A Doctor's Memories
Victor C. Vaughan, M.D.

Table of Contents

Chapter 6

The University of Michigan Medical School

That the original Board of Regents which was appointed by Governor Mason and began to function in 1837 had a distinct appreciation of science is shown by their first appointment to a professorship in this University. The man selected was Doctor Asa Gray, a graduate of the medical school founded by the Board of Regents in the state of New York and located in the village of Fairfield, Herkimer County, in 1812. Doctor Gray was appointed professor of botany and zoology in 1838, and was commissioned by the Regents to go to Europe and collect scientific books and a herbarium. In 1842 he resigned this position without ever giving instruction in this University and became professor of botany in Harvard and won for himself the distinction of being the supreme authority on this subject in this country, a position which he maintained throughout his life. When he resigned from this University in 1842 Doctor Abram Sager was selected to fill his place. Before this Doctor Sager had served as chief of the botanical and zoological department of the Michigan State Geological Survey.

The second appointment to a professorship in this University showed the same appreciation of scientific work indicated by the first. Doctor Douglas Houghton, at that time head of the Michigan State Geological Survey, was in 1839 made professor of chemistry, mineralogy and geology. Like Gray, Houghton never gave instruction in the University but made collections for the Museum. He was drowned in Lake Superior while exploring the copper region, October 13, 1845. A broken shaft still stands on the campus in commemoration of the life and work of this brilliant young scientist. In 1844 Silas H. Douglas, who was to build up the chemical laboratory, was made Houghton’s assistant and subsequently became his successor.

To what influences may have attribute this marked tendency towards science on the part of the Regents who launched Michigan University at a time when classical and humanistic studies still dominated New England universities. To me the source of this influence is plainly visible, though, as far as I know, no university historian has perceived it.

There were two real scientists on that Board, and while the majority of them may have been, as one historian says, without special fitness for the work before them, these two evidently knew what they were doing. These men were Henry R. Schoolcraft, the great explorer and naturalist as well as the best versed student of Indian tore in the region of the Great Lakes, and his companion and fellow student, Doctor Zina Pitcher. Furthermore behind the Regents were the Governor and the Superintendent of Public Instruction, since all important acts of the Board required the approval of these officials before becoming effective. Indeed the Regents were named by the Governor and he was the President of the Board.

Stevens T. Mason was Governor of the territory and state of Michigan practically all the time from 183I to 1840, and had much to do with the foundation and inauguration of the University. The Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Reverend John D. Pierce, a graduate of Brown University, was an appointee of Governor Mason and the two seem to have been in agreement on educational matters, in which both were deeply interested. Mason was a Virginian and it is not probable that he was unacquainted with the scientific activities and ideals of Thomas Jefferson. Hinsdale and Demmon in their history of the University say: “ExPresident Jefferson had founded the University of Virginia on new lines in 1825, but that excellent institution was at the time practically unknown in the West.”

It is undoubtedly true that to the mass of the people in the Northwest at that time the work of Thomas Jefferson in founding the University of Virginia was unknown; but that Schoolcraft, Pitcher and above all Governor Mason, himself a Virginian, were ignorant of it is highly improbable. The details followed in the development of the two universities are too similar to have been accidental. Both provided preparatory schools and both stressed scientific training. The claim that the ideals of a state university as developed in Michigan in 1837 came from a study of the Prussian system of education seems to me to have been unduly stressed. Indeed when Thomas Jefferson committed to writing his plan for the organization of the University of Virginia in 1812 Prussia had no system of education. The first professor of modern language in Michigan University (1846) was Louis Fasquelle; and French, Italian and Spanish were taught in this University before any provision was made for the teaching of German.

Still another evidence of the scientific spirit of the original Board of Regents lies in the fact that one of their first appropriations was the sum of ten thousand dollars for the purchase of scientific apparatus and books. This is exactly what one would expect of such men as Mason, Schoolcraft and Pitcher.

It will be seen from what I have said that during the forties two of the strongest men on the University Faculty had been trained scientifically and had medical degrees. These were Abram Sager and Silas H. Douglas, and they constituted the leaven in the Faculty which led to the development of the Medical School. The departments of literature, science and the arts had been organized in 1837 and the charter indicated that the law department should be the first professional school provided for, but this did not happen. The Law School was not organized until 1859 and I at least can see plainly the reason why the Medical School took precedence. One cold, snowy February day in the late forties there arrived in Ann Arbor a young man who was to become a tower of strength to Sager and Douglas in their efforts to provide for a medical school. This newcomer in my opinion, was inferior to both Sager and Douglas, certainly to the former, in both native and acquired ability in scientific work. But he had a strong personality and a genius for organization and constructive work. While a student in a medical school at Geneva, New York, he read about the organization of the University of Michigan and the provision that a medical department would, sooner or later, be attached to this institution. Immediately on receiving his medical diploma he started for Ann Arbor, carrying in his grip several dissecting cases and, among his grosser impedimenta, a box of suspicious shape and size and unmarked content.

On arriving in Ann Arbor he hung out a shingle offering his surgical skill to the public and more discreetly he let it be known to the University students that, in his back office after a certain hour, he was prepared to initiate any of them, who might have the profession of medicine in view, into the mysteries of the structure of the human body. He was soon recognized as a most desirable addition to the small group of intellectuals then constituting the faculty and student body of the University. There is no record of his surgical success as a private practitioner but his class in anatomy was soon in a flourishing condition. His best students in his back office were Robert Kedzie, who later became the distinguished professor of chemistry in the Michigan Agricultural College, and Edmund Andrews, who, in later life, became the leading surgeon of Chicago, one of the founders of the first graded medical school in this country, the Chicago Medical College (now the Medical School of Northwestern University), and recognized as an authority both here and abroad on the geology of the Great Lakes. This newly arrived ally to Sager and Douglas in their attempts to hasten the organization of the Medical School was Moses Gunn.

Personally I did not know Moses Gunn until some thirty years after his coming to Ann Arbor. However it was his custom in his later years to come to Ann Arbor on the anniversary of his first coming in the forties. On these occasions I, as his host, listened attentively to the stories of his early manhood. He told me that when he read about the prospective medical school in connection with the University of Michigan he and Corydon L. Ford were roommates at the medical school in Geneva; that they talked over the possibilities that might lie in the West; that he said to Ford that he would come to Ann Arbor, aid in founding the school and that he would become professor of surgery and Ford should be professor of anatomy. As I knew him Moses Gunn was a most striking figure, one which would attract attention on the street, in an assembly or at a social function. He was more than six feet tall, spare and- muscular, with deep blue eyes, snowy hair and beard which he wore d la Burnside. He wore a Prince Albert coat, a high hat, generally a white vest, and striped trousers. Pending from his neck was a long, slender, gold watch chain. His hair hung about his neck in curls. In fact, as I once sat in an assembly hall beside one of the most eminent medical men of the time, Moses Gunn appeared on the stage. My companion asked, as he leaned toward me, “What old mountebank is that?’’ That his peculiarity in person and dress was not a foible of his old age is shown by a description of him by the late Doctor Norman Bridge of Los Angeles, California, who entered the Medical School in 1866. “Doctor Gunn, the professor of surgery, was an inspiring man; tall, erect with a reddish beard which he wore a la Burnside and which was being tinged with gray. His graying hair was very long, and hung in large depending ringlets, each of which every morning was wound about the moist finger of his adoring wife. This gave him a fantastic appearance and a reputation for foppishness that he hardly deserved. He was a rapid and elegant operator and had made some striking additions to his art.”

Urged, no doubt, by Sager and Douglas, with Gunn’s outside help, the Board of Regents, in 1847, appointed a Committee with Doctor Pitcher as Chairman whose duty it became to consider the expediency of organizing a medical department and to ascertain the expense that would be incurred should such a step be taken. In January, 1848; this Committee made a favorable report which was supplemented by a more detailed communication to the Board of Regents in January, 1849. The last mentioned report went into detail concerning needed buildings, equipment, the selection of a Faculty, entrance requirements for students, length and character of course, and other matters. Doctors Sager and Douglas were transferred to the embryo Medical School, and Sager made Dean, or, as the title was, President, and continued in this office for twenty-five years, or until he resigned in 1875. In July, 1849, Moses Gunn was made professor of anatomy and surgery, and in January, 1850, J. Adams Allen was appointed professor of physiology and pathology and Samuel Denton, professor of the theory and practice of medicine. On the first Wednesday in October, 1850, the first session was opened by addresses by Doctor Sager and Regent Pitcher. Thus the School was begun with nothing to occupy the time and energy of the students save lectures, quizzes and a short course in anatomy. In fact this schedule constituted the curricula of all medical schools in this country at that time. Fortunately there were two men on the original Faculty whose foresight and wisdom did not permit the School to remain long in this primitive condition. These were Doctors Douglas and Gunn. The former began laboratory instruction on his appointment in 1844 and soon secured from the Regents a fund sufficient to erect a small, one-story laboratory and in this the students were soon busy in a field hitherto unknown and unvisited by medical students in this country at least. This small laboratory, well equipped for the times, grew year by year until it soon became the largest and best equipped chemical laboratory open to students in this country.

The University of Michigan Medical School was from its start a scientific, in contradistinction to a practical or clinical, institution. This was not altogether due to preference on the part of its founders and professors, but was a necessity. For twenty-five years it had no hospital- not a building which by any stretch of courtesy could be so denominated. The task of developing clinical facilities fell upon Doctor Gunn and was heavier than that resting upon the shoulders of Doctor Douglas. Indeed for many years the criticism of the School of most weight was that it had no hospital connection. This deficiency was urged against the School even by some of its best graduates, who, while students, had felt it and had established themselves in large cities after graduation. As late as the eighties one of these urged me to leave Ann Arbor, arguing that the School must fail on account of its lack of clinical opportunities, and I did not deny the weight of his argument, but I saw the matter from another angle the deficiencies in the city schools at that time in scientific training.

Another argument against the School was that it is supported by the state. It was held that it is not a state function to provide a professional education. In the eighties I spent many an hour discussing this point with some of my most esteemed friends who were serving on the faculties of city schools. My reply to this criticism ran along the line that formerly universities had been founded and supported in the interest of some theological dogma. More recently and often in connection with this purpose wealthy men have built and endowed universities in order to perpetuate their names. I acknowledged that both of these motives have been honorable, but I held that the state university owes its origin and secures its maintenance because the people believe that higher education improves its citizenship and therefore should be available to all at a small cost. The state needs wise lawyers to enact and enforce its laws, intelligent physicians to prevent and cure disease, skillful engineers to build roads and bridges and otherwise to develop transportation, and intelligent agriculturalists to improve the fertility of its soil; therefore it offers professional training. Now state education along professional lines is not questioned by anyone; forty years ago it was most earnestly and honestly contested by many wise men. Then the state university medical school was founded upon simple resources and inadequately supported. In fact, for many years Michigan University Medical School was the only successfully managed institution of its kind supported by the state. The University of Pennsylvania was a state institution in name only and for many years received no grants from the state.

Now state university medical schools are many, and some of them at least compare favorably with the best in the country, and indeed all of the best medical schools now have some connection with either state or endowed universities. In short, medical education is unanimously admitted to be a university function and an important one. Every medical school is seeking or has found university connection and every great university is seeking or has found a medical department. Forty years ago all my best and most esteemed friends and colleagues in medical education, outside of my own Faculty, were teaching in proprietary schools, a few at their financial advantage, most of them at financial sacrifice. The proprietary medical school was a step in the evolution of medical education; it was a vast improvement on the old apprentice system. It had the services of the best in the profession; it made many contributions to science; and it supplied the people with thousands of capable physicians, but, like Troy, it belongs to the past.

When the Medical School opened in 1850 Gunn, with Kedzie, Andrews and other back office students, took charge of anatomy and taught it thoroughly. In 1854 Gunn was able to keep his promise to Ford and the latter was called to the chair of anatomy, which he held for forty years. After giving his last lecture in 1894, Ford fell from an apoplectic stroke on his way home and died a few hours later.

During the last century there were many great teachers of descriptive anatomy and among these Ford’s name did not stand at the bottom of the list. He never practiced medicine and was a full time teacher throughout his life. His services as a teacher were in great demand, and until within a few years of his death he gave two courses annually, one at Michigan and one in some other school. He knew anatomy, both human and comparative. He lived it and he taught it in a way that held the individual attention of every student. He not only taught the subject but he awakened a love for it in his hearers. Among his old students I may mention such names as Lewis Pilcher, Frank Mall, William J. Mayo and Carl Huber. I sat under his spell and felt its fascination to such an extent that my thesis for Ph.D. was on an anatomical subject. He lectured every day, beginning with the bones and then covering every tissue in the body. In demonstrating a foramen or a duct a favorite expression was: “Finger on it; probe in it.” Professors and students from other departments crowded the upper seats in his lecture room, and how many young men he attracted to medicine I can not say. Even the janitor in the dissecting room, old Nagele, became a most proficient demonstrator and a reliable help, as hundreds of doctors now grown gray can testify.

As I have already indicated, laboratory instruction in chemistry developed by leaps and bounds. Frequent additions were made to the first small building. It grew in every direction, both in height and depth, since the basement was supplied with tables. Each table was furnished with reagents. In fact, I have visited many chemical laboratories in various countries and I can say that I have never seen one which did not bear a close similitude to that in which I began my work in 1874, but long before my time medical students at Michigan pursued much the same courses as I did.

Nor was laboratory chemical teaching confined to medical students. Students in the collegiate department anticipating medicine or any other calling in which this science might be useful availed themselves of the opportunities. Above all chemistry was taught as a science and not as applicable to some practical problem. Prospective medical students soon became aware of the fact that it was well to do their laboratory work before entering a medical school, either at Michigan or elsewhere. It should be plainly understood that Michigan University owes its past and present eminence in chemistry to the initiative of the Medical School. Chemical teaching grew out of no want felt for it in the collegiate department. It was thrust upon the university by the initiative and insistence of the Medical School; nor is this the sole instance in which the University has been benefited by the Medical School.

I am sure that the reader will want to know how the Michigan University Medical School managed to thrive for twenty-five years without a hospital. Samuel Denton (professor of medicine, 1850-1860) was a member of the first Board of Regents and, with Mason, Schoolcraft and Pitcher, possibly had something to do with the inauguration of the Medical School, but so far as I can learn he contributed but little to its reputation. During his professorship little was done in building up a clinic in internal medicine. The intellect and energy expended in the development of clinical facilities and teaching were largely supplied by Moses Gunn. He announced to the physicians of the state that the forenoons of Wednesday and Saturday would be devoted to consultations with them over their difficult cases. Emergency cases would be seen at any time. There would be no charge to either the doctors or their patients so far as these consultations were conducted in the presence of the students. In this wise and mutually helpful way began that flow of the stream of the sick and injured citizens of Michigan to Ann Arbor. Small at first, this stream has grown until now (1926) it fills to overflowing the splendid University Hospital of many hundreds of beds. Indeed it has been found necessary at times to check and regulate the incoming material. Herein lies a difficulty which has given and will continue to give to an increasing degree the Medical School cause for wise counsel. The clinical teachers in the School should never lose sight of the fact that the facilities they now enjoy had their origin and their continued growth in the mutually helpful cooperation between the physicians of the state and the medical Faculty. There can be no departure from this contract without injury to both parties. This unwritten agreement, originated in the brain of Moses Gunn, was accepted and endorsed by the physicians of the fifties and on the whole has operated to the satisfaction and benefit of the successors of both parties.

University of Michigan Medical Building in the ‘Seventies

The Medical Building in 1903

New University of Michigan Medical School, 1926

At first the number of patients brought to the consultations on Wednesday and Saturday mornings was small, but they were wisely and profitably used. I employ the words “wisely and profitably” intentionally and specifically. The patients were often benefited and in all instances received the best medical opinion without cost. The physicians had their diagnoses end’ treatment confirmed or modified by the best available experts. The students profited by the instruction received.

As I have said, there was absolutely no hospital; for many years not even a receiving house. The doctors of the immediate vicinity did not bring their patients until the early morning of a clinic day. Those from greater distances lodged their patients in the hotel or in some boarding house. Invariably the physician accompanied his patient, or at least the exceptions to this rule were few. In some instances, probably in most, the professor had seen and examined the patient before he was brought before the class. Not infrequently the professor devoted his hour, sometimes more than one, to “some of the cases we are to see Wednesday or Saturday.” As a student I saw more than one surgical operation performed on a cadaver, or illustrated on a manikin, or figured in detail on charts, the day before I saw the operation on the patient. More frequently I saw these demonstrations the day after the operation. These procedures were highly helpful to the student. As a laboratory assistant in charge of physiological chemistry I frequently examined the urine, the blood and later the stomach contents; both before and after the patient’s presentation to the class. I remember with what pride I demonstrated leucemic blood and urine to the class; how I exhibited crystals of tyrosin and leucin in the urine in a case of cancer of the liver, a rare opportunity indeed; how I showed the presence of urea in the perspiration of a man dying of kidney disease.

When I went to Ann Arbor in the seventies one of the professors’ houses on the north side of the campus was known as “University Hospital.” It was, however, nothing more than a receiving home, in which patients brought in for the clinics could be kept before and after presentation to the class. There were no wards and no operating or dressing rooms, no place where students might receive bedside instruction. On Wednesday and Saturday mornings students carried patients on stretchers across the campus to the medical building, where the procedures I have already described were carried out.

It must not be inferred that during the twenty-five years (1850-1875) the School was without a hospital the clinical growth was exclusively along surgical lines. The year 1854 marked an epoch in the School’s development, for in that year there came to it two great teachers. Of one and his work I have already written. This one was Corydon L. Ford, the great teacher of anatomy. The other was Alonzo B. Palmer, a great teacher of internal medicine. Palmer was a graduate in the class of 1839 of that large school known as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Western New York, to which I have already referred. After some years as a village doctor, Palmer went to Chicago, became a partner of that Nestor of American medicine, N. S. Davis, and soon acquired a large, varied and remunerative practice. From Chicago he came to Ann Arbor in 1854 under the inclusive title of “professor of materia medica, therapeutics and diseases of women and children.” How all-embracing and far-extending this title seems to-day, but if any man was in 1854 competent to give instruction in all these branches it was A. B. Palmer. His knowledge of medicine for that time was encyclopedic, as his diary, published by his wife after his death, will convince anyone who reads it. Nor was his learning confined to medicine. He knew English literature, was devoted to Shakespeare and graced the most intellectual society in both this country and in England. However, even surpassing his wisdom was his readiness to impart it. He delighted in talking to students, and no colleague had any difficulty in inducing him to fill an hour. I have known him to fill two consecutive hours, and still be ready for the third. He did no general practice, and would readily forego a consultation and the fee that might be attached to it if he could lecture. I must say that he continued to the end a diligent student, reading current literature and keeping posted, if not always fully appreciative of the latest advances in medicine. From the beginning of his work as a teacher he was as scientific as one could be at that time in methods of diagnosis. He drilled his students ad nauseam in the employment of instruments of precision; auscultation and percussion were not only his favorite hobbies, but in their use he showed great skill. I remember how proudly he exhibited to me the first laryngoscope I ever saw.

He spent the greater part of two years in Europe in the preparation of his opus magnum, a two volume work on the practice of medicine. I say “the greater part of two years” because he had to return occasionally to give a few lectures. He did not hesitate to make two extra trips across the Atlantic when he felt that he had some information which must be imparted to his students. His great work was published shortly before his death. Had it been presented fifteen years earlier it would have had a wide circulation, but it came just when the new medicine was supplanting the old and is now unknown and unused. He died in the harness in 1887 and now (1926) the ranks of his students are growing thin. Some have been strong enough to follow the new and keep pace with the present generation; some are still following him. Only a few weeks ago I was in the office of a village doctor while his patients came and went and in the intervals between them he talked of his great teacher, Alonzo B. Palmer, and showed me the prescriptions he was then giving which he had taken from his old teacher’s lecture notes. I saw no evidence that harm was being done his clientele and made no unfavorable comment. The best that a teacher can do is to impart to his students the latest and most authentic knowledge of his time. He that is too far in advance is stoned and he who is behind deserves no justification. The most frequent complaint I had from my students came in something like this form: “Why, doctor! What you tell us to-day is not what you told us last year.” When this criticism ceases to bear the germ of truth, the teacher should seek some other occupation. The reader will see therein justification of my own retirement.

After sixteen years of herculean endeavor to build up a surgical clinic in Ann Arbor, Moses Gunn gave up the effort in despair and became professor of surgery in Rush Medical College in Chicago. The chair of surgery was immediately filled by that brilliant but erratic man, William Warren Greene, who occupied it for only one year. Greene was one of the first, if not the first, in this country to operate successfully for goiter. This operation was done as all operations were then done, in the upper lecture room of the old medical building. There is a story to the effect that when Greene reported this case at some medical society, the elder Gross of Philadelphia, then acknowledged as one of the greatest surgeons in the world, arose and said: “You may call that surgery; I call it butchery.” Now even village doctors do this operation. That Greene did successfully perform this operation in the sixties is quite certain, but I will not vouch for the story, though I have no doubt that it expressed the attitude of the leading surgeons of the time.

Another man who contributed greatly to the building up of the surgical clinic was the first professor of ophthalmology, George E. Frothingham. He was a graduate of the School and worked his way up from demonstrator of anatomy. He was my preceptor and I can not speak of him without love and reverence. In my early days at Michigan he held out his helping hand and I took it and followed in a perfect confidence which I never found misplaced. It is true that later he and I differed radically about the removal of the Medical School to Detroit, but the relation of father and son between us was never broken. He began his lectures each year with a statement something like the following: “Gentlemen, I will be able to show you in the clinic throughout the year most of the diseases to which the eye is subject and many of the accidents and injuries to which it is exposed. Yes, I will show you many of these many times. I will operate before you twice a week, but you must know that you will profit none by my operations unless you know the anatomy and physiology of the organ thoroughly. I can demonstrate the fundamental principles. The world will be your clinic.” He started many a great ophthalmologist on the right road. Among these I may mention such names as John E. Weeks of New York and Harold Gifford of Omaha. Frothingham’s recorded contributions to his specialty were not numerous, but all were sound. The most effective argument I ever employed in asking the legislature for hospital appropriations was the showing of the number of cataracts successfully removed and the number of partially or totally blind restored to sight. These figures appealed to all, and besides I had the number of cases from each county.

In 1872 Donald Maclean, then teaching at a medical school at Kingston, Ontario, a pupil of Syme, the great surgeon of Edinburgh whom he revered, a Scotchman, a graduate of Edinburgh, was called to the professorship of surgery in Michigan University. Like Gunn, Maclean was a most fascinating man. I do not think that any teacher in the University, within my time at least, was so greatly admired by the students as he. He captivated the hearts and won the admiration of all. He was the beau ideal of the young men on the benches. Handsome, bold and dexterous, he conducted his clinic in a dramatic way. In speech he was somewhat hesitating but this was not a defect. In him it was an asset, emphasizing essentials and blocking superficialities. He occupied the chair of surgery for eighteen years and did much to build up the surgical clinic. Among the profession in the state there were many who were devoted to him, and would have the advice of no other when they had difficult cases to deal with. He made many great surgeons, some of whom have surpassed their master. After all, is not this the highest criterion of a great teacher? Like Gunn, Maclean left the University on account of the paucity of clinical material. He urged the removal of the Medical School to Detroit with such earnestness that he was forced to resign.

In 1877 the wooden pavilion hospital, accommodating about 150 patients, with operating amphitheater, dressing rooms, and so forth, was opened. It may be of historic interest to state that this building was planned under the supervision of Edward S. Dunster, professor of obstetrics and gynecology. It was of the type employed in the latter part of the Civil War. Dunster had been an army surgeon and for a time after the war he was post surgeon at West Point; then he resigned, and taking up his specialty, became a pupil of Sims, Peaslee and Thomas. When built it was understood that this hospital would become so badly infected within ten years that it would be necessary to burn it. It served as a hospital until 1890 and for at least twenty years more as a class and laboratory room. It occupied the space now covered by the chemical laboratory.

James N. Martin, Dunster’s assistant and successor (1885-1901), was a skilful operator and an excellent teacher, in both of which particulars he has been worthily followed by the present incumbent of the chair, Reuben Peterson.

The above are brief and inadequate sketches of the men and the work they did in the early development of the Medical School of the University of Michigan. They taught medicine, so far as it was possible in those days, in the scientific spirit and by exact methods. They were fully conscious of their weaknesses and these they remedied as far and as fast as was possible. Occasionally they called in temporary help and in doing this they showed wisdom. As a student I had my physiology from Burt G. Wllder of Cornell and my materia medica and therapeutics from Frederick Gerrish of Portland, Maine. It must be admitted that better helpers could not have been found.

Along with laboratory and clinical facilities the Medical School must have a good library and for the prosecution of scientific research the library must be selected along definite lines. I will admit that I am proud of what I did for the Medical School in this direction. While still only an assistant in the laboratory I found that the medical library was woefully deficient in both the number and character of its books. Each professor had about three hundred dollars a year for the purchase of books for his department, the total for the Medical School running from twenty-five hundred to three thousand dollars. I suggested to the medical Faculty that it would be wise to allow one person to select the books, having in mind the interests of all branches. I found that all the professors were glad to follow this suggestion and the task was turned over to me, although I was, as I have said, only an assistant and had no appropriation of my own. The shelves of the library were filled with textbooks which were out of date in a few years after publication. There were, it is true, a few sets, most of them incomplete, of American and English journals. The only French journal was the Archives Generales de Medicine, and the only German one was Schmidt’s Jahrbücher, and neither of these was complete. Doctor Prescott and I talked over the matter and concluded that we would greatly limit the purchase of textbooks and devote the larger part of our money to the acquisition of complete sets of scientific journals in all languages. We also decided to interpret a medical journal in a broad way, including chemistry, physics and biology. Of course, cooperation between Doctor Prescott and myself meant a substantial increase in our common fund.

At this point I am going to confess to the only intentional and premeditative fraud I ever perpetrated on the University of Michigan. At that time the librarian was the Reverend Ten Brook-most college librarians at that time were Reverends. They seemed to have had a claim on the chair of mental and moral philosophy and the office of librarian, and most of them were suspicious of scientific books. This dear old man was grouchy, one of that class in whom I have been wont to say the milk of human kindness has undergone the lactic acid fermentation. To him I went with my carefully prepared list of journals. He received me with scant courtesy. I think that his mood was partly due to the fact that one below the rank of professor dared come to him. My list was for current subscriptions, as Doctor Prescott and I had decided to begin with these and fill up the back numbers later, since we knew that this would take a long time. The reverend librarian growled at the proposed purchase of so many journals in foreign languages and when he looked at the total cost he said with an air of finality and dismissal that it could not be done. I tried to argue and asked him to submit the list to the library committee. This he declined to do and turned me out of his room rudely. This rudeness probably saved my cause, because I am sure that the good old man thought it over and concluded that he had not treated me quite justly. The list which I had submitted carried the annual subscriptions, but many of the journals provided for semi-annual, and some for quarterly payments. A few days later I faced the good old gentleman again with exactly the same list but with the prices cut down to the smallest time limit, most of the subscriptions being for only three months. The dear old man with no word of apology but with a face as full of kindness as he could mould it, signed his approval and before my eyes put the list in an envelope and addressed it to the European agency. Then he kindly dismissed me. I could have hugged him but I dared not. I left his room full of elation, tinged and softened with forebodings of what might happen when requests for renewals would come in. Nothing did happen, at least so far as I know, and the journals on that list, so far as war interruptions have permitted, are still coming to the library of the University of Michigan. Then Doctor Prescott and I set to work in procuring back numbers and in doing this I found one of the many joys of my life. Emboldened by success we appealed to the librarian, the Library Committee and the Board of Regents saying something like the following: “We have so many copies of Annales d’Hygiene, but we need the back numbers and therefore we are asking for a special appropriation for this purpose.” In some instances we had to repeat this request more than once, but we never tired in doing so, and in the end it has invariably been granted.

Doctor George Dock

Doctor Albert M. Barrett

Doctor Aldred S. Warthin

This investment has proved as sound as one in real estate, situated most fortunately. Indeed, many of these old books could not now be secured at many times the prices we paid. When Doctor Sewall came to the faculty he became our coadjutor in this enterprise. When he left and Prescott was dead, this function developed upon Doctor Dock, and since he left it has been in the has been in the very efficient hands of Doctor Warthin. Doctor Lewis Filcher and others have given the library priceless books and now the medical library of the University of Michigan is one of the best for research students in the world. If there be a great journal in medicine, including chemistry, physics and biology, in the world, a complete set of which is not in the library I do not know of it. I do not mean to say that this library has as many volumes as that of the Surgeon General or some others. There are many provincial journals, some of which contain valuable contributions that are missing altogether or in part. Many foreign government reports are lacking, and the same is still true, I believe, of the transactions of certain learned societies, but Doctor Warthin is striving earnestly and intelligently to supply these deficiencies. The successive university librarians, Davis, Koch and Bishop, have taken a pride in the medical library and have rendered it every assistance possible. It is now housed most commodiously under the direction of Miss Bethen. If the present and future members of the Faculty and students do not fully use it, it is their own fault. A medical school without a good research library is like an automobile without gasoline; it will not go. The library is one of the strongest ties that has held me to the University of Michigan when higher financial rewards tempted me to go elsewhere. It is a positive advantage to have it housed in the general library since medical literature touches all other literatures at so many points. This arrangement is good not only for medical students and professors, but for all those in other branches. In order to induce my students to use the library I was in the habit of assigning to each a subject and asking him to give an abstract of its literature as found in the library for a certain period. On the other hand, when I was preparing a paper, I would say to the librarian, “Next week I will begin writing on such a subject.” When that time arrived I would find on my table every volume, bound or unbound, containing articles on that subject.

There are now certain organizations which for a definite price offer to supply an author with literature of reference. These organizations employ men and women to go through great libraries, such as those in Washington, Philadelphia, New York and Chicago, and make out the lists. I have never resorted to this short cut way of working up my literature. I prefer to make my own abstracts than to depend upon people who know nothing about the subject. Two persons may abstract the same article and reach radically different conclusions. Early in my career as a writer I had a valuable experience along this line. I was preparing a paper for a European journal and in it I had quoted an Italian authority through an English translation. I was reading over my paper preparing to mail it, when it struck me that the translation could not be correct. I laid my paper aside and sent to Italy for the original. I found that my suspicion was correct and in this way I was saved from a humiliation. A scientific man should make every endeavor to go to original sources. Abstracts are beneficial if they ate checked up and verified.

I have stated that I greatly enjoyed the task of filling out sets of journals. Take the journal which I have mentioned. Annales d’Hygiene, the back numbers of which were secured by picking up one or more volumes here and there. Of course I had the aid of a Paris bookman. When the set was complete I was rejoiced to find that certain volumes had come from the library of Trousseau and others from that of Chevalier. I wonder if my successors will prize these volumes as greatly as I did. I should feel it a desecration if the control of these books should ever fall into the hands of one who does not know who Trousseau or Chevalier was. If every writer on scientific subjects would consult the old literature there would not be so many announcements of new discoveries. Many would find that they had worthy even if unsuspected predecessors.

Greatly as I enjoyed filling out sets of journals, I enjoyed even more the selecting of new professors. There is no better index of the spirit of an educational institution than the character of the men chosen to fill its chairs. I had a long and interesting experience in this direction. The first time I had anything to do with this matter was when an independent chair in physiology was established in 1881. The selection was largely left to me because I was at that time teaching physiological chemistry, but it was necessary for me to convince my colleagues and superiors of the wisdom of my choice. I had previously written a paper which had been accepted and published by Michael Foster, Editor of the Journal of Physiology and professor of physiology in the University of Cambridge, England. Moreover I knew Professor H. Newell Martin, who had been called to the newly established Johns Hopkins University at Baltimore. It will be understood that this was twelve years before the Johns Hopkins Medical School opened its doors.

Professor Martin took a deep personal interest in the matter. He was intent not only on building up his own department in Baltimore, but in seeing the seeds of the new school of physiology then just coming into bloom in England through the efforts of George Harley, Michael Foster, J. Burdon Sanderson and Thomas H. Huxley, planted and nourished in the universities of America. I may add parenthetically that I then regarded that movement as the first real awakening of scientific medicine, and I have since had no occasion to reverse my opinion on this matter. I have placed Harley’s name, the least known of the group, first on the list because I believe this position due him. In 1855 he became the first professor of practical physiology, which means laboratory instruction, in England by his appointment with this title in University Medical College, London. He held this chair for thirteen years, during which time he demonstrated the value of physiology to the scientific study of clinical medicine. On account of prolonged blindness he resigned this chair in 1869 and was followed in its occupation by Michael Foster. When Foster was called to Cambridge, Burdon Sanderson succeeded him in University Medical College and later went to Oxford.

On the recommendation of Foster and Martin I proposed to my Faculty the name of Henry Sewall for the new full chair of practical physiology at Michigan. I had the support of every member of my Faculty with the exception of one, but that one was no less a man than the dean, Doctor Palmer, who had another name. It is true that two other members of the Faculty were not deeply interested and did not greatly care which way the choice went. When Sewall came to Ann Arbor to inspect and more especially to be inspected, I was anxious that he should make a good impression upon our dean. Doctor Palmer’s somewhat stately residence was located in a grove of giant oaks, greatly prized by their owner. Sewall and I were invited to a faculty reception given by the dean in the evening. We walked under the oaks and were ushered into the house. The first thing that Sewall said after his introduction was: “I have just been admiring your splendid elms.” My heart sank; I could not hope for the dean’s vote, and Sewall did not get it; but he got every other one and became our first full time professor of practical physiology.

Doctor Sewall had already done creditable laboratory work, but he had had little or no experience as a lecturer and I did not know how he would get along with two or three hundred medical students, sometimes inclined to be playful, to use a mild term, but after hearing him through a partially open door for a few hours I had no misgiving on this point. Doctor Sewall came early in the spring of 1881. The schedule was arranged for him to give a demonstration accompanied by a lecture three days each week to the freshmen, the higher classmen to be in attendance twice a week. When examination time approached in June, Sewall and I discussed the nature of the questions he should put to the students who had received such inadequate instruction. We could not hope that they had absorbed much of the knowledge which he had endeavored to impart to them. We decided that I should arrange an informal meeting between him and three of the best students in the sections to be examined. I sent to his room Frank Mall, afterwards professor of anatomy at Johns Hopkins; William J. Mayo, now the great surgeon; and Walter Courtney, afterwards in charge of the surgery of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Sewall soon ascertained that these men did not know much physiology, told them so, and predicted that no one of them would ever make a success in medicine. Several times in after years I had the pleasure of telling this story in the presence of Doctor Sewall and one or more of these students. Sewall admits that as a prophet he has not been a success. This confession, however, does not invalidate my statement that as a physiologist he has had but few equals. I am ready to defend this assertion before any scientific court by presenting the physiological literature produced since that time.

Twenty or more years after Sewall had been compelled by ill health to give up his work with us I received a call from a delegation of learned Frenchmen who introduced themselves by saying that they had journeyed to Ann Arbor to see the place where Henry Sewall had demonstrated that pigeons could be immunized to the venom of the rattlesnake, because they said that work had pointed out the way to the discovery of diphtheria antitoxin. Following Sewall’s findings that animals can be immunized to snake venom Roux and Yersin showed that the poison generated in diphtheria is similar to snake venom. Then Von Behring and Roux independently immunized horses to the venom of diphtheria and produced diphtheria antitoxin, an agent which both prevents and cures the disease. If all my subsequent selections of new professors had been as fortunate as my first, and many of them were, I should now feel that I had not labored in behalf of the University of Michigan Medical School in vain.

A Doctor's Memories
Victor C. Vaughan, M.D.

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