American Medical Biographies/Jackson, Samuel

Jackson, Samuel (1787–1872)

Samuel Jackson was the son of Dr. David Jackson (1747–1801), of Philadelphia, a hospital physician in the Revolutionary army and a delegate to congress. Samuel was born March 22, 1787, the year in which the College of Physicians, Philadelphia, was founded, and graduated from the medical department of the University in 1808, having received his college education also at the University. His thesis was on "Suspended Animation" He was a student of Dr. Hutchinson, and after Dr. Hutchinson's death, of Dr. Wistar. He did not begin practice until about 1815, when he severed his connection with the drug business, of which he had assumed charge in 1809 on the death of his brother. He rapidly became prominent and in 1820, when the yellow fever prevailed in Philadelphia, he was chairman of the Board of Health. He rendered signal service not only fighting the disease fearlessly and valiantly, but publishing important papers in the Philadelphia Journal of Medical and Physical Sciences. He himself had an attack of the fever and regarded it of local origin, due to filth and putrescent animal and vegetable matter.

His writings, chiefly opening lectures at the University and biographies of colleagues, occupy some two columns in the catalogue of the Surgeon-General's Library at Washington. His best work was his "Principles of Medicine founded on the Structure and Functions of the Animal Organism" (1832), the first of its kind published in America.

Jackson was seventy-six years of age when he delivered his last course of lectures at the University in the session of 1862–63, which I attended. He had the appearance then of being a very old man—older than he seems in the bronze tablet which we in 1910 erected to his memory in our University. He was so feeble that he leaned on the arm of an assistant as he walked to his desk, whence he delivered his lectures sitting. There was, however, no lack of spirit in his message. With his bright eyes beaming, his face full of enthusiasm, and his white hair streaming over his shoulders, he was truly picturesque. Leaning forward, he narrated with great animation the happenings of the day in physiology as they appeared to the eyes of the great French physiologists, Claude Bernard, Milne Edwards and Brown-Séquard. For at that day the French were the acknowledged leaders in physiological science.

He became professor of materia medica in the College of Pharmacy in 1821 as the colleague of Prof. George B. Wood. Jackson's introduction to medical teaching was in the Philadelphia Hospital, in whose wards he served from 1822 to 1845, and attracted many students to his lectures. At that day the subjects of practice of medicine and the institutes of medicine were united under one professorship. Institutes of medicine was a term which in its broadest significance covered almost the entire subject of medicine except anatomy, surgery and materia medica, but practically was a synonym for physiology. In 1827 Dr. Nathaniel Chapman (q. v.) was the professor of practice and institutes, but finding the subject too extensive, Jackson was appointed assistant and delivered the course on Institutes. In 1835 a chair of institutes was established and Jackson elected to it, resigning in 1863 after twenty-eight years' incumbency. He died April 4, 1872, nine years after his resignation, aged eighty-five years.

Old Penn., 1910, vol. viii, Address by James Tyson, M.D.
The Life and Character of Samuel Jackson by J. Carson, Phila., 1872.
Boston Med. and Surg. Jour., 1850, vol. xli.
Tr. Med. Soc., Penn., J. L. Stewart, Phila., 1897, vol. xii.