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Brown, Samuel (1769–1830)

A pioneer inoculator for smallpox and one of the first two professors of the Transylvania University Medical Department, Samuel Brown was born on January 30, 1769, in Augusta, now Rockbridge County, Virginia.

He was the son of the Rev. John Brown, Presbyterian minister, and Margaret Preston, the second daughter of John and Elizabeth Patton. Samuel was the third of four brothers, Hon. John Brown, Hon. James Brown, and Dr. Preston Brown.

His early education he received from his father, who founded a grammar school for the education of his sons and other boys in the neighborhood. He went eventually to Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, where he took his bachelor of arts degree.

He immediately began to study medicine under his brother-in-law, Dr. Humphreys, at Staunton, Virginia. After several months he went to Philadelphia and became a private pupil of Dr. Rush; did not remain there long but went to Edinburgh where he had as classmates Dr. Hosack, Dr. Davidge, Ephraim McDowell and other Americans. Not having fulfilled certain requirements of the Edinburgh University, he did not graduate there. On returning to America he began to practise at Bladensburg near what is now the city of Washington. Although he prospered, a strong desire to be with his family is the reason given for his leaving the shores of the Potomac in 1797 and joining his brother, James Brown, who began the practice of law in Lexington, Kentucky.

In 1804 the health of James Brown compelled him to seek a milder climate and he chose New Orleans. Dr. Brown, unable to separate himself from his brother, descended the Mississippi in 1806 and entered upon practice in New Orleans, where, after three years, he married Katherine Percy, abandoning New Orleans and settling upon a plantation at Fort Adams, a short distance from Natchez, practically giving up medicine.

His wife died a few years after this, leaving him three children, the last of whom followed its mother to the grave.

This made another change in the career of Dr. Brown. He left Natchez and with his negroes moved to a plantation near Huntsville, Alabama. His energies were now directed for a time to educating his children until they reached the age for school. He also co-operated with Dr. Daniel Drake (q.v.) in a project to establish a medical school in Cincinnati. Dr. Drake had obtained a charter from the state of Ohio in 1819. About this time the trustees of the Transylvania University offered Dr. Brown the chair of practice, which he accepted. This was the reorganization of the medical department of the Transylvania University as he and Dr. Frederick Ridgely (q.v.) had been appointed in 1799, Brown as professor of chemistry, anatomy and surgery.

In the spring of 1825 he tendered his resignation in favor of his friend, Dr. Daniel Drake, who was unanimoulsy appointed his successor.

In 1799 by uniting with his brothers John and James and Mr. Henry Clay he used his influence in an endeavor to introduce a clause into the new state constitution respecting the gradual emancipation of slaves. These efforts were not crowned with success and ever afterwards he shunned politics.

According to Lunsford P. Yandell, Sr., the first medical paper from the pen of a Kentucky physician was one written by Brown for the American Medical Repository in June, 1799; its title, "A curious Instance of Disease in which the Feeling of the Patient was Abolished while the Power of Motion remained Unimpaired." He was an industrious writer but composed no elaborate papers and his letters to scientific men, which were very numerous, were more interesting than his medical papers.

The crowning effort of his life was the organization of a society with branches in other cities, whose members pledged themselves to ideals similar to those of Dr. Brown, a society styled "The Kappa Lambda Association of Hippocrates." Its members were elected by unanimous vote and on the exaction of a promise similar to that of the Hippocratic oath. A journal was put forth in 1825 in Philadelphia under the auspices of this association, under the name of the North American Medical and Surgical Journal.

He was active in the organization of societies for the discussion of questions of science and literature, and probably the first to make known to his countrymen the discovery of the art of lithography in Europe, and the first to suggest a process of clarifying ginseng, rendering it fit for the Chinese market. He also made some valuable suggestions about the distillation of spirits.

His contribution to "The Transactions of the American Philosophical Society" consisted of a paper under the title of "A Description of a Cave on Crooked Creek, with Observations on Nitre and Gunpowder." His death was caused by apoplexy in the third attack of which he died on the twelfth of January, 1830, in the sixty-second year of his age. He died at the residence of Col. Thomas G. Percy, near Huntsville, Alabama.

Samuel Brown, by Dr. R. LaRoche.
Lives of Eminent American Physicians and Surgeons of the 19th Century, Samuel D. Gross.
Filson Club Publication No. 20 Medical Literature of Ky., by L. P. Yandell, Sr.
Trans. of the Ky. State Medical Society, 1874.
His best portrait is by Jouett at Frankfort, Ky.