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The Medical Faculty

There were six Professors:

  • J. Morison, MD
    Professor of the Principles and Practice of Medicine and Pathology

  • Isaac Rowell, MD
    Professor of Chemistry

  • R. Beverly Cole, MD, Dean
    Professor of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children , and Physiology.

  • E. S. Cooper, MD
    Professor of Anatomy and Surgery

  • B. R. Carman, MD
    Professor of Materia Medica

  • Hon. George Barstow
    Professor of Medical Jurisprudence

Elias Cooper, as Professor of both Anatomy and Surgery, was in his element. Exceptionally well-versed in these subjects, he had established anatomy and animal laboratories in the Infirmary and for over three years had been engaged in dissection, experimental surgery, scientific publication and postgraduate teaching. No one in the West had comparable "academic" credentials. His extensive surgical practice included many "capital" operations which he duly reported in national journals. As a surgeon he displayed a surgical virtuosity and self-assurance that impressed and enlightened a host of physician observers. He was, in short, an experienced and committed teacher in the laboratory and clinical arenas. On the other hand: [29]

As a lecturer, he possessed by nature no extraordinary gifts; speaking, with him, always required an effort, - still it was ever impressive, characterized by deliberateness and coolness, to which was added an earnestness which ever firmly seized the attention of the student, and rendered him, though not an orator, still an effective and successful teacher. By the members of his class he was deeply and sincerely respected; he gradually infused into them that enthusiastic zeal for the profession of Medicine of which he possessed so large a share himself. No one could be associated with him without being imbued with a high interest for a science which he so ardently loved.

In contrast to Cooper, Beverly Cole was fluent and embellished his sometimes rambling lectures with a wealth of anecdote based on personal experience. Never at a loss for words, he was an eloquent extemporaneous speaker with a tendency to be unduly expansive in his "off-hand" remarks. We recall that in February 1858 he made an ill-considered Report on Obstetrics to the State Medical Society. Even as the new school was being organized in the fall of 1858, a storm was brewing over the Report and, as we have seen, he narrowly escaped expulsion from the Society in February 1859. The experience seems not to have quenched his spirit. After all, Cole's reputation throughout the West as the dashing Surgeon General of the Vigilantes and fiery critic in the King case was far too lustrous to be dimmed by a semantical row among the local doctors. photo of Dr. R. Beverly Cole

As out-going in manner as Cooper was reserved, Cole proved invaluable as the school's representative and Dean. He and Cooper were second to none in California as anatomists and as clinicians in their respective fields. Happily, instead of the rivalry so prevalent among San Francisco physicians, there was mutual respect between them from their first acquaintance in 1855.

Cooper conceived the school, organized its curriculum and selected its faculty. He was its inner strength and zealous defender against incredible odds. Cole was the chief executive officer whose dynamic style and gregarious nature invigorated the faculty and helped disarm the critics who assailed Cooper. They were a well-matched pair with a fortunate combination of complementary traits.

Isaac Rowell, Professor of Chemistry, was born in New Hampshire in 1818. He was descended from Pilgrim ancestors, and educated in the arts, sciences and medicine at Dartmouth where he received an MD degree in 1849. [30] We have little additional information regarding his early years in New England except that he was in medical practice in Gardiner, Maine, at the time of the discovery of gold in California.

In 1849, at the age of thirty-one, he joined the "innumerable caravan" bound for a new life in the farthest West, arriving in San Francisco by way of Cape Horn on the 16th of June. He made no detour through the gold fields, but at once entered medical practice and was soon popular and successful. Although his credentials as a "Forty-niner" were impeccable, he was never associated with the snobbish clique of the Pathological Society.

In addition to his local distinction as an able practitioner generous in his care of the poor, Dr. Rowell was universally respected as a resolute man of action in military and public affairs. In 1852 he organized the first cavalry company on the Pacific Coast, the Eureka Light-Horse Guards. This unit under Captain Rowell later became the First Light Dragoons, and eventually combined with other companies to form the First California Mounted Battalion. At the first meeting of the Battalion, every member voted for Dr. Rowell as commander. We have already referred to the crucial decision of Major Isaac Rowell, MD, when serving as commanding officer of the San Francisco militia at the outbreak of civil unrest in 1856. Upon being ordered by the government to restore order and guard the jail, he disbanded his forces and went over with them to the Vigilantes. This bold and controversial defection by Major Rowell and his troops enabled the Vigilance Committee of 1856 to prevail at a critical stage of its revival.

Dr. Rowell's qualifications to serve as Professor of Chemistry are unknown except that the science was doubtless included in his liberal education at Dartmouth. Whatever his background, his Introductory Lecture on 12 May 1859 defined the subject and objectives of the Chemistry Course in vivid terms that appealed to the impressionable students: [31]

Chemistry, what is it? Gentlemen, Chemistry is that science which today holds the sway over all other sciences! It is that science to which all others must pay their tribute! For I tell you that there is no substance in existence the nature of which can be known, or understood, until it is decomposed and recomposed! No material thing in the universe can be comprehended until it has been analyzed.

Chemistry is that science which holds the magic wand which, by its touch, makes the most solid fabrics melt and the most ethereal vapors grow dense!

Everything that exists in the natural world around us is subject to the laws of Chemistry!

These laws, and the phenomena that are produced by chemical action, in their application to the study of medicine, are the things that I am called upon to teach you.

It was customary in medical schools of the day for students to request permission from the Professor to publish a lecture of which they highly approved. The Introductory Address on Chemistry was the first to be chosen for publication by the students of the new school.

Professor Rowell's son Charles, age 34 and born in New Hampshire, was among the students in the first class to be matriculated. His signature is the first to appear on the Student Roster of the new school. He served a three-year apprenticeship under his father in San Francisco and received his MD degree from the Medical Department in 1861. Chester Rowell, another New Hampshire-born son of Professor Rowell, also served an apprenticeship with his father. Chester graduated from the Medical Department in 1870. [32] [33]

While the Cooper's infant medical school struggled for recognition and survival, the nation was being impelled inexorably toward civil war by the unyielding demands of southern states for extension of slavery into the western territories and California. Rowell was among the California's most vocal and determined opponents of slavery. He temporarily suspended his practice in order to traverse the State at his own expense, appealing for preservation of the Union and strict enforcement of California's laws excluding slavery. [34] [35]

Professor James Morison (whose date and place of birth are unknown) began the study of medicine in 1838, presumably as an apprentice, and graduated from the University of Maryland Medical School in 1846. After serving four years as resident physician at Baltimore Infirmary, he succumbed to the lure of the West and migrated to San Francisco in 1850.

He immediately entered practice and became active in medical affairs. He joined the short-lived First San Francisco Medical Society. Founded in June 1850, the Society dissolved four months later in October due to a controversy over the setting of physicians' fees. Dr. Morison was a member of the group that organized the Second San Francisco Medical Society in 1853 and was named Treasurer. The Second Society was only slightly more robust than its predecessor and accomplished little. After a few years it ceased to be active. Meanwhile in 1854 Dr. Morison departed for a period of study at European hospitals in Edinburgh, Dublin, London and Paris. [36] [37]

Upon his return from Europe he resumed practice and in 1856 joined the San Francisco County Medico-Chirurgical Association. There he met Elias Cooper for the first time and was an active member of the Association at the time of Cooper's expulsion in October 1857. We next meet Dr. Morison in February1858 at the stormy third session of the California State Medical Society where Cooper came under attack. At that time, Morison was serving as a delegate to the Society from the newly established Pacific Medical and Surgical Association which, as we have learned, exonerated Cooper from Wooster's charge of advertising. During the 1858 meeting of the State Society, Morison's regional stature in the medical community was recognized by his election as one of the five Vice Presidents for the coming year, and by his appointment to the Committee on Publications. We know little else of Dr. Morison's professional life except for these medical society affiliations. [38]

We can at least be sure that he was well acquainted with Cooper and his problems. Notwithstanding, it is obvious that Morison had confidence in him for he rented an office in the Pacific Clinical Infirmary on the 20th of July 1858. It is also evident that Morison's confidence was reciprocated by Cooper who had him called as a witness in the Hodges Trial. On the witness stand Morison asserted, citing the famous Baudeloque of France as his authority, that cesarean section is a safer operation than the craniotomy procedure being touted by the plaintiff's witnesses. In response to their claim as to the extreme difficulty and deadly risk of the cesarean operation, Morison said that the dangers of the procedure are much exaggerated and that he looked upon it as one of the most easy to perform. On the whole Morison's testimony was notable for its candor and prudence. Unable to discredit the witness, as was the usual strategy, the frustrated attorney for the plaintiff finally concluded his lengthy interrogation with a sarcastic: "That will do Professor Morison." [39]

These generalities are all we have been able to learn about Dr. Morison's career. Certainly he was an experienced and respected professional. In the Annual Announcements of the University of the Pacific for 1859-60 he is listed as a member of the University's Board of Trustees, presumably as a replacement for Dr. Henry Gibbons.

Benjamin R. Carman was, like Isaac Rowell, a bona fide "forty-niner," a distinction of some importance in the medical hierarchy of early California. As we have seen, he was warmly endorsed for the Chair of Materia Medica by Dr. Cole who wrote to the Board of Trustees, with characteristic hyperbole, that he had known Dr. Carman personally for the past twenty years. If true, Cole would have been about nine years old when first they met.

Carman (whose date and place of birth we do not know) and Cole probably met in Philadelphia where Cole received his MD from Jefferson Medical College in1849. Carman graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in the same city, possibly at about the same time, although the date of his graduation is unknown. [40] We know nothing further of his career in the East, nor do not we know how or when he reached California. Our next information about Dr. Carman comes from newspaper notices which place him in Sacramento on 8 December 1849 engaged in closing a deal to purchase an interest in Sutter's Fort Hospital. It was also in December 1849 that J. D. B. Stillman and John F. Morse were building a hospital in Sacramento which they opened on Christmas Day.

We again lose track of Dr. Carman. There is no record of his having been a member of either the Sacramento Medico-Chirurgical Association or the Sacramento Medical Association. At some time between 1849 and 1858 he moved from Sacramento to Marysville in Yuba County (about 40 miles north of Sacramento) for his name appears on the roster of the Marysville Medical Society. He seems not to have been active in regional medical affairs for he is not mentioned in the Transactions of the California State Medical Society for the sessions held in 1856, 1857 and 1858.

We assume that at some point he moved from Marysville to Nevada City for Cole informed the Board of Trustees in his letter of 6 December 1858 that Carman "was formerly from Nevada," no doubt meaning Nevada City located 50 miles northeast of Sacramento. [41] [42]

Under the circumstances, we are forced to acknowledge that we know little about Dr. Carman's life and professional qualifications.

Five physicians and George Barstow made up the first faculty of the Medical Department of the University of the Pacific. Their ages were Cooper, 38; Cole, 29; Rowell, 40; and Barstow, 33. The ages of Carman and Morison are unknown. Most, if not all, of the faculty were relatively young men. Their indispensable attribute was loyalty to each other and to the school in the face of vicious opposition soon to come.

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