The History of New York State
Book 12, Chapter 13, Part 6

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam


After the war the Long Island College Hospital, in its collegiate department, went forward slowly, and not without financial difficulty. The other college-hospital, that of Bellevue, suffered none of the financial handicaps, and, as the demand increased, so were its facilities expanded at city expense. In 1880, the Bellevue Hospital increased the course of lectures essential for graduation from two to three; but the serious shrinkage of enrollment in that year resulted in a reversion to the two years' course. And, as the enrollment swelled from 379 in 1880-81 to 480 in 1881-82, the faculty were satisfied that the appropriate time for the adoption of the three years' requirement for graduation had not yet arrived. The years later, the three years' requirements was adopted and persisted in, despite temporary reduction in enrollment. During the previous decade, the school had to all intents been on of three years, inasmuch as eight-tenths of the students had found it necessary to take the optional course of three years. Other school experienced a similar shrinkage at that time. In New York University Medical college, for instance, a three years' course, with extension of the regular session to seven months, came into effect in 1892. The matriculants of the 1890-91 school year had been 696, but the register showed only 460 students enrolled for the year 1892-93, and only 362 for the next year. The experience of the College of Physicians and Surgeons had, however, been different. That institution had long been on the three years' plan, with a collegiate year of more than seven months; #24 and a high standard was maintained, as instanced by the rejection by the college examiners of thirty-three of 139 candidates for the degree of Doctor of medicine in 1888; yet the enrollment continued to increase. In 1889 the registers of the College of Physicians and Surgeons showed the attendance of 701 students, 298 of whom were from other States than New York. While the Bellevue registers were discouraging barometers of all stiffening of educational standards, the College of Physician and Surgeons became increasing prosperous. In 1893-94 and 1894-95 school years the registers of Bellevue held discouragingly at about 400, while those of the college of Physicians and Surgeons, with 764 students in 1894, marked an increase of 112 on the previous year. Dr. McLane, in his annual report, stated; "Our numbers increase as our advantages through the generous support of Columbia, multiply, taxing the accommodations in some of our department to the utmost." In 1895 the college of Physicians and Surgeons raised the bars still higher, making its course four years; nevertheless its matriculants in that year numbered 803. Bellevue seemed to be regaining lost ground with an enrollment of 713 students for the year 1896-97, but there was a good reason, for the school was still on the three years' standard, and in the next year would have to follow the older college, becoming a four years' school.

These were notable times of reconstruction for most of the New York City medical schools. The College of Physicians and Surgeons, which in its first decade had absorbed the medical school of Columbia College, had been in no way connected with the latter until 1860, when it became the Medical Department of Columbia College, just as New York Medical College has the medical department of New York University. In 1890 Columbia College, "at one stroke. . . . . ceased to be divided into fragments and took upon itself the aspect of a university wherein each department was related to every other, and every one strengthened all." The College of Physicians and Surgeons entered cordially into the university idea, and the former anomalous union--which had been not much more then nominal--was changed for a more intimate relationship, much closer than that of New York University and its medical college. Strife between the governing bodies--university and college--in the 'eighties and early 'nineties considerably lowered the efficiency of the college. Certain bequests and gifts to the New York University Medical College established the latter in almost complete independence of the university and made the medical faculty almost a "close corporation." The chancellor of the university wished to breakup this "shareholding by professors." It was stated that the university "was gaining strength and jealously guarded its reputation as an institution of learning in which was no semblance of commercialism," and therefore desired to exert a stronger supervision over the affairs of the medical college which bore its name." Although the opportunity seemed to have come in 1892, when a patient (Mr. O. H. Payne) of the senior professor (Dr. A. L. Loomis) resolved to free the medical school of debt, and his manner of doing so made the medical college even more independent of the university. Mr. Payne, to all intents, acquired the college property and transferred it to the Loomis Medical Laboratory, a corporate body, instead of to the university. So the professors remained in control--at a most critical time of reform of medical educational standards. The college, therefore, was not able to add the prestige of New York University to its own during the nineties in the way that the College of Physicians and Surgeons was able to benefit by its relationship to Columbia. As a consequence, the New York University Medical College declined both in enrollments and in educational standard. The lowering of educational standards was quite evident to the regents of the University of the State of New York, in their examination of medical graduates who applied to them for license to practice. Of the twelve medical colleges of the State, the reports of the period 1891-95 placed the New York University Medical College eleventh, and in 1896 it was last. The registers also testify to the discouraging state of affairs. In 1890-91 New York University Medical College enrolled 696 students. In 1892, with the adopting of the three years' standard, its enrollment shrank to 460; and the next three years showed 362, 376 and 376 students respectively. Dr. Loomis died in 1805. His place in the history of the college is high. The chancellor paid just tribute to his endeavors and achievements when he said, in 1805: "He had led the Medical College out into a large place." He had, indeed, for many years been the main financial stay as well as the chief professorial factor of the school. As a matter of fact, he had been too dominant a factor in its affairs. Following his death, however, a new governing board came into office, and in march, 1897, the University Council was able to take direct control of the Medical College, with the formal transferrence of the property of the Loomis Medical Laboratory to it at that time.

As the winter session of 1987-98 neared its end the building of the Bellevue Medical College, which was almost immediately opposite that of the New York University medical College, was partially destroyed by fire. In this emergency the University Council extended to Bellevue College the use of their adjacent building for the remainder of the session, or until the new college building begun by Bellevue, First Avenue and Twenty-six Street, in 1897, was ready for occupation. The vent led to important changes in both institutions. The occurrence suggested the merger of the two colleges. Both were likely to suffer by competition, and both needed strengthening because of the shrinkage of revenue, owing to the adoption of the four years' standard. Exchange of opinions followed, and soon the faculties of both schools of medicine placed their resignations in the hands of the chancellor of the university, so as to facilitate the consolidation. Still the difficulties were not over. The selection of a new facility for the consolidated schools aroused strong remonstrance. It appears that the University Council assigned four chairs to the old faculty of its own medical school and gave only one chair to Bellevue, dividing two others. Dissatisfaction was also present among the professors of the University school, for the Council, in the re-organization, took from them much of their former almost independent status. But the Council stubbornly adhered to their rulings, so certain members of the faculty severed their connection altogether with the college. This was regretted by the chancellor, although it removed some of the Bellevue grievance, for when, in May, 1898, the new faculty was announced, it was found that it contained only seven professors of the former University Medical College faculty, but provided for twenty-one professors and adjunct professors of the former Bellevue faculty. These, it was announced, "together with such additional professors as may hereafter be appointed," and with Dr. Edward G. Janeway as dean, would constitute the faculty of the combined school. The property of both colleges became the property of the university, to be used, of course, by the united school.

There were, however, dark days ahead. At a meeting in May, 1898, the chancellor had been regretfully compelled to announce that "by reason of the failure of some of our professors of medicine, since May 26, 1897, to observe the duties belonging to their relation to us under the University system. . . . .we were constrained to condition their continuance as permanent professors upon their acceptance of existing university rules and requirements." As has been stated above, the disgruntled professors did not accept the new order of government. They preferred to withdraw altogether; and they enlisted in their cause the former trustees of the New York University Medical College. The opening of the combined "University and Bellevue Hospital Medical College," on October 1, 1898, was followed by litigation, the former trustees of the University Medical College demanding the return of its property, 'as having been transferred to the University by them under promises to which the University had failed to adhere." The litigation did not favor the University Council, and the latter had other causes for anxiety in the enrollment. The combined matriculants of the two colleges for their last separate session (1897-98) numbered 738; the enrollment for the first year of the consolidated University and Bellevue Hospital Medical College (1898-99) reached only 442 students. Of course, the shrinkage was partly explained by the fact that this was the first year of the four years' course. In all probability, however, part of the decrease resulted from the action of the dismissed professors. They had come to an understanding with Cornell University, and had opened a rival medical school in a temporary building of Bellevue Hospital. This rival school sponsored by Cornell University, and afforded the clinical opportunities of the Bellevue and allied city hospitals, was being established literally at the doors of the just consolidated University and Bellevue School, and must have been a competing factor of disturbing importance. Moreover, Colonel Payne, whose benefactions in the eighties and early nineties had stabilized the affairs of New York University Medical College, gave wholehearted support to its former professors in their new collegiate effort. He built for the Cornell Medical College, at a cost of $1,000,000, a new college building opposite the plant of the Bellevue Hospital. The Cornell property on First Avenue occupied the whole block between Twenty-seventh and Twenty-eighth streets. In addition, the Loomis Medical Laboratory, which had been built by Colonel Payne for the New York university Medical College, also came into the possession of Cornell. So that, almost from the beginning, Cornell Medical College has been firmly established alongside what was at first looked upon as its rival, the stronger University and Bellevue Hospital Medical College.

Wit the opening of the twentieth century almost all professional colleges, at least those of medicine in New York State, were sheltering under the wing of an institution of university status. Outside New York City the medical colleges then were at Buffalo, at Albany, at Syracuse, and at Ithaca. Cornell Medical College was divided, the first two years being taken more conveniently with the University equipment at Ithaca than at New York; the remainder of the course was taken at New York City. The Syracuse school, known as the College of Medicine of Syracuse University, was the continuation of Fairfield Medical College, to which reference has been earlier made in this chapter. The Albany Medical College, also before referred to here in, has been affiliated with Union University since 1873. Buffalo ha a more unique distinction. The Buffalo Medical College began as a university. For its first forty years--1846-86--it was the University of Buffalo, the latter having no other department until 1886, when its Department of Pharmacy was organized. Law followed in 1891, Dentistry in 1892, and others, Pedagogy, Chemistry, Arts and Science later. Buffalo University Medical College came into distinctive notice early in its career. In its fourth session (1849-50) its professors of obstetrics, Dr. James P. White, "for the first time in this country introduced clinical midwifery into the college curriculum." Its introduction in America occasioned bitter criticism. So bitter were the newspapers, indeed, that Dr. White sued one editor for libel. The defendant was acquitted, but the trial served to vindicate Dr. White and his method of teaching obstetrics. Dr. John C. Dalton, Jr., professor of physiology in 1851, was the "first physiologist in America to employ the method of experiment on living animals in his teachings." Among the professors who founded Buffalo University Medical College is noticed a name to be found in the original faculties of two other successful medical colleges; Dr. Austin Flint, professor of the principles and practice of medicine, 1846-59, in the Buffalo faculty, also helped to found Long Island College Hospital and Bellevue hospital Medical College.

Another medical college of Western New York was the Niagara University Medical College, which existed for fifteen year from 1883 and which, in the words of its historian, "will ever live in the medical history of the State as one of the advance guards in the struggle for the elevation of professional attainments." It was a Catholic institution organized by a Buffalo physician, Dr. John Cronyn, who was its president throughout. With his death, in 1898, its life also ended; at least, the Niagara college lost entity then, in being merged with the Buffalo University Medical College, the new combined school taking the Buffalo name.

Another medical college which was founded under Catholic auspices is Fordham University School of Medicine, which began its first course in 1905. The city of New York in 1904 erected Fordham Hospital on ground that had belonged to the Catholic collegiate institution known as St. John's College, at Fordham, New York. The presence of abundant clinical material in this hospital suggested to the college that advisability of founding a medical school. With the opening of both law and medical schools at Fordham in 1905 the St. John's College assumed university status, as Fordham University. Dr. James N. Butler was dean of the medical school in that year, but in the next, and for some years thereafter, Dr. James J. Walsh was dean. The first class numbered eight, but at the end of seven years the yearly enrollment exceeded 200.

One other collegiate movement that is important in medical history calls for especial review--that which opened the professional schools to women. Their fight against prejudice was even more determined than that of the homeopaths. The first decades of the movement which brought two women's medical colleges of New York City into steady functioning are to all intents chapters of the lives of the sisters Blackwell and Lozier. The first to be founded was the Lozier school, officially known as the New York Medical College for Women. Its founder was Dr. Clemence Sophia Lozier. She belonged to a family of physicians and, as she grew to womanhood, became interested herself in the study of medical science. She wished to become a physician, but the way was not easy. Her sex barred her from both of the dominant schools of medicine. One woman student--Elizabeth Blackwell--had, it is true, been admitted to the course of one of the smaller allopathic medical schools of New York in 1848, but it was only an experiment and the college would not venture farther in the medical education of women for the time. The graduation of Miss Blackwell from Geneva Medical College is 1849 aroused such general condemnation among the medical fraternity throughout America that the experiment was not repeated, Elizabeth Blackwell thus being the first, and for many years the last, to graduate as Doctor of medicine from a regular New York medical school. Miss Lozier had had no option but to take the course of an eclectic college. She took lectures during 1849. Later, in the fifties, she and two other women entered an eclectic college in Syracuse, the New York Central Medical College, otherwise known as the Syracuse Eclectic College, which institution in due course conferred upon them the medical degree. Further condemnatory opinions were soon heard, and no allowance was made for the pronounced ability--indeed, intellectual superiority--shown by these women students. Miss Lozier gained the highest honors of her class, but arguments would not suffice; prejudice was deaf to logic.

However, Dr. Lozier, well qualified for professional life and possessed of courageous spirit, returned to New York City, where, in her own home, she inaugurated weekly lectures, open not to medical students but to poor women of the slums, who were, she noticed, appallingly ignorant of even elementary principles of health. Her lectures bore on the functions of maternity and the care of children. They were most timely and much appreciated. In this useful work Dr. Lozier became convinced that women medical practitioners were necessary, and, as the existing medical colleges would not admit them, she conceived the idea of establishing a woman's college. She received encouraging support from laymen, but was stubbornly opposed by the medical fraternity. However, she and her supporters petitioned for a charter which would secure to women "the right to equal collegiate advantages with men"; and they succeeded in their object, twenty-nine women being named as incorporators of the New York Medical College of Women in the act passed by the New York Legislature on April 14, 1863.

This was an action of much historical importance, for not only did this legislation pave the way for the establishment of the first women's medical college in America; it was the first to be founded in the world, states the "History of Homeopathy" #25 (N. Y., 1905). "Thus was secured the triumph of the great principle of right for which the advocates of the institution had contended in the face of bitter opposition on the part of those who would have denied woman the right to practice and teach medicine."

It was at first planned to make the women's college an "open" institution, but soon a tendency to adopt homeopathic teachings developed. The first session was held in 1863-64, at 74 East Twelfth Street, and the curriculum was comprehensive. In the third year, however, the college declared positively for homeopathy, although it made provision to instruct in "all branches of medical science taught in other medical schools."

This recognition of homeopathy, at a time when the "regular" fraternity were calling homeopaths "quacks and pretenders," increased the handicaps under which the women's college struggled. It led, indeed, to the creation of another women's college.

The rival school, the Women's College of Physicians and Surgeons, being a "regular" institution, was at least assured of less opposition from the profession than the Lozier school, following homeopathy, could expect. Most prominently identified with the "regular" women's college were the sisters Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell. Both had by this time acquired both knowledge and prestige in European schools of medicine. Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, after her graduation from Geneva in 1849 had gone to London and Paris, and finally had succeeded in being permitted to take the obstetrical course at La Maternite. Her sister had studied in Cincinnati, Chicago, and Cleveland, graduating from the Medical College of Western Reserve University in 1854. After attending clinical lectures at Bellevue, Emily Blackwell had also gone to Europe. Two years later she returned to New York, well commended for her European graduate work by some of England's most distinguished medical teachers. With her sister she entered into the work of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, "the first women's hospital in America." This was the development of her sister's enterprise of 1853, when, with a capital of $50, she had opened a dispensary for poor women and children. Her dispensary was incorporated in December, 1853, and in the first year treated 200 patients. While Miss Blackwell wished to held the sick poor of her sex, she also wished, through her treatment of their ailments, to have at her hands the means with which to instruct women students of medicine, who could not gain admittance to the medical colleges. In addition to the clinic she wished to train women for service as nurses in hospital wards and in the poorer districts. While in England, Miss Blackwell became an intimate friend of Florence Nightingale, who came into such world-wide prominence as an army nurse during the Crimean War, 1854-55. The small dispensary of Miss Blackwell became a hospital, although she had not advanced far in her medical-school project or in training nurses by 1861, when opportunity and need for the latter came in the outbreaking of civil war.

In May, 1861, the women of New York met to consider what should be done to train women to properly care for wounded soldiers. The Women's Central Relief Association was then formed, and Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell was given the chairmanship of the committee on training of nurses. The wards of the city hospitals were opened to the women, and eminent physicians cooperated with Dr. Blackwell in instructing them in nursing. The first organized training school was established at Bellevue, the next at New York Hospital. Miss Blackwell's Infirmary for Women and Children cooperated with these larger hospitals by instructing nurses in obstetrics, but had to postpone its own plans to organize a training school for general practice. However, after the pressure of military service had subsided, the sisters Blackwell and their associates had more time to plan more directly to meet the handicaps under which those of their sex who sought to enter the medical profession had suffered. Much of the prejudice which they themselves had suffered during their students days had been broken down by their own European achievements in medicine, and their Civil War records. So it was not difficult for them to obtain a charter incorporating a department of their infirmary as a medical college, especially in view of the veering of Miss Lozier's medical college to homeopathy. The Blackwell school steadily functioned under regular auspices until 1899, when the Cornell University Medical College opened its doors to women students, and there was no longer any need for separate existence of the Women's College. This was quite in accord with Dr. Blackwell's wish. She had not intended that her school should ever be more than a temporary expedient; she regarded co-education as "the final step in the medical education of women." So, the Women's Infirmary thereafter reverted to its original purpose, that of maintaining a hospital service.

The establishment of the Blackwell Women's college in the sixties made the functioning of the Lozier women's College more difficult, especially after the Blackwell regular school had drawn to its faculty the two Lozier sisters. Soon, however, Dr. Clemence S. Lozier returned to the college she had founded, and became a complete convert to homeopathy. Several of the male professors of the homeopathic Medical College supported her, teaching in the women's college. In 1869 Professor Samuel Lilienthal, president of the New York County Homeopathic Medical Society, took the chair of clinical medicine in her school.

That the school was not making very rapid strides is evidenced in the fact that only forty-five women students were graduated from the institution during its fist seven years. At least the figures seem diminutive alongside those of the colleges for men. The trustees, however, seemed to view with satisfaction the fact that from the institution had gone into the medical profession forty-five capable women physicians. They thought so well of the future that they resolved to elevate the standard of instruction, adopting a three years' standard. In this they were far in advance of most medical schools. For instance, Bellevue did not adopt the three years' standard until 1892. The faculty of the Women's College seemed to be convinced, as their eleventh announcement declared, "that the medical education of women must be more thorough and carried to a higher degree than the education of men." Inasmuch as men graduated as physicians were accepted as such, whereas common prejudice prompted persons almost instinctively to challenge the qualifications of women graduates who would practice. Still, after the first decade of the women's college had been successfully passed, the medical education of women was "no longer a question." In fact, some of the "regular" schools, which had closed their doors to women students in the sixties became co-educational in the seventies. So the fight for admittance of women to the professions was won. Still, some of the older colleges held out stubbornly against the co-educational principle. It was not until 1916 that the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the medical department of Columbia University, passed a resolution to admit women to its classes "as soon as facilities for this comfort and education can be secured."

Women, like men, students seem to have very generally forsaken the homeopathic medical schools, and gone for their instruction to the "regular" medical colleges. Dr. Maurice Fishbein, editor of the "Journal of the American medical Association"--which is now probably the strongest medical body in the world, representing as it does its membership more then 90,000 physicians and surgeons--published some statistics regarding homeopathy which will surprise the average layman. Homeopathy has been rapidly declining since the beginning of this century. When, in 1901, the American Medical Association began to publish its "journal," publicity was given to statistics of medical schools. In 1901 the nation possessed 124 regular medical schools, 10 eclectic schools, and 21 homeopathic schools. With this information before him, many an ambitious student preferred tot take the regular course than to throw in his lot with the homeopaths. Many homeopathic physicians recommended their students to go to allopathic colleges, the future of that school of medicine being most promising. Hence, it is not surprising to find that the homeopathic schools shrank seriously in numbers and enrollment as the years passed. In 1907 there were only seventeen homeopathic schools in the country; in 1908 there was one less; in 1910 there were only ten; a decade or so later there were only five; and the homeopathic medical schools of America in 1925 numbered only two.

Another reason for the decline of homeopathy is in the fact that some of the modern discoveries by medical scientists have somewhat shaken the principles of medicine on which Hahnemann built his theories more than a century ago. His similia similibus curantur built his theories after scientists found that malaria was caused by a living organism in the blood. Nevertheless, the theories of Hahnemann and the world-wide school of medicine, which was built upon them, were at least a definite influence for good, as it checked many abuses of medical practice.

A most important change in medical practice has come gradually during the last few decades. The family physician, who, in the old days had to meet and decide all his professional problems, has during recent decades gone with his perplexities, with increasing frequency, to the medical specialists. This has indeed become the age of specialization. Almost all the major diseases nowadays are treated by medical practitioners who, in graduate research, have centered their professional thought upon one specific branch of medicine. Consequently, therefore, they gain far more knowledge of their chosen branch than the general practitioner could ever hope to gain in general practice; and the latter has come to take his problems more and more confidently and frequently to the specialist.

The growth of medical specialization cannot be attributed wholly to deficiencies and ambitions of that profession, though, of course, the main factors are to be found within the profession. One of the reasons may have been in the somewhat superficial understanding of medicine with which many of the graduates of the poorer medical schools entered into general practice four or five decades ago. They were compelled to carry their difficulties to specialists, and a consulting practice became more and more lucrative, attracting, of course, more and more specialists. This, it would seem, was a minor factor, as the impetus of specialism in medicine has lain in the ever-increasing accessibility and ever-expanding scope of the graduate schools, and also in the vast strides taken by medical scientists in such well-endowed research schools as the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. Yet it was out of the minor factor that the main factors have grown. Dr. T. Gaillard Thomas, speaking at the corner stone laying of the New York Post-Graduate Medical School in 1882, reviewed medical education of the previous quarter of a century to show what need there was of a graduate school. He said:

Only a quarter of a century ago, the science and art of medicine were taught in this great metropolis in this way. On the first day of November three medical colleges opened their doors to a horde of the men, for the most part half-educated; delivered to them didactic lectures in their halls, clinical lectures in their hospitals, and instruction in the dissecting room, for four moths; and closed their doors on the first of March.

This was gone through three times. Then these students of medicine scattered themselves over the land, and usually took into their hands the dearest interests known to mankind.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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