Lane Library

The Advent of Cooper Medical College (1870-1912)

When the Medical Department of the University of the Pacific reopened in 1870 it was located on Stockton Street south of Geary in San Francisco next to the laboratories of University (City) College, a Presbyterian school founded in 1860. The first regular course of medical lectures of the revived school was held in the Chapel of the College. In order to gain permanent access to the conveniently located facilities of the College, the faculty arranged an amicable transfer of the school from University of the Pacific to University (City) College in 1872, and the school then became known as the Medical College of the Pacific. [10]

After 1870 the size and breadth of the faculty increased progressively with the result that the Medical College of the Pacific, an entirely self-sustaining enterprise, competed successfully for students and in other respects with the Medical Department of the University of California. In 1876 each school awarded about 20 diplomas.

When the school was reorganized in 1870, Levi Cooper Lane was designated Professor of Surgery and Surgical Anatomy, a dual appointment formerly held by Elias Samuel Cooper. Lane also assumed the leadership role that Cooper had previously filled in the affairs of the school. At the same time Lane proceeded, quietly and without the knowledge of his associates, to execute his own personal plan for the future of the school.

Lane's plan was divulged in 1882 when he donated to the school an impressive new building, constructed with his own private funds at the corner of Sacramento and Webster Streets in San Francisco. That building, said to have no superior in the world for medical education at the time, was in continuous use as a medical school for the next 77 years (1882-1959). On moving to the new facility, the school was incorporated as an independent institution and the name was changed from Medical College of the Pacific to Cooper Medical College in honor of Lane's Uncle Elias.

In 1890 a handsome new addition, the same size as the original medical school building, was constructed also at Lane's expense and donated to the school. It included a lecture hall, laboratories and other features.

Lane next turned his attention to improving resources for clinical teaching. With this in view, the 200-bed Lane Hospital was constructed during 1893 and 1894 at Clay and Webster Streets adjacent to the medical school, and inaugurated in 1895. Funds for the land and building were provided by various donors, but the major contributor was Dr. Lane who at the same time established the Lane Hospital Training School for Nurses, later to become the Stanford School of Nursing.

The final detail in Lane's grand design for the school was revealed when he announced in 1898 that he and Mrs. Lane had provided in their wills that the residue of their property should be devoted to the purposes of a medical library. Their bequest was the basis for the founding of Lane Medical Library which has proven to be a priceless asset to Stanford Medical School. The Library and the Lane Medical Lectures are the sole operational reminder in the present day of Stanford Medical School's earnest and resourceful forerunners in the century past. [11]

We must tell in a later section of this history how the wording of Mrs. Lane's will, the restrictions of California law, and the perfidy of the President of Cooper Medical College resulted in the Library receiving only one-third of the Lanes' considerable estate, all of which they had intended for the Library.

Levi Cooper Lane died in 1902, but not before he came to realize that medical progress demanded improvements in medical education best attainable within the academic environment of a university. Just prior to his death he made it possible for the Cooper Board of Directors to exercise their own judgment with respect to the future of Cooper Medical College. This they did by arranging in 1908 for the transfer of Cooper Medical College and all its property in San Francisco as a gift to Stanford University for the purpose of establishing a Medical Department in the University. Approval by the Stanford Board of Trustees of this transfer, apprehensive as they were about the future cost of medical education, would never have been granted except for the unwavering support of David Starr Jordan, University President from 1891 to 1913.

The first class of students entered the Stanford Medical Department (now the Stanford University School of Medicine) in September 1909. The last class of Cooper students graduated in May 1912, and Cooper Medical College ceased to exist.

Thus Stanford, like many other American universities, acquired a medical school by adopting an existing independent medical college.

Lane Library