish to anticipate the judgment of the public, and shall only say that the perspicuity with which it was written and spoke drew the close attention of the audience, particularly of the gentlemen of the Faculty of Physic.”

In this address will be found an exposition of the nature and scope of medical science; a sketch of the departments of which it is composed, with the reasons for their special cultivation; an advocacy of classical, literary, and general scientific attainments on the part of the student of medicine, and, what is pertinent to the purpose, the demonstration that to be effectively taught “a coalition is required of able men, who would undertake to give complete and regular courses of lectures on the different branches of medicine.” In connection with his statements, the author insists especially upon the advantages presented by the city of Philadelphia, to which even then students resorted, attracted as well by the reputation of its practitioners, as by the facilities for clinical instruction afforded them in the hospital.

In this literary and scientific performance, a prognostication was uttered which has been fully realized, viz: “Perhaps this Medical Institution, the first of its kind in America, though small in its beginning, may receive a constant increase of strength and annually exert new vigor. It may collect a number of young persons of more than ordinary abilities, and so improve their knowledge as to spread its reputation to distant parts. By sending these abroad duly qualified, or by exciting an emulation amongst men of parts and literature, it may give birth to other useful institutions of a similar nature, or occasional rise, by its example, to numerous societies of different kinds calculated to spread the light of knowledge through the whole American continent wherever inhabited.”[5]

It is worthy of note that at the time this was uttered the population of the city of Philadelphia was about twenty-five thousand, and of the colonies in the aggregate less than three millions.[6]

In September following the appointment of Dr. Morgan, Dr. Shippen was, on application to the Board, unanimously elected the Professor of Anatomy and Surgery.[7] The application for this position was thus expressed:—

“To the Trustees of the College, etc.:

“The institution of Medical Schools in this country has been a favorite object of my attention for seven years past, and it is three years since I proposed the expediency and practicability of teaching medicine in all its branches in this city in a public oration read at the State House, introductory to my first course of Anatomy.

“I should long since have sought the patronage of the Trustees of the College, but waited to be joined by Dr. Morgan, to whom I first communicated my plan in England, and who promised to unite with me in every scheme we might think necessary for the execution of so important a point. I am pleased, however, to hear that you, gentlemen, on being applied to by Dr. Morgan, have appointed that gentleman Professor of Medicine. A Professorship of Anatomy and Surgery will be accepted by, gent.,

“Your most obedient and very humble servant,


“Philadelphia, 17th September, 1765.”

The reputation of Dr. Shippen as a private teacher had directed attention to him, and secured his election as particularly qualified for the post. During his active career of over thirty years he well sustained the prestige he had previously acquired.

The Medical School of the College of Philadelphia having been founded by the action of the Board of Trustees that has been detailed, the announcement was given to the public in the “Pennsylvania Gazette,” September 26, 1765, as follows:—

“As the necessity of cultivating medical knowledge in America is allowed by all, it is with pleasure we inform the public that a Course of Lectures on two of the most important branches of that useful science, viz., Anatomy and Materia Medica, will be delivered this winter in Philadelphia. We have great reason, therefore, to hope that gentlemen of the Faculty will encourage the design by recommending it to their pupils, that pupils themselves will be glad of such an opportunity of improvement, and that the public will think it an object worthy their attention and patronage.

“In order to render these courses the more extensively useful, we intend to introduce into them as much of the Theory and Practice of Physic, of Pharmacy, Chemistry, and Surgery as can be conveniently admitted.

“From all this, together with an attendance on the practice of the physicians and surgeons of the Pennsylvania Hospital, the students will be able to prosecute their studies with such advantage as will qualify them to practise hereafter with more satisfaction to themselves and benefit to the community.

“The particular advertisements inserted below specify the time when these lectures are to commence, and contain the various subjects to be treated of in each course, and the terms on which pupils are to be admitted.

“Professor of Anatomy and Surgery in the College of Philadelphia.”

JOHN MORGAN, M. D., F. R. S., etc.,
“Professor of Medicine in the College of Philadelphia.”

In addition to this general announcement, each professor advertised his lectures.[8]

For two years lectures were delivered by these two professors under the sanction of the College.

In connection with their labors, Dr. Thomas Bond, one of the physicians of the Pennsylvania Hospital, commenced a course of Clinical Lectures in that institution. He submitted a lecture that he had prepared, introductory to his course, to the Board of Managers and his medical colleagues, which was directed to be inserted on the minutes of the Board. This lecture was publicly delivered on the third of December, 1766. It is a clear exposition of the advantages of clinical instruction in connection with medical education, at the same time evincing a deep interest in the medical school recently established, to which, as a trustee of the College, Dr. Bond had most zealously given his influence. In proof of this, the following passages may be quoted:—

“Therefore, from principles of patriotism and humanity, the Physic School here should meet all the protection and encouragement the friends of their country and well-wishers of mankind can possibly give it. Though it is yet in its infancy, from the judicious treatment of its guardians it is already become a forward child, and has the promising appearance of soon arriving at a vigorous and healthy maturity. The professors in it at present are few, but their departments include the most essential parts of education. Another teacher whose distinguished abilities will do honor to his country and the Institution, is expected to join them in the spring; and I think he has little faith, who can doubt that so good an undertaking will ever fail of additional strength and providential blessing; and I am certain nothing would give me so much pleasure as to have it in my power to contribute the least mite towards its perfect establishment.

“The Professor of Anatomy and Physiology is well qualified for his task, his dissections are accurate and elegant, and his lectures learned, judicious and clear.

“The Professor of the Theory and Practice or Physic has had the best opportunities of improvement, joined to genius and application, and cannot fail of giving necessary and instructive lessons to the pupils.”[9] In 1766, Dr. Shippen’s course was announced publicly on the 18th of September. That of Dr. Morgan was also announced on the 25th of the same month in these terms: “A Course of Lectures on the Theory and Practice of Physic will be delivered for the benefit of medical students, with a preparatory course on Botany, Chemistry, and the Materia Medica, being the substance of a set of lectures delivered to his pupils last winter.” This, then, in reality was the first course of lectures on the practice of medicine.

The year 1766 was further memorable in the annals of the College for the award of a gold medal to Dr. Morgan for a prize essay. The following advertisement explains the nature of the transaction:—

College of Philadelphia, March 6th, 1866.

Whereas, John Sargent, Esq., Merchant of London and Member of Parliament, hath presented to this College a Gold Medal for the best English Essay on the reciprocal advantages of a perpetual union between Great Britain and her American Colonies, notice is hereby given by order of the Trustees, that the said Medal will be disposed of at the ensuing Commencement in May, for the best Essay that shall be produced on the subject proposed, by any one of those who have received any degree or part of their education in this College; and, as the said subject is one of the most important which can at this time employ the pen of the patriot or scholar, and is thus left open to all those who have had any connection with this College, either as students or graduates, it is hoped for the honor of the Seminary, as well as their own, they will nobly exert themselves on a subject so truly animating, which may be treated in a manner alike interesting to good men, both here and in the Mother country.”

From nine performances which were presented, the Committee of Trustees selected that of Dr. Morgan, and at the Commencement held May 20th, 1766, immediately after the valedictory oration, “the Hon. John Penn, Esq., Governor of the Province, as President of the Trustees of the College, delivered the medal to the Provost, ordering him to confer it in public agreeably to their previous determination. The Provost accordingly acquainted the audience that the same had been decreed to John Morgan, M. D., F. R. S., &c., Professor of the Theory and Practice of Physic in the College of Philadelphia, and then requested Dr. Morgan to deliver his dissertation in public, which being finished, the eulogium accompanied the conferring of the medal.”[10]

In 1767, a further movement was made towards a more thorough organization of the medical department, and placing it upon a proper footing in connection with collegiate privileges.

The medical gentlemen of the Board of Trustees, with the two Professors and the Provost, William Smith, D.D., united in framing a code of rules for the new department. These were submitted to the Board of Trustees at the meeting of May 12th, 1767, when they were approved and adopted. The announcement given to the public press indicates the action taken as being supposed to promote the interests of the school and of the profession.[11]

College of Philadelphia, July 27th, 1767.

“At a meeting of the Trustees, held the 12th of May last, it being moved to the Board that conferring the usual degrees in Physic on deserving students will tend to put the Practice of Physic on a more respectable footing in America; the motion was unanimously agreed to; and the following Course of Studies and Qualifications, after mature deliberation, was fixed on and enacted as requisite to entitle physical students to their different degrees.

“For a Bachelor’s Degree in Physic:—

“1. It is required that such students as have not taken a Degree in any College shall, before admission to a degree in Physic, satisfy the Trustees and Professors of the College concerning their knowledge in the Latin tongue, and in such branches of Mathematics, Natural and Experimental Philosophy as shall be judged requisite to a medical education.

“2. Each student shall attend at least one course of lectures in Anatomy, Materia Medica, Chemistry, the Theory and Practice of Physic, and one course of Clynical (sic) Lectures, and shall attend the Practice of the Pennsylvania Hospital for one year, and may then be admitted to a Public Examination for a Bachelor’s Degree, provided that on previous examination by the Medical Trustees and Professors, and such other Trustees and Professors as choose to attend, such Students shall be judged fit to undergo a public examination without attending any more courses in the Medical School.

“3. It is further required that each student, previous to the Bachelor’s Degree, shall have served a sufficient apprenticeship to some reputable Practitioner in Physic, and be able to make it appear that he has a general knowledge in Pharmacy.

Qualifications for a Doctor’s Degree in Physic:—

“It is required for this Degree that at least three years have intervened from the time of taking the Bachelor’s Degree, and that the Candidate be full 24 years of age, and that he shall write and defend a Thesis publicly in the College, unless he should be beyond seas, or so remote on the continent of America as not to be able to attend without manifest inconvenience; in which case, on sending a written thesis, such as shall be approved of by the College, the candidate may receive the Doctor’s Degree, but his thesis shall be printed and published at his own expense. “This scheme of a medical education is proposed to be on as extensive and liberal a plan as in the most respectable European Seminaries, and the utmost provision is made for rendering a Degree a real mark of Honor, the reward only of distinguished learning and abilities. As it is calculated to promote the Benefit of Mankind by the improvement of the beneficent Art of Healing and to afford an opportunity to students of acquiring a regular medical education in America, it is hoped it will meet with public encouragement, more especially as the central situation of this city, the established character of the Medical Professors, the advantages of the College and of the public Hospital, all conspire to promise success to the Design.

“For the further advantage of medical students, a course of Lectures will be given by the Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy each winter in the College, where there is an elegant and compleat (sic) apparatus provided for that purpose, and where medical students may have an opportunity of completing themselves in the Languages and any parts of the Mathematics at their leisure hours.”

The lectures were further advertised to commence on the first Monday of November, and “to consist of a complete course of lectures on Anatomy, to which will be added all the operations in Surgery, and the mode of applying all the necessary bandages, &c.”

“A course of Lectures on the Theory and Practice of Medicine, which will be preceded by a general explanation of the Theory of Chemistry, accompanied with some necessary operations to render a knowledge of this science easy and familiar to the inquisitive student.”

“A course of Clynical Lectures, to be delivered in the Pennsylvania Hospital wherein the Treatment of both Acute and Chronic Diseases will be exemplified in the cases of a great number of Patients.

“Each course of Lectures will be finished by the beginning of May, in time for those who intend to offer as candidates for a Degree in Physic to prepare themselves for the Examination before the Commencement of the ensuing year.” Appended to this general advertisement were those of each professor with his own signature, and additionally that of Dr. Bond, in the following terms: “Dr. Bond’s Course of Clynical Lectures, exemplifying the Theory and Practice of Physic, in the variety of Cases which present in the Pennsylvania Hospital, will be opened early in November, by a Introductory Lecture on the usefulness of a Medical School in America, and the necessity of a general Scientific Education to the students of Physic. To which will be added a Plan of the Course.”

The lecture of Dr. Bond, of which no further record has been left, was apparently supplemental to the one already referred to, and shows how deeply interested he was in the success of the great experiment then in operation. A just appreciation of the efforts of Dr. Bond to aid the collegiate instruction, was entertained by the Board of Trustees. On their minutes of May, 1768, we find this entry: “Dr. Bond is requested by the Trustees and Professors to continue his Clynical Lectures at the Hospital, as a Branch of Medical Education judged to be of great importance and benefit to the students.” We cannot find, however, that he was formally appointed professor. He continued to execute the duty of clinical instructor until his death in 1784, when clinical medicine had no especial representative until it was united with the Institutes in 1792.

The lectures upon Natural and Experimental Philosophy, were delivered by the Rev. Dr. William Smith, D. D., LL. D., the Provost of the College.[12] The announcement issued at the time explains their nature.

College of Philadelphia, December 17th, 1767.

“At the request of the Medical Trustees and Professors, the subscriber having last winter opened a course of Lectures on Natural and Experimental Philosophy, for the benefit of the Medical Students, which he hath engaged to continue this winter on an extensive plan, notice is hereby given that on Monday, the 28th inst., at 12 oc., it is proposed to deliver the Introductory Lecture at the College. As these lectures are instituted and given gratis, with the view to encourage the medical schools lately opened, and to extend the usefulness and reputation of the College, any gentlemen who have formerly been educated in this Seminary, and are desirous of renewing their acquaintance with the above mentioned branches of knowledge, will be welcome to attend the course.

“To the standing use of the large apparatus belonging to the College, Mr. Kinnersley[13] has engaged to add the use of his electrical apparatus which is fixed there, and to deliver the lectures on electricity himself, as well as to give his occasional assistance in other branches; so that with these advantages, and the many years’ experience of the subscriber in conducting lectures of this kind, it is hoped the present course will answer the design of its institution and do credit to the Seminary.


“N. B.—An evening lecture in some branches of Mathematics, preparatory to the philosophical course, is opened at the College.”

  1. Life of Benjamin Franklin, by himself, and continued by Dr. Henry Stuber, New York, 1825, p. 99. The college obtained a charter from the proprietaries, Thomas and Richard Penn, in 1753. This was amended and enlarged in 1755. In organizing the college, credit is awarded to Dr. Phineas Bond, Thomas Hopkinson, Tench Francis, and Rev. Richard Peters.
  2. The Board has consisted since its commencement of twenty-four members.
  3. The history of the College of Philadelphia and of the University of Pennsylvania has been written by Dr. George B. Wood. It was published in vol. iii. Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. In addition to the trustees mentioned, Dr. Lloyd Zachary had been in the Board in 1749.
  4. The present (1868) medical gentlemen in the Board of Trustees arc Drs. Rene La Roche, George W. Norris, and George B. Wood.
  5. A Discourse upon the Institution of Medical Schools in America, delivered at a Public Anniversary Commencement, held in the College of Philadelphia, May 30 and 31, 1765, with a Preface, containing, amongst other things, the Author’s Apology for Introducing the Regular Mode of Practising Physic in Philadelphia. By John Morgan, M. D., &c., and Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine in the College of Philadelphia. Printed and sold by William Bradford: 1765. A review of this Discourse will be found in the North American Medical and Surgical Journal, vol. iv. p. 362, written by Prof. Charles D. Meigs, M. D.
  6. In his work upon Yellow Fever, Dr. La Roche has given the data from which this conclusion is drawn. Mr. Thomas Smedley makes the same statement. The population of the city of Philadelphia, in 1760, was 18,756; and in 1769 it was 28,042. The rate of increase was then about one thousand annually.—A Complete Atlas of the City of Philadelphia, 1862.
  7. At a meeting (special) of the Board of Trustees, held September 23d, 1765, the following minute was made: “Dr. William Shippen, Jr., applied by letter as follows,” &c.
  8. See Appendix A.
  9. This lecture was published in the “North American Medical and Surgical Journal,” Oct. 1827, page 266.
  10. The essay was published, with others, under the title, “Four Dissertations on the reciprocal advantages of a perpetual union between Great Britain and her American Colonies, written for Mr. Sargent’s Prize Medal, to which by desire is prefixed an Eulogium, spoken on the delivery of the medal at the public Commencement of the College of Philadelphia, May 20th, 1766. Philadelphia: Printed by William and Thomas Bradford, at the London Coffee House, 1766.”
  11. Pennsylvania Gazette.
  12. The Rev. William Smith, D. D., LL. D., was Provost of the College from 1753 to 1779, when the charter was abrogated and the University instituted.
  13. Ebenezer Kinnersley, A. M., was Professor of Oratory and English Literature in the College from 1753 to 1773. He was interested in electricity, and aided Dr. Franklin in his experiments. See Life of Franklin by Dr. Stuber, and Lectures on Natural Philosophy by Rev. Dr. Ewing.