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Chapter XVII. Third and Fourth Annual Sessions Medical Department, University of the Pacific and Demise of Medical Societies

Third and Fourth Annual Sessions Medical Department, University of the Pacific and Demise of Medical Societies

Third Annual Session of the Medical Department
November 1860 to March 1861

The first two sessions of the school were held from May to September because the summer months in San Francisco are cool and quite satisfactory for anatomical dissection. Other medical colleges in the country, not being so favored, generally scheduled their classes during the winter. In order to be in conformity with eastern institutions, the Faculty decided to conduct the third and future sessions from the first Monday in November to mid-March. The Preliminary Course of gratis lectures, usually delivered during the month preceding the session, was omitted in 1860 because of the previous session having been so recently concluded. [1] [2] [3]

Seventeen students were matriculated for the third session, an increase of three over the class size of the previous session. [4]

In October 1860, anticipating the beginning of the third session of the school, Cooper recalled the opposition it had now begun to overcome: [5]

Though the Faculty of the Medical Department of the University of the Pacific has met with a degree of unjust opposition, almost unparalleled in the history of new medical schools, probably none other ever complained or faltered less. Not two years have elapsed since the opening ceremonies were held, publicly inaugurating the school. Many spoke of it as a "magnificent humbug," gotten up by the "self-created professors," simply for the purpose of producing an excitement, for selfish ends only; but it is very different now. There is hardly an enemy of the school who would dare to risk his reputation as a man of sense, by stating that he does not believe it to be a permanent institution.

Cooper Congratulates the Faculty

In January 1861, midway in the session, Cooper evaluated the performance of the Faculty that had now gained maturity and a firm sense of purpose: [6]

The present (third) session of this Medical College commenced under far more flattering auspices than ever before. The Faculty are now receiving the most unequivocal evidence that a sphere of great usefulness is open to them, if they adhere to their original designs of laboring unceasingly for the success of the great object of their ambition, viz: the building up an Institution that will stand forever as a monument of the industry and devotion of medical men, to the advancement of medical science, during the earlier days of California.

The Faculty of this School have made no false step. They have not been compromised by imprudent haste to make an early impression in its favor, but have worked quietly and faithfully to teach, in the most thorough manner, all the students resorting to the School for instruction; and the fact is already patent, on this coast, that students, expecting to graduate, must be prepared to pass successfully a most rigid examination, and, for this same reputation, the College has, even thus early, lost students. But it is the design to make the standards of qualifications for a degree as high, if not higher, than that of any other Medical College in the United States. . .

This Faculty have done nothing for display. They have been led on by none of the troublesome infatuations that encumber the early efforts to establish many medical schools, the Faculties of which, at a premature period, make immense and unnecessary sacrifices for the purpose of erecting gorgeous buildings, to accommodate a dozen or twenty students.


The third session went smoothly and Commencement Exercises were held on the evening of 14 March 1861 before a large audience in Tucker's Hall. Five students completed their medical studies during the third session. They were joined by the student who had graduated the previous year so that M. D. degrees were formally conferred on all six students during the ceremony. [7]

Professor Carman Resigns, Professor Gibbons Appointed

photo of Dr. Henry Gibbons, Sr., 1808-1884 In the interval between the third and fourth sessions, significant changes occurred in the faculty. Dr. B. R. Carman, Professor of Materia Medica, resigned his chair because of illness and moved from San Francisco to Mexico where he made his permanent home. The Board of Trustees of the University of the Pacific promptly appointed Dr. Henry Gibbons to replace Dr. Carman as Professor of Materia Medica. Cooper characterized Dr. Gibbons as a pleasing and ready speaker, a terse and vigorous writer, and one of the most faithful laborers in the cause of medical science on the Pacific coast. Professor Gibbons was already acquainted with the laborious duties of a medical lecturer, having for some time occupied a chair in the Philadelphia College of Medicine. [8] [9]

Professor Levi Cooper Lane Appointed

As we have already reported, Dr. Levi Cooper Lane paid a visit to San Francisco in 1860 while serving as a naval surgeon aboard the U. S. Warren. At that time he decided to resign his commission and undertake studies in Europe preparatory to an appointment in the Medical Department. While in Europe during 1860-61 he took special courses at the University of Göttingen in Germany, including vivisection with Rudolph Wagner and Physiological and Toxicological Chemistry with Professors Boedeker and Woehler. At Paris, besides attending some of the principal hospitals, he attended a course of vivisections under Flourens, and a course of chemical lectures under Fremy and Chevreul. Upon his return to San Francisco in the spring of 1861, Dr. Lane was appointed Professor of Physiology in the Medical Department, taking over that assignment from Dr. Cole who continued to serve as Professor of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children, and Dean. [10]

In addition to his duties as a lecturer on Physiology and assistant to Cooper in his practice at the Pacific Clinical Infirmary, Lane began immediately to write book reviews for the San Francisco Medical Press, this being a first step in his increasing responsibility for editing the journal. [11]


Fourth Annual Session of the Medical Department
November 1861 to March 1862

Faculty during the Fourth Session

Reflecting the resignation of Dr. Carman and the appointment of Drs. Gibbons and Lane, the Faculty for the fourth session was expanded from the original six Professors to the following seven:

  • J. Morison, M. D.
    Professor of Pathology and Principles and Practice of Medicine

  • Isaac Rowell, M. D.
    Professor of Chemistry

  • R. Beverly Cole, M. D., Dean
    Professor of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women

  • E. S. Cooper, M. D.
    Professor of Anatomy and Surgery

  • Henry Gibbons, M. D.
    Professor of Materia Medica

  • Levi C. Lane, M. D.
    Professor of Physiology

  • Hon. George Barstow
    Professor of Medical Jurisprudence

Early in this narrative we referred to the vital roles of Henry Gibbons and Levi Lane, and the special ties that guided and sustained their efforts, during the formative and later years of the new institution. We shall in due course learn how these two men, having joined the Faculty on the eve of an unforeseen crisis that threatened the life of the school, were ultimately responsible for its survival - thereby affirming the ambiguous theorem that: "Man is not the creature of circumstances. Circumstances are the creatures of men." [12]

Matriculates and Graduates

Twenty-eight students registered for the fourth session, up from seventeen matriculates in the third session. The Fourth Commencement of the Medical Department was held on 13 March 1862, and the degree of M. D. was conferred on five graduates. The marked difference between class size and number of graduates in this and previous sessions was in consequence of the high standards and rigorous examinations to which all students were subjected, "regardless of influence, money or favor." Outlook for the school seemed promising indeed at the close of the fourth session. [13]

The Commencement Address, full of pithy advice and wry humor, was delivered to the graduates by Professor Gibbons. Some excerpts will convey the tone of his remarks: [14]

Let me commend you to thorough rather than extensive reading. It is as easy to read too much as to eat too much. The digestive powers of the mind are limited, as well as those of the stomach. Thorough is infinitely better than extensive reading. The multiplication of books is the curse of the age. If the aspirant for the immortality of authorship can do no better, he works up an old book in a new style, throwing in handfuls of Greek words for seasoning. . . .

I would not dissuade you from authorship, if you have anything worth writing. But when you use the pen, express yourselves distinctly, and in the simple vernacular, as far as possible. An old alchemist prefaced his book with the caution that it was to be understood in an incomprehensible way. Be careful not to mystify yourselves or your readers. . .

There is a subject to which I desire to call your special attention - autopsic examinations. These have been culpably neglected in California, rather from indifference on the part of physicians, than for want of opportunity. Knowledge useful to the living is invariably derived from inspection of the dead. Intelligent people seldom object. So much importance have physicians attached to this subject, that they have frequently left instructions to have their bodies inspected after death for the purpose of removing the popular prejudice against dissection. . .

There are fashions in medicine which it is often needful to resist - fashions within the pale of the profession, and fashions in the popular crowd without. . . Formerly it was the fashion with physicians to drug their patients liberally. This was necessary, forasmuch as the skill of the doctor was measured by the number and magnitude of his potions. There was another advantage from this treatment. When I was a boy, the rising generation stood in reverential awe of turbulent tartar, with gallon drenches of warm water - of Glauber's Salts, spiced with senna - of rich, old-fashioned Castor Oil. The consequence was, we did not dare to get sick more than once a year.. . .

There is one fashion in Medicine handed down from the past generation, which persists unchangeably, and seems likely to be perpetual: I allude to the prescription of alcoholic beverages. These are recommended to an immense extent, and in defiance of all moral considerations. . . Alcoholic medicines have this superlative merit, that the patient is sure to give them a thorough trial. Perhaps they are taken by physicians, to refute the slander that doctors have never been known to swallow their own physic.

First Hospital Facilities Acquired for Teaching

n the spring of 1862 Dr. James. P. Whitney, having made peace with Cooper, invited the medical students to attend his rounds and conferences at St. Mary's Hospital, recently opened by the Sisters of Mercy on a beautiful site at First and Bryant Streets overlooking the Bay. Four stories high, the building was divided into twelve large, commodious general wards, and a like number of smaller wards, all furnished and equipped in a manner comparable to the best hospitals in the East.

The Hospital was under the professional charge of Dr. Lee, as Resident, and Drs. Bowie, Toland and Whitney, as Visiting Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Whitney's morning rounds were from 9 to 10 on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and his evening conferences were on the same days from 8 to 9. In the mornings, the students were afforded the opportunity to observe and record cases, and listen to practical remarks upon them by Dr. Whitney and his colleagues. In the evenings Dr. Whitney expounded his views on Practical Medicine and Surgery. His lectures included wholesome counsel on the advantages and disadvantages, pleasures and perplexities attendant on the study and practice of medicine. His first Summer Course of Clinical Instruction was announced to begin on the 2nd Tuesday in June 1862, and to continue for three months This was the first hospital-based course of clinical instruction for medical students in the far West. [15] [16]

Dr. Whitney was a voluble speaker with an exceptional command of the medical literature. He obviously enjoyed regaling the students and, as an instructor, was quite popular. The importance of his contribution to the teaching program was recognized in early 1863 by his appointment as Professor of Physiology. According to the Annual Announcement for 1863-64, the title was later changed to Professor of Institutes of Medicine. [17]

It was thus through Dr. Whitney's influence that the Medical Department acquired its first formal access to a general hospital. He was doubtless motivated to make this arrangement by the fact that his son, James D. Whitney, was a first-year medical student in the University of the Pacific in 1861-62. James continued as a second-year student in 1862-63 and was awarded the M. D. degree in March 1863. Incidentally, James was a classmate of the son of Professor Henry Gibbons, Henry Gibbon, Jr., who also graduated in 1863.

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