Lane Library

Faculty Affairs at Medical College of the Pacific

The twelve Professors comprising the Faculty during the first Session of the revived Medical Department in 1870 are listed in the previous chapter. With this roster as a baseline, we will document significant Faculty appointments and other relevant matters from 1870 through 1882 by referring to Faculty minutes which are dated for convenient reference. [25] [26] [27]


16 March 1871

Dr. Clinton Cushing (M. D., Rush Medical College, 1865) was appointed Professor of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children, replacing Dr. R. Beverly Cole. Dr. Cushing left the Faculty in 1873 and returned as Professor of Gynecology in 1881.


5 December 1872

Dr. William A. Douglass (M. D., National Medical College, District of Columbia, 1850), was appointed Demonstrator of Anatomy. Dr. Douglass's superior abilities as an anatomist, surgeon and teacher were recognized by his rapid advancement to full professorial status through promotion to Adjunct Professor of Anatomy on 29 May 1874, and finally, on 19 April 1875, to the newly-established post of Professor of Clinical Surgery. After 1889 the name of Dr. Douglass no longer appears on the Faculty Roster of Cooper Medical College, and the Official Register of Physicians and Surgeons in California for 1891 lists him among the deceased.


12 December 1872

photo of Dr. Barkan teaching class in Ophthalmology.

Dr. Adolph Barkan (1845-1935) was appointed Professor of Ophthalmology and Otology, replacing Dr. W. F. Smith. Dr. Barkan, a native of Hungary, received his M. D. degree from the University of Vienna in 1866. After his graduation at Vienna, he was for one year (1867) an assistant to the chair of Physiology at the University of Graz.

photo of Dr. Adolph Barkan, 1845-1935.

He then returned to the University of Vienna in 1868 where he was for a year "the youngest assistant" in the Ophthalmic Clinic of Professor von Jaeger in 1868. Following a year in Baltimore as resident physician to the Maryland Eye and Ear Infirmary he moved to San Francisco in 1869 where he entered medical practice. He was later described by Dr. Rixford as a brilliant and fascinating teacher, admired by faculty and an inspiration to students. [28]


24 April 1873

Dr. Jos. H. Wythe, graduate of Philadelphia College of Medicine in 1850, was appointed to a newly established chair as Professor of Microscopy and Biology. Dr. Wythe was a man of wide experience and many talents. During the Civil War he was an army surgeon and chaplain. In private life he was an educator, author, ordained Methodist minister, able surgeon and accomplished microscopist. He published the first complete American text on microscopy in 1852.

Dr. Wythe served as president of the Willamette University, a Methodist College in Salem, Oregon, and was a leader in founding at that institution Oregon's first medical school in 1867. When the ensuing faculty strife was not to his liking, he left the project to take up permanent residence in the Bay Area where, in addition to teaching and research in microscopy at the Medical College of the Pacific, he concurrently practiced medicine and surgery and occupied the pulpit of the Powell Street Methodist Church, attending to all the duties of pastor. He also found time to give frequent lectures in the area, to make astronomical observations through a powerful telescope he installed in his back yard, and to write a number of reference books. [29]


13 November 1873

Dr. Henry Gibbons, Jr., resigned as Professor of Materia Medica and Therapeutics in order to replace Dr. Clinton Cushing as Professor of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children (a position held by Dr. Gibbons until his death in 1911).


4 December 1873

Dr. J. R. Prevost was appointed Professor of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, replacing Dr. Henry Gibbons, Jr. In 1876, three years after his appointment to the Faculty, Dr. Prevost died unexpectedly. He was in the prime of life, being only 32 years of age at the time. He graduated from Toland Medical College in 1866 and shortly after married a daughter of Dr. John F. Morse. In 1867 he entered into practice in San Francisco in conjunction with Dr. Morse. Four months prior to the death of Dr. Prevost from pneumonia, he lost his wife by the same disease. Four little ones were left without their parents. [30]


25 May 1874

Dr. W. T. Wythe, medical graduate of Willamette University, Oregon, in 1868 and the University of Pennsylvania in 1873, was appointed Lecturer on Physical Diagnosis.


29 May 1874

This was the last Faculty meeting attended by Dr. Lane before he sailed for Europe in July 1874. There he spent six months in Great Britain, six months in France and 10 months in Germany devoted to intensive study of surgery and medical education at major centers. He returned to the United States in September 1876 in time to deliver the Valedictory Address at the Commencement Exercises of the Medical College of the Pacific on 2 November 1876. On that occasion he gave an extensive account of his experiences abroad, to which we shall later refer.


29 May 1874

Dr. Edwin Bentley, Professor of Descriptive and Microscopic Anatomy and Pathology since 1870, was given the additional duty of serving as Acting Professor of Surgery in the absence of Dr. Lane. At the meeting of 31 October 1874 it was announced that he would also act as locum tenens in charge of Dr. Lane's practice.


30 December 1874

Dr. John F. Morse died on this date. Prior to his death, failing health had forced him to return to San Francisco from Hawaii where a planned voyage to Australia was interrupted because of his worsening condition. One of the most respected of the pioneer physicians, thousands attended his funeral, said to have been the largest ever seen in California. It was through the earnest labors of Professor Morse that the College Dispensary became a permanency. Upon his death it was named the Morse Dispensary in his honor.

Among the surviving children was his brilliant son, John F. Morse, Jr., who graduated from the Medical College of the Pacific in 1878. After study abroad, he returned in 1883 and became associated in practice with Dr. William A. Douglass, Professor of Clinical Surgery whom he assisted as visiting surgeon to the City and County Hospital. In 1883 Dr. Morse joined the Cooper Medical College Faculty as Adjunct to the Chair of Anatomy, but in 1884 his title was changed to Adjunct to the Chair of Clinical Surgery. When Professor Douglass became emeritus in 1889, Dr. Morse was named to the chair as Professor of Clinical Surgery. [31] [32] [33]


19 April 1875

Dr. William T. Wenzell was appointed Professor of Chemistry and Toxicology to replace Professor Price due to the latter's extended absence from San Francisco.

Adjunct Professor of Anatomy William A. Douglass was elected to fill the newly-established post of Professor of Clinical Surgery.

Dr. W. T. Wythe was appointed to fill the position of Adjunct Professor of Anatomy vacated by Dr. Douglass. In 1878, Dr. Wythe was advanced to rank of Professor of Anatomy. He died of an obscure, lingering illness on 26 June 1880 in his thirty-third year.


3 June 1875

Dr. J. P. Whitney resigned his appointment as Emeritus Professor of the Institutes of Medicine. He had been originally appointed to the professorship in 1863. Now it was rumored that an anonymous "black mail" sheet, known as the San Francisco News Letter, was about to report that his claim to having received an M. D. degree from Jefferson Medical College in 1834 was false. The Faculty were upset by the accusation and deferred action on Dr. Whitney's resignation. [34]


12 June 1875

At the previous meeting Dr. Whitney had submitted his resignation. At this meeting, it was decided to accept it without comment. The Faculty also discussed a letter from Dr. Miller, ad eundem graduate in 1873, who protested that his diploma bore the signature of the discredited Dr. Whitney. Under instruction by the Faculty, the Dean got in touch with Dr. Miller immediately and somehow placated him for we find no further reference to the issue in subsequent minutes.

Dr. James P. Whitney (1815-1880) was born in Oswego Country, New York. After practicing about eighteen years in the East he joined the westward migration and probably arrived in San Francisco in 1853. When he began practice in San Francisco he let it be known among the profession that he had received an M. D. degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1834. He soon acquired a busy general and obstetrical practice and aligned himself with the various evanescent medical societies that flourished and faded in the 1850's and 60's. He was active in the Pathological Society, the Second San Francisco Medical Society, the Medico-Chirurgical Association, and the State Medical Society. Dr. Whitney's long and constructive participation in medical organizations was rewarded in 1868 by his election as the first president of the Third San Francisco Medical Society.

In 1875 Dr. Whitney was sixty years of age, with forty years behind him as a respected practitioner, twenty-two of them in San Francisco where he had also been a professor in the Medical Department of the University of the Pacific and the Medical College of the Pacific; a Trustees of Toland Medical College; and a valued member of the Board of Health. Throughout these years of medical practice, teaching and public service, he had been haunted by a dark secret regarding the authenticity of his medical degree. He knew that it would destroy his hard-won reputation if disclosed. [35]

In spite of Dr. Whitney's impeccable professional record and high standing in the medical community, the News Letter published on 10 July 1875 included his name on a list of over 200 practitioners in San Francisco who were alleged to be without legitimate M. D. degrees. The News Letter demanded that these practitioners produce their medical diplomas or be disbarred from practice. In the same issue there were listed the names of some 230 "regular" physicians said to be holding bona fide degrees. The implication was that almost half the medical practitioners in San Francisco were "Quacks."

As a result of the News Letter's allegations, the State Medical Society set up a Screening Committee chaired by Dr. Logan to examine the credentials of its members. [36]

The Screening Committee noted that when the editors of the Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal compiled the first Medical Registry in the State of California in 1858, Dr. Whitney provided them with the information that he had received an M. D. degree from Jefferson Medical College in 1834. He also certified when signing the Constitution of the State Medical Society that he was a graduate of Jefferson in 1834. [37] [38]

On investigation, the Screening Committee of the State Medical Society found that Dr. Whitney had never graduated from Jefferson or any other medical school. The Committee then decided to notify and grant a hearing to such members as Dr. Whitney with a view to giving them the Society's endorsement as practitioners of medicine if found qualified. Averse to having his qualifications to practice medicine subjected to a review of this nature, Dr. Whitney ignored the Committee's summons, withheld his dues, and considered himself no longer a member of the State Society.

In the following year, 1876, the Medical Practice Act was adopted by the State establishing a Board of Medical Examiners, and this body granted Dr. Whitney a license to practice. Nevertheless, the Board of Censors of the State Society demanded his formal expulsion from the Society because of the implied insult in his refusal to answer the summons of the Screening Committee in 1875. In spite of the strenuous efforts of Henry Gibbons to quash the matter, the Censors persisted in demanding Dr. Whitney's expulsion from the Society. The wretched issue was finally settled in 1877 by the Society's acceptance of Dr. Whitney's resignation, reluctantly penned by his own hand. [39]

According to the official History of the San Francisco Medical Society, Dr. Whitney's son, James D. Whitney, was outraged at the Society's humiliation of his father and took matters into his owns hands: [40]

As a finishing touch to the pv James D. Whitney (graduate of the University of the Pacific in 1863), a loyal and irate son, applied a cowhide lash to the august person of the chairman of the Board of Censors, as he stooped to pick up his valise and board the train for Sacramento after his last meeting. This culminated in the Police Court, a fine, a resolution of indignation from the Sacramento Medical Society and the permanent absence of the name of Whitney from the State Society roster by mutual desire.

Little is known of the remaining thirteen years of the life of Dr. J. P. Whitney, a man of studious bent who in his later career stood aloof from medical cliques and factional strife. He was exceptionally well-read and a devoted teacher. Considering the content of medical education in 1834, it is reasonable to believe that his lack of a diploma of that vintage was amply compensated by his assiduous study and long practical experience.

In an obituary published in the Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal at the time of Dr. Whitney's death in 1880, Dr. Gibbons, Sr., referred to him as "a man of uncommon power of thought and general intellectual capacity and a great reader with a very retentive memory. An original thinker and, as a student versed in all the literature of his profession, he had no superior on the Pacific Coast. His judgment and skill as a practitioner induced his confreres to call him frequently in consultation." [41]

Nevertheless, Dr. Whitney could not pass the acid test, he could not prove the authenticity of the M. D. degree he claimed to hold, a not uncommon failing among pioneer physicians. Ironically, although his qualifications to practice were validated by the State Board of Medical Examiners, his long career was blighted by the harsh penalty exacted from him by the State Society, not for having no medical diploma, but for refusing to answer its summons. The quality of his mind and the standards of his medical practice were never in question. So ended another melancholy episode in the medical annals of early San Francisco.

Professor Gibbons, Sr., Arraigned

The San Francisco News Letter of 10 July 1875 also blasted Professor Gibbons, Sr., and the Medical College of the Pacific: [42]

Henry Gibbons, Sr. We like not to speak of the aged except with respect. It is with extreme regret that we find it necessary to speak otherwise of Dr. Henry Gibbons, Senior. The truth has compelled us to charge him with engaging in the bad business of procuring diplomas for ignorant pretenders for coin. There was the notorious case of "Doctor" Allen. The man reluctantly admitted, whilst under oath, that he had bought his diploma from the Gibbons institution without attending the necessary course of lectures. His testimony was commented upon in the Alta and other papers; and yet Gibbons, who is so ready to "come back" upon all occasions, was as dumb as an oyster.

An ignorant man named Jackson came down from the country and attended some half dozen lectures (at the Medical College of the Pacific) and was then put down for a diploma. Dr. Beverly Cole, happening to hear of the disgrace that was about to fall upon the profession, protested against it, but the diploma was sold to the man notwithstanding; and he is now a practicing doctor and a member of the State Medical Society.

Before Gibbons had a diploma manufactory of his own, it was his custom to act as broker for their purchase from a Philadelphia institution of loose practices and of easy virtue. He obtained one for Dr. H. S. Baldwin of this city from that concern. . . .When the Legislature meets we propose to submit to a committee proofs of the sale of diplomas by the (Medical College of the Pacific).

There is more harsh criticism of Dr. Gibbons, Sr., and the Medical College in the News Letter but the above will serve as a sufficient example.

We have examined the claim that two of the graduates of the School (George H. Jackson of Woodland in 1871 and Jacob Allen of San Bernadino in 1872) had received M. D. degrees without full attendance on the lectures, and that they had "bought" their diplomas. We have obtained the following information on the subject from the Faculty Minutes and the Register of Students.

With respect to Mr. Jackson, the Register shows that he attended only three months of the five-month Annual Session of 1870. This appears to represent his total participation in the teaching program of the school. On 26 May 1871 the Faculty "decided to grant a degree to G. H. Jackson, he having passed a satisfactory examination." We assume that he had previously been engaged in apprenticeship or independent medical practice and that he was given credit for this experience in lieu of the statutory second Annual Session of lectures. As we recall, Elias Cooper obtained his medical degree from St. Louis University in 1851 after only one course of Annual Lectures, on similar grounds. However, as far as we can determine, Mr. Jackson completed considerably less than even one Annual Session and was nevertheless awarded a "regular" M. D. degree. (That is, the qualifier "ad eundem" was not appended to his M. D.) If this reading of the record is correct, we may fairly conclude that the standards applied in his case were lax, and criticism warranted. Of course, all the circumstances in the case are unknown. However, we have already learned that Dr. Gibbons, Sr., had a high regard for the educational value of medical practice, and thought it deserved more credit than it sometimes received.

In the case of Jacob Allen, we seem to have an example of the fullest expression of the Gibbons philosophy on the value of medical practice, i. e., the awarding of a regular M. D. degree to a candidate who attended no medical school at all. At least we can find no evidence in the Register or elsewhere that Jacob Allen matriculated in the Medical College of the Pacific or was present at the Annual Lecture Series. We find only two entries in the Faculty minutes pertaining to his candidacy for a medical degree. On 26 May 1871 it was decided that a degree should be granted to "Dr. J. Allen" upon payment of "fees for Matriculation, Course and Graduation, and if he passes an examination in the practical branches." Since the candidate was listed in the Faculty minutes as "Dr." J. Allen, it is assumed that he was already functioning in San Bernadino as a practicing physician, but without an M. D. - a familiar situation. The second and final entry in the minutes was on 3 October 1872: "Jacob Allen to have degree." At the Commencement Exercises on 4 November 1872 (which Jacob Allen did not attend), he was awarded a "regular" M. D. degree with nine other candidates. We can only suggest from the evidence available that Dr. Allen seems to have graduated without going to medical school. In less charitable terms, the Editor of the News Letter charged that "he had bought his diploma from the Gibbons institution without attending the necessary course of lectures." Again we are unable for lack of documentation to refute or confirm the anonymous editor's assertion. At the very least, the school's records now available regarding Dr. Allen are deficient.

We return now briefly to the issue of the sale of a Philadelphia diploma by Dr. Gibbons, Sr., to Dr. H. S. Baldwin. At the Fifth Annual Meeting of the California State Medical Society held in Sacramento on 21-22 April 1875, Dr. Thomas Logan was appointed chairman of a Committee to Inquire into the Rumor Regarding the Admission of Unqualified Members into the Society. [43] This Committee investigated the medical degree of Dr. H. S. Baldwin and found it to be valid. The Committee further reported that charges to the contrary (in the News Letter) were unfounded. [44] These findings exonerated Dr. Gibbons of the irresponsible accusation that he had conspired with Dr. Baldwin to obtain for him a bogus diploma from a Philadelphia source. This incident serves as a reminder that the mail-order sale of counterfeit medical diplomas was actually a thriving business in both America and Europe at the time, engendering much confusion and disrespect for the profession among the public.

The News Letter also included Beverly Cole, the Toland School, certain other of its faculty members, and the San Francisco Medical Society in its intemperate broadside. The anonymous editor's castigation of the medical schools, societies and profession for their failure to maintain standards and purge the profession of impostors evoked great indignation among the doctors. But there were abundant facts among the reckless charges, and the beneficial net result of the inflammatory News Letter was to spur needed reforms.

In retrospect, during the first five years following the revival of the Cooper school in 1870 there was a tendency to unduly liberalize the requirements for the M. D. degree as, for example, in the cases of Jackson and Allen. It was probably in direct response to the public airing of these cases, that the Faculty after 30 October 1976 adopted stricter procedures for evaluating the medical students.

The Faculty of the Medical College of the Pacific were badly shaken by the News Letter affair. As far as we know, Dr. Gibbons and the Medical College did not respond publicly or otherwise to the accusations, perhaps not wishing to dignify them with a rebuttal. Nor are we aware that the editor of the News Letter ever submitted proof to the Legislature of the sale of diplomas by the Medical College of the Pacific as he threatened to do. We found absolutely no evidence among the College records of such trafficking, except as inferred in the cases of Jackson and Allen. We do know that Professor A. J. Bowie, President of the Faculty, was deeply concerned about the charges of the sale of diplomas by the College and said that he would resign if the charges could not be denied. [45] In the sequel, Professor Bowie did not resign and future events showed that from this time forward the College pressed resolutely ahead on the path of curricular reform.


9 June 1876

Dr. L. L. Dorr, a graduate of Bellevue Hospital Medical College in 1866, was appointed as temporary Professor of Materia Medical and Therapeutics until the end of the Session of 1876, replacing Professor Prevost who died. On 9 May 1881 Dr. Dorr was formally elected as Professor of Materia Medica and Therapeutics.


7 July 1876

Dr. R. H. Plummer, graduate of Toland Medical College in 1866, was appointed Clinical Teacher of Diseases of Women. On 21 August 1876 he was unanimously invited to fill the Chair of Theory and Practice of Medicine for the balance of the Session of 1876 on account of the illness of Dr. Gibbons, Sr. On 3 December 1880 he was appointed Lecturer on Anatomy. Finally, sometime in late 1882 or early 1883, Dr. Plummer completed his peripatetic service on the faculty and was appointed Professor of Anatomy. He was a man of ability and untiring energy, well-known for his service as Secretary of the State Board of Medical Examiners from 1879 to 1888. [46]


4 October 1877

Dr. Joseph Oakland Hirschfelder was born in Oakland, California, in 1854. He was the first child of white parents to be born in that city, a circumstance that led to the choice of "Oakland" as his middle name. He matriculated in the Medical Department of the University of the Pacific in 1871 when he was eighteen years of age. He was not only too young to be granted the M. D. in the following year, but he also upset the equilibrium of the Faculty by refusing to take the same lectures over again as required by the curriculum at the time. Instead he departed for Germany where he remained from 1872 to 1877, studying with renowned medical figures and in 1876 receiving a medical diploma from the University of Leipzig. Upon his return to San Francisco in 1877, after five years residence and study abroad, he was unanimously elected as Professor of Materia Medica and Therapeutics. When the Department of Clinical Medicine was established on 13 January 1881, he was appointed Professor of Clinical Medicine. [47] [48] [49]


3 December 1880

Dr. W. D. Johnston, graduate of the Medical Department of the University of the Pacific in 1871, was appointed Professor of Chemistry upon resignation of the incumbent, Dr. Wenzell.


Women Admitted to Medical Schools in San Francisco

photo of Dr. Mary Bennet Ritter

29 May 1876

On motion of Professor Wenzell (Chemistry), seconded by Professor Barkan (Ophthalmology), the Faculty voted to admit women to the Medical College of the Pacific on equal terms with males. There was no debate. The time for action had come. The first woman to be admitted to the College was Alice Higgins. She was forty years of age, born in Massachusetts, and a resident of Anaheim, California. She matriculated in 1876 and graduated the following year on 6 November 1877.

In 1878, Anabel McG. Stuart of Santa Barbara was the second woman to graduate.

Emilie M. Lawson and Kate N. Post of San Francisco, and Mary Whitney of Minnesota graduated in 1879. In subsequent years, well into the next decade, there were up to several women graduates annually.

photo of Women Graduates of class of 1899.

However, the palm for being the first medical school on the Pacific Coast to graduate a woman goes to the Medical Department of the University of California. Against his better judgment, Dean Cole allowed a 33 year-old former school teacher, Mrs. Lucy Maria Field Wanzer, to matriculate in the Medical Department in 1873. Actually he was legally obliged to accept her as a medical student because the University of California was, by law, a coeducational institution.

Dean Cole was an outspoken opponent of medical education for women and had many times referred to them as mentally and constitutionally unsuited for such arduous studies. In spite of his bias, Mrs. Wanzer's determination and brilliant performance led him temporarily to suspend his views in her case. She received her M. D. degree with the Class of 1876, and became the first woman graduate of the western schools. [50] [51]


Founding of the Alumni Association of the Medical College of the Pacific in 1878

At a Faculty Meeting on 1 February 1877, Dr. Lane moved that the Faculty recommend to the alumni of the College that they establish an Alumni Association of the Medical College of the Pacific. The motion was approved. A year and a half then passed before the subject was again raised, although there were doubtless consultations with key alumni in the meantime to enlist their support.

In the Faculty Meeting on 3 October 1878 it was decided to invite the alumni to meet at the College on 11 November. The timing was opportune, being a week following the Annual Commencement of the Medical College held on 5 November. At that Commencement the M. D. degree was conferred on twenty-six alumni, including one woman - much the largest class hitherto graduated on the Pacific Coast by either medical school.

It would appear from the available documents that a group of alumni probably met on 5 November 1878, the day of the Commencement, and drafted the Constitution and By-Laws of the Alumni Association of the Medical College of the Pacific . This draft was then approved at the first formal gathering of the alumni who met in the College Building on 11 November 1878 in response to the invitation of the Faculty. [52]

The following account of this meeting was carried in the Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal for November 1878: [53]

Dr. Pond, of Napa, was chosen temporary chairman. The proposition to organize permanently was greeted with universal favor and called forth a number of animated speeches. An organization was effected, with the following officers for the ensuing year: President, Chester Rowell, M. D. of Virginia City, Class of 1870 (son of the late Professor Isaac Rowell); 1st Vice-President, Jos. Wagner, M. D., San Francisco, Class of 1872; 2d Vice-President, Jno. R. Kelley, M. D., Gilroy, Class of 1876; Corresponding Secretary, J. B. Williams, M. D., Oakland, Class of 1877; Recording Secretary, John F. Morse, M. D., San Francisco, Class of 1878 (son of the late Professor John F. Morse).

The Association then met annually at or about the time of the Commencement to elect officers and transact other business through 1881-1882 when the Medical College of the Pacific was succeeded by Cooper Medical College.

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