Medicine at Yale, 1810 - 1910

The Medical Institution of Yale College at Midcentury, 1820-1870

The Medical Institution of Yale College flourished under the leadership of Nathan Smith. After his death in 1829, however, enrollments declined. This was attributed by spokesmen for the medical school first, to the founding of several other schools in New England including the Maine Medical School (Bowdoin College), Castleton Medical School in Vermont and the Berkshire Medical Institution in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Second, students who could afford it preferred to go to one of the schools in New York, Boston, or Philadelphia because there were better opportunities for clinical teaching in a large urban environment. Although a hospital was charted in New Haven in 1826 and opened in 1833, known then as the State Hospital, it had few patients at first and was not yet of significant use for clinical training. There were still no formal clinical courses, though there were many opportunities for observing their professors' practices. Yale's professors, while not generally as prolific in writing as their counterparts in Philadelphia, Boston, and New York, were dedicated to teaching and medical service in the hospital and community. They were active in trying to improve medical education at Yale. Though they could not upgrade the requirements for the M.D., which were specified by state law, they could and did offer supplementary instruction in the spring and summer terms for those who wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. Also they took an active role in joining with other schools to press for higher standards, and in the founding the American Medical Association.

Catalog of the Faculty and Students of the Medical Institution of Yale College, 1819

In the early years of the Medical School, the number of students grew, reaching a high of over 90 in the 1820s. In 1819 the catalog of faculty and students was published in broadside form.

License to practice medicine in Connecticut, 1824

The Connecticut Medical Society controlled the issuing of licenses to practice medicine within the state of Connecticut. In 1800 the Society stipulated that a candidate for a license had to be twenty-one years of age, and had to have studied three years under an established practitioner or two years if the candidate was a college graduate. The candidate then had to pass an examination before one of the county medical society licensing committees. After the Medical Institution of Yale College began operation in 1813, a candidate for a license also had to take at least one course of medical lectures at Yale or similar medical college. Thereafter, the examinations for licenses and for M.D.s took place annually at the Medical Institution and were managed by a joint committee of the school and the Medical Society.


William Tully (1785-1859), Professor of Materia Medica, 1829-1842

William Tully graduated from Yale College in 1806, studied medicine with a local preceptor, and then entered Dartmouth Medical College in 1808 where he studied with Nathan Smith. In 1810, he received a license to practice medicine from the Connecticut Medical Society. He practiced in Middletown, Connecticut until he was appointed to the professorship of Materia Medica in 1829. That post became open when, following Nathan Smith's death, Eli Ives switched chairs to Theory and Practice of Medicine. Tully was brilliant but had a difficult personality, reflected in his eventual resignation from Yale in 1842 after student complaints about his teaching. He was one of the more erudite and research-oriented professors to teach at the Medical Institution of Yale College at midcentury.


Miner and Tully on Fevers (1823)

Tully and Thomas Miner, a very learned physician of Middletown, Connecticut, who served as president of the Connecticut Medical Society, wrote this controversial work on the nature of fevers. In addition to a number of articles, Tully also wrote a two-volume Materia Medica; or, Pharmacology and Therapeutics (1847-58).

Thomas Miner and William Tully, Essays on Fevers and Other Medical Subjects. Middletown, Conn.: Printed and published by E. & H. Clark, 1823.


Graduation Address of Dr. Thomas Miner, 1839

Each year at the graduation ceremony for new M.D.'s and licentiates, a member of the Connecticut Medical Society would give a valedictory address that was later printed. The speaker typically discoursed on the proper character of the physician, for, at this time, moral character and experienced judgement were more important in establishing a flourishing practice than scientific expertise. Thomas Miner (1877-1846) of Middletown, a graduate of Yale College 1896, received an honorary M.D. from Yale in 1819. He was President of the Connecticut Medical Society from 1834 to 1837 and a longtime member of the Examination Committee. Minor recommended to young physicians "self-control, or an almost imperturbable equanimity," "independence and firmness," "a free intercourse with their professional brethren," maintenance of proper decorum in dress and gestures, upholding of the professional reputation of the regular physicians, "prudence, industry, and perseverance," continued study, and moral discipline.


Annual Circulars of the Medical Institution, 1841-42 (open) and 1844-45 (closed)

These annual circulars described the program and facilities of the Medical Institution. As was customary in medical schools of the time, the official terms lasted only four months a year. At Yale, the term ran from October to January However, the professors, in order to improve medical education, offered optional and supplementary lectures in the spring and summer. See the section, "Lectures in the Interval of Medical Terms." The Facilities of the Medical Institution included the Library, the Anatomical Museum, the Cabinet of Materia Medica, and the Museum of the Yale Natural History Society.

The Medical Institution had no official relationship to the Hospital and offered no official clinical courses, but during the term, there were opportunities for students to observe surgical operations and medical treatment. See the section, "Connecticut Hospital." By 1844-45, the Medical Institution was also offering a Medical and Surgical Clinique on Mondays from 11 to 1 at the Medical School during the lecture term. Charity patients brought in by local physicians were to be treated or operated upon in the presence of the class.


Worthington Hooker (1806-1867), Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine, 1852-1867

Worthington Hooker graduated from Yale College in 1825 and obtained his M.D. from Harvard in 1829. He spent two decades as a general practitioner in Norwich, Connecticut before moving to New Haven in 1852 to become Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Yale. He served as an attending physician at the State Hospital (New Haven Hospital) and later as a member of the Board of Directors.

This portrait by L. Kellogg, hangs in the entrance area of Sterling Hall of Medicine.


Worthington Hooker on Medical Ethics, 1849

The mid-nineteenth century was period of chaos for the medical profession when many patients preferred irregular healers as alternatives to tregularly trained doctors such as those graduating from Yale. The Legislature had heeded the protests of the botanical healers in the State and in 1842 struck down that part of the charter of the Connecticut Medical Society that required all medical practitioners to be licensed by the Connecticut Medical Society and become a member of the Society. From 1842 to 1893, anyone could legally practice medicine in the state.

At its founding meeting in 1847, the American Medical Association adopted a Code of Ethics in an attempt to regulate and upgrade the medical profession. Among other things, the Code prohibited regular physicians from consulting with irregular physicians (practititoners such as homeopaths, eclectics, and hydropaths). Two years later, Hooker published his major work, Physician and Patient, which developed the themes of the Code. This book was the only comprehensive study of medical ethics by an American in the 19th century.

Worthington Hooker, Physician and patient; or, A practical view of the mutual duties, relations and interests of the medical profession and the community. New York: Baker and Scribner, 1849.


Medical Theses: Thesis of the First African American Graduate of the Medical Institution of Yale College, 1857

Candidates for an M.D. were required to submit a medical thesis. Theses in the mid-nineteenth century, were hand-written discourses, often on a very broad medical subject. They did not usually contain original research; at best, they showed that the student had read widely in the medical literature. The thesis shown, bound in a volume with all the 1857 M.D. theses, was written by Cortlandt Van Rensselaer Creed, the first African-American to graduate from the Medical Institution of Yale College (1857). Dr. Creed established a successful practice in West Haven. Yale continued to accept a small number of black medical students for the remainder of the century.


Charles Hooker (1799-1863), Professor and First Dean

Charles Hooker, a descendant of Rev. Thomas Hooker, the first minister of Hartford, became Professor of Anatomy and Physiology in 1838 when Jonathan Knight transferred to the Chair of Surgery. In 1845, Hooker became the medical school's first dean, although the Yale Corporation did not officially appoint him to this office until 1853.

Hooker had attended Yale College, studied medicine under Eli Ives as preceptor, and received his M.D. from Yale in 1823. His medical practice in New Haven, which grew quite extensive, included surgery, obstetrics, and practical medicine. He acquired a reputation for being a heroic practitioner because he often gave large doses of remedies. One of the earliest to use auscultation to study and diagnose diseases of the intestinal canal, Hooker was able to hear the distinctive sounds of cholera, a disease he treated with calomel. His memorialist wrote of him, "Dr. Hooker was an enthusiast in his profession, he loved it ardently and devoted all the energies of his mind to the development of its resources."


Move of the Medical School to York Street, 1860

In 1858, Joseph Sheffield purchased the Medical Institution building on Grove Street for the use of what became the Sheffield Scientific School for $165,000. With the funds, the medical faculty built a three story structure at 150 York Street which it occupied in 1860 and which served as the main building of the Medical School until 1925. This building is no longer standing. To save space, the Medical Library holdings were transferred in 1865 to the College Library, then located nearby at Linsley-Chittenden.


The Medical School during the Civil War: Staff of the Knight Hospital, New Haven, ca. 1864

Classes continued as usual during the Civil War. The hospital was leased by the U.S. government to serve as a military hospital and was renamed the Knight Hospital after Jonathan Knight, longtime chairman of the Board of Directors of the hospital. In this photograph of the staff of the Knight Hospital, most men were faculty and graduates of the Medical Institution of Yale College. Faculty included Worthington Hooker, Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine, Charles A. Lindsley, Professor of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, and Pliny A. Jewett, Professor of Obstetrics.

Back row: Capt. Bailey (Army surgeon), Drs. Timothy H. Bishop, H.S. Pierpont, Timothy Beers Townsend, Charles A. Lindsley, Virgil M. Dow, Lt. Stearns (Army surgeon). Front row: Drs. David L. Daggett, Levi D. Wilcoxson, Pliny A. Jewett, Worthington Hooker, W.B. Carey.


Charles Augustus Lindsley (1826-1906), Professor and Second Dean

Charles Augustus Lindsley was appointed Professor of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, 1860. In 1883 he switched chairs to teach Theory and Practice of Medicine. After his retirement in 1897 he continued to teach a course on Sanitary Science. Lindsley succeeded Charles Hooker as Dean in 1863, serving until 1885.

Lindsley received a B.A. Trinity College, and studied medicine under the preceptorship of Dr. A.J. Driggs of Cheshire, Connecticut. He attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, but completed his courses and received his medical degree from Yale in 1852. He thereafter settled into practice in New Haven becoming, according to William Carmalt, "emphatically the family doctor, the beloved physician." Lindsley was active in the Connecticut Medical Society, served as an attending physician and later a Director of the New Haven Hospital, and was President of the Dispensary from 1884 to 1906. In his later years, he was especially devoted to issues of public health, including vital statistics, sanitary science, and preventive medicine. He played an important role in reorganizing the city's Board of Health in 1872 and served as its health officer from 1873 to 1888. He was also secretary in the Connecticut State Board of Health, organized in 1874, and served a term as President of the American Public Health Association.

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