Page:A cyclopedia of American medical biography vol. 2.djvu/339

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RALPH


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RALPH


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Ralph, John (1793-1870).

John Ralph remains the outstanding figure in medical education in Ontario. During the War of 1812 he came over from England, but his ship was captured by an American cruiser and after peace was declared he returned to England and studied law and medicine conjointly at Cambridge; after graduating in Arts he was eventually called to the Bar in 1821. He studied medicine under Sir Astley Cooper and other great leaders and after becoming a member of the Royal College of Surgeons he returned to Canada, sett- ling first as a doctor and lawyer in Norfolk and later in Dundas, freriucntly bringing into court a pair of saddlebags, one filled with instruments and medicine, the other with briefs. In 1828. incensed with what he considered an unjust decision by Justice Sherwood, he threw oft' his gown and with it his legal practice, settling wholly to medical work in Victoria, eighty-nine miles from Toronto. A little incident which occurred there gives a glimpse of Ralph's character. Two men had been condemned to death for stealing an ox. The gallows were ready, l)ut Ralph determined to ride into Toronto and intercede with Sir John Calborne, the lieutenant-governor. The swiftest horse in the village was borrowed and after a few words with the officiating minister, John Ryerson, the doctor sped away.

The time of death drew near, the doomed men mounted the scaffold; Ryerson, an old circuit rider was asked to pray. Kneeling, he began softly, to husband his resources; half an hour, an hour, passed and the sun-bakeil crowd grew restless, the condemned were clearh' annoyed.

Murmurings arose, yet still the prayer came in husky voice from parched lips; no one heeded the words ; his real prayer was "Hasten Dr. Ralph's coming." At


the end of an hour and a half uproar began, when a shout was heard " Here comes Dr. Ralph." Too exhausted to speak Ralph rode to the foot of the scaffold and held up the reprieve.

In 1831 he removed to York, after- wards incorporated as the City of Toronto and went on its Medical Board and in 1834 married Grace Haines, of Kingston. His connection with the Rebellion of 1837 made his hurried fiight from Canada a necessity. But in 1843 he was able to return from Rochester and the reward of £"500 for his capture was withdrawn.

So he settled down again and opened a medical school for which in 1851 he obtained an act of incorporation. His class and dissecting room outgrew the shed it began in; a church building was taken and the school became the medical department of Victoria College Univer- sity with Ralph as dean.

When the session of 1856-7 opened, his colleagues, owing to differences which had arisen, resigned in a body and for two weeks Raph was i)rofessor-of-all-work suj^ported by the College Board. Later on the chairs were all filled but the seceders obtained a right to retain the title of Toronto School of Medicine and as such continued their work, this college indirectly also owing its origin to Dr. Ralj;)h, and both joining with the Trinity Medical College formed eventually the medical department of the University of Toronto.

Ralph was not a frequent contributor to medical literature, but his fame as a brilliant lecturer and teacher remains undimmed even to this generation. Dignified, handsome, courtly in manner, a profound thinker, with a subtle intellect, equally fitted to cope with the intricacies of legal, political or medical problems, Ralph left a big blank when he died an old man of seventv-seven at Mitchell,