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mighty metropolis, perhaps nearer than any one in his calling; the Jew on the East Side blessed him; the railway porter in the train which bore his mortal remains home wept from a sense of personal loss, the multimillionaire, captain of industry, acknowledged obligation to him, and thousands mourned the death of a friend and a helper in time of need.1 E. H. Bradford, '69.


It is commonly believed by those who are interested in the history of medical education at Harvard that the degree of Doctor of Medicine was never given before the year 1811 except honoris causa, and consequently that there was no such thing here as the ordinary M.D. "in course" before that year. This belief rests in the main upon the following paragraph, which appeared in the Quinquennial Catalogue of 1890, the year when that catalogue was first printed in English instead of Latin, and which has been repeated in the three succeeding Quinquennials: "Before 1811 the degree conferred upon graduates of the Medical School was Bachelor of Medicine. In 1811 the degree of Doctor of Medicine was granted to the class of that year, and to all earlier graduates then living; and all graduates since 1811 have received this degree."

The two sentences in this paragraph contain literal truths, but the first does not go far enough. No notice is taken in it of the fact that before 1811 the degree of M.D. in course could be obtained by examination seven years after the degree of M.B. had been conferred upon the graduate. Recently, while reading the original records of the Corporation for another purpose, I found that six graduates holding the M.B. took advantage of this provision and received the doctorate in course before 1811. Later I was informed by Dr. Thomas F. Harrington, author of the "History of the Harvard Medical School," that he had become aware of the fact while collecting material for his book, but that for various reasons he had deemed it best to follow the Quinquennial record in the case of these men. Actually, however, he went even farther than the Quinquennial in obscuring what had happened in these cases when he wrote (vol. i, p. 111): "Bachelor of Medicine was the degree conferred, and prior to 1811 this was the only medical degree regularly given in course. The first Doctors of Medicine were the graduates of 1811." Furthermore, in both the Quinquennial and the History, two of 1 May 30, 1893, Dr. Bull married Mrs. Mary Nevins Blaine, by whom he had one son.-ED.

my six men are set down as honorary M. D.'s, but the other four appear without "(Hon.)" appended to their degrees; thus both books are inconsistent with their own principles. The editor of the first English Quinquennial still happily lives, but he cannot remember how he came to confer an honorary degree in the two cases to which I refer. As there are some other errors in the printed catalogues, it seems worth while to relate afresh the history of our early medical degrees.

In 1784, soon after the Medical School (or Institution, as it was then called) had been established, provision was made for two degrees, Bachelor in Physic (or, as we now say, Bachelor of Medicine) and Doctor in Physic (that is, Doctor of Medicine). The former degree was to be given at the time of graduation; the latter seven years later. The regulations for the two degrees are to be found in the records of the meeting of the Corporation held Nov. 29, 1784 (College Book viii, p. 185 ff.), approved by the Overseers Dec. 17, 1784 (Overseers' Records, iii, p. 300 ff). The regulation for the doctorate is as follows:

That Bachelors in Physic of seven years standing, and who, during that time, have been Practitioners in Physic, may receive a degree of Doctor in Physic, upon their being approbated by the medical Professors, after being examined by them in the presence of the Governors of the University, and such other Gentlemen as shall chuse to attend, and delivering and defending one Dissertation in the Latin, and one in the English language, on such disease, or other useful medical topic, as shall be assigned them by the said Professors, with the consent of the President; the Latin Dissertation to be printed at their own expence.

This provision, that the doctorate might follow upon further evidence of capacity given some years after the degree of bachelor had been reached, was no doubt adopted in deference to precedent set by medical schools abroad and by the first school in America at Philadelphia, where the M.B. was given to the graduating class from 1768 to 1791 inclusive, and where M.D. was obtainable three years after M.B., practice, however, abandoned in favor of M.D. for all the graduates of 1792 and thereafter.


Under the regulations to which I have referred, the first Harvard degrees in course were given to the graduating class of 1788, and the record of the Corporation at their meeting on Commencement Day, July 16, 1788, is as follows (College Book, viii, p. 264):

George Holmes Hall Mr and John Fleet Mr who passed their examinations on the 8th Instant for the degree of Bachelor of Physic, this day produced certificates to the President from the Medical Professors of their being qualified for said degree. These certificates being communicated by the President to the Corporation and Overseers the degree was voted; and both these young Gentlemen were publicly admitted to it, immediately after the Masters had received their degree; the President having previously presented them to the Overseers in the following words,

Vir Excellentissime Gubernator &c &c &c

Presento vobis hosce viros, quos, examine habito, Professores medici judicârunt

idoneos esse ad gradum in medicina baccalaurealem suscipiendum. Placeatne ut suscipeant?

The Governor signifying the consent of the Body the President used the following form in admitting them.

Pro auctoritate mihi commissa admitto vos ad gradum in medicina baccalaurealem, vobisque trado hoc diploma, atque do et concedo omnia insignia, jura et privilegia, dignitates ac honores, quibus ad istiusmodi gradum uspiam gentium evecti ornantur vel ornari debent.

An interesting account of the difficulties thrown by certain members of the Massachusetts Medical Society in the way of these first graduating ceremonies was written by Dr. Ephraim Eliot and is published in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society (vol. vii, 1863-4, p. 177 ff.) and in Harrington (vol. i, p. 112 f.). But the worthy doctor wrote his recollections 35 years after the event and speaks of Fleet and Hall as the first doctors instead of as the first bachelors of medicine. This same degree was given to succeeding classes from 1789 to 1810 inclusive.

The first doctorate in course was conferred upon the same John Fleet (A.B. 1785, A.M. 1788) who heads the list of bachelors, exactly seven years, as provided in the regulation, after he took his first degree in medicine. The record of the Corporation, at their meeting on Commencement Day, July 15, 1795 (College Book, viii, p. 387) runs thus:

The President having certified that John Fleet, M.B a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Physic, has complied with the Regulations required by the Medical Institution for such degree

Voted, that he be admitted to the degree of Doctor of Physic.

The Overseers concurred on the same day (Records, iv, p. 192.) The Latin dissertation of this first Harvard ordinary doctor of medicine was duly printed, and I have seen a fine uncut copy of it in the Boston Medical Library. There is no copy in the Harvard Archives in the College Library, as there ought to be. Perhaps some reader of this note may possess one which he would present for preservation here. The titlepage, which was obviously drawn up from a foreign model, bears these words: "Dissertatio Inauguralis Medica, sistens Observationes ad Chirurgiae Operationes pertinentes, apud interrogationem publicam prolocutas et sustentatas die Julii III, habitam, quam annuente summo numine ex auctoritate Reverendi Josephi Willard, Praesidis &c. Honoratorum et Reverendorum Curatorum et etiam Senatus Academici consensu, necnon Institutionis Medicae Decreto, pro gradu doctoratus eruditorum examini submittit Johannes Fleet. - A ferro tandem petere Sunitatis praesidia convenit. Heister. Bostoniae: Typis Thomae Fleet, jun. MDCCXCV.” 4°, pp. 11.

It is obvious that Dr. Fleet's was an ordinary degree taken in course. Yet in the Quinquennial under his Harvard College Class (1785) he


appears as "M.D. (Hon.) 1795," and when we turn to the part of the book which is devoted to honorary degrees, we find him all by himself in 1795-the fact being that no honorary degrees whatever were given in that year. Some critics object to my use of the term "in course as applied to Fleet's doctorate; but the term belongs as well to the doctorate as to the M.B. In academic language it means "in regular succession," as contrasted with "out of course" and "honorary" degrees. It is certain that this was the distinction recognized at the time of these early doctorates; for on June 3, 1801, the Corporation voted "that the fee for the Degree of Doctor of Physic in course be the sum of 30 dollars" (College Book, viii, p. 480).

The second doctor in course was William Ingalls, A.B. 1790, A.M. 1793, M.B. 1794, M.D. 1801. The records in his case are just like those in the case of Fleet (July 15, 1801, College Book, viii, p. 484; Overseers, iv, p. 335). His Latin dissertation was not printed until 1803 (two copies in the College Library), but the date on its title-page shows that his public examination took place July 11, 1801. The page is modeled after that of Fleet, and the subject was "Observationes ad abscessum bursalem pertinentes." A second edition appeared in 1804, and a third in 1810 (both in the College Library). In the Quinquennial, Ingalls appears as "M.D. (Hon.) 1801 " in the list of his College Class, and later among the honorary degrees of 1801. Dr. Harrington also enters both Fleet and Ingalls as honorary doctors.

Third comes Samuel Adams with similar records (Aug. 25, 1802, College Book, viii, p. 500; Overseers, iv, p. 361). He was not a graduate of Harvard College, and he is one of the inconsistencies of the Quinquennial and of the Medical School History. In both he appears in the list of medical graduates of the year 1794, thus: "M.B.; M.D. 1802," escaping the '(Hon.)." I have sought in vain for a copy of his dissertation or for any memoir of him.


The fourth doctor was James Jackson, the well-known Boston physician and professor in the Medical School, A.B. 1796; A.M. 1799; M.B. 1802; M.D. 1809. The records of the Corporation and Overseers are in this case lacking, for the reason that at the Commencement of 1809 no lists of the recipients of any degrees whatever, except honorary, are to be found in those records. The Corporation Record (August 30, 1809, College Book, ix, p. 152) for all ordinary degrees says "See Files"; but the files are not to be found. The Overseers' Record notes that the President read the names of all candidates for A.B. and A.M. and that the Board voted in concurrence with the Corporation (v, p. 206). Under these circumstances it is fortunate that a Boston newspaper, the Columbian Centinel for Sept. 2, 1809, gives lists of all the degrees, including James

Jackson, M.B., as receiving the degree of M.D. The list of honorary degree men appears in a different paragraph. I find also in the College Library a pamphlet entitled "Remarks on the Brunonian System. By James Jackson, A.A. & M.M.S.S. . . . Boston, 1809." On the second leaf are these words: "An inaugural dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Medicine, read and defended before the Rev. President and Medical Professors of Harvard College, at a public examination, on the 25th day of August, 1809." Whether Dr. Jackson also wrote and published a Latin dissertation, in accordance with the regulation, I cannot say; but it is clear that he became a doctor in course in 1809. In the Triennial Catalogue for 1812 he appears as "M.D. 1809," and so in succeeding Triennials and Quinquennials until the last issue in 1905, where 1809 is arbitrarily changed to 1811. Dr. Harrington gives the fact correctly, but inconsistently with his general statement.

The fifth and sixth doctors were Benjamin Shurtleff and Robert Thaxter, both attaining the degree in 1810. The record of the Corporation is as follows (Aug. 29, 1810, College Book, ix, p. 179): "Voted, that the Degree of A.B. be conferred on the following Candidates (see list) The Degree of A.M. (see list) Medical Degrees on the following Persons Eleazar Clap M.D. Benjamin Shurtleff M.D. Joshua Thomas M.B. Robert Thaxter M.D.-The Honorary Degrees (voted before see p. 170)." In this record Eleazar Clap1 is by an error recommended for M.D.; really he received only M.B. in that year. President Webber, formerly responsible for the records, had suddenly died shortly before this meeting, and the slip is due to some new hand. The Overseers' Record is correct (v, p. 296). That only Shurtleff and Thaxter received the doctorate is proved by the lucky preservation of a portion of the original manuscript which was used in the Meeting House by Professor Henry Ware, who presided at Commencement in that year (Harvard College Papers, vi, p. 61). It is dated Aug. 29, 1810. The "admissio" to the degree is not preserved, but the "presentatio" runs thus: "Vob. presento Dom. B. Sh: 2 & Dom. Rob: Thaxt. qui gradum in Med. Bac: antehac donati sunt; et examine publice habito et dissertationibus enunciatis dignos se praebuerunt qui gradum in medicina Doctoris, pro more Universitatis hujusce, susciperent.” In the Triennials and Quinquennials from 1812 to 1885 inclusive, Shurtleff rightly appeared as "M.D. 1810"; the first English catalogue in 1890 made him "M.D. 1811," and so also later catalogues and Dr. Harrington. Thaxter is rightly given as "M.D. 1810" in Triennials from 1812 to 1845; the erroneous date 1811

1 So spelled here and in all Triennials until that of 1830, when suddenly the spelling "Clapp" appears 13 years after the man's death.

2 i. e. Benjamin Shurtleff.

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