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Tulane University's Contributions to Health Sciences research and education: A Guide: Dr. Thomas Hunt (1808-1867): Home

Distinguished Tulane Medical and Public Health Faculty and Tulane Health Sciences Alumni. Selected highlights on their contributions to medical science.

Thomas Hunt, Medical College of Louisiana, Founder (1834)

Thomas Hunt (Frontispiece) - New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, v.22, 1894

 

Frontispiece, New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, v.22, 1894

The Medical College of Louisiana, now Tulane University School of Medicine, was founded in 1834 by three young physicians: Dr. Thomas Hunt, Dr. John H. Harrison and Dr. Warren Stone.  In January 1835 the first lecture was delivered by Dr. Hunt in the Strangers Unitarian Church, thanks to Parson Theodore Clapp. Classes were taught in a variety of locations including Charity Hospital which predates the founding of the school by almost one hundred years.

The writer attributes the early existence of the college to Dr. Thomas Hunt and Dr. Warren Stone, who gravitated to New Orleans during the cholera epidemics in the early thirties. "Sickness was the reward of Dr. Hunt's efforts and poverty the result of Dr. Stone's journey."

Images of The Prospectus

The Prospectus manuscript

Biographical resources

Dr. Thomas Hunt (May 13, 1808 - March 20, 1867)

Three men, each only 26 years of age, founded the Medical College of Louisiana in 1834: Thomas Hunt of Charleston, South Carolina; Warren Stone of Vermont and John Harrison of Washington, D.C. 

President of the University of Louisiana -1868

Professor of Physiology and Pathology and Special Pathological Anatomy in the Medical Department of the University

Thomas Hunt was born in Charleston, South Carolina and graduated with a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1829.  While in medical practice in Charleston he received distinction for his successful treatment of cholera. 

When the ship, Amelia, wrecked off Folly Island off Charleston Harbor in 1832, Dr. Hunt at 24 years old, along with a passenger, Dr. Warren Stone, managed a outbreak of cholera among the crew and passengers.  He and Dr. Stone established a friendship and Dr. Hunt came to New Orleans in 1833. They are two of the original founders of the University of Louisiana. Dr. Hunt was the author of the prospectus for the organization.  He was appointed as the first Professor of Anatomy and Physiology and was elected Dean.  The first class had eleven students.  Dr. Hunt played a large role in creating a solid foundation for the institution and helped obtain a State endowment in 1843.  

Original Pamphlet Hunt T, Address to the Legislature, by the Dean of the Faculty of the Medical Department of the University of Louisiana Thomas Hunt, M.D., new Orleans, 1861When the new constitution for the State was adopted a clause was put into it establishing a State University and constituting the " Medical College of Louisiana," as then established as the Medical Department of the University. In 1847 Louisiana permitted the medical faculty to erect the first building it ever owned on a lot belonging to the State, on two conditions, first, that the members of the faculty should give their service to the Charity Hospital without pay, instead of being paid therefor, as had previously been the case.
 
By 1863 the Medical School had matriculated 4,119 students and had at the session of 1860-61 over 400 students. But when New Orleans was occupied in 1862 by the United States Navy and Army, the Medical Department suspended until the session of 1865-6.  "Dr. Hunt, whose fortunes were shattered and whose health was feeble, left New Orleans for a time and went to Havana, where his reputation brought him a large practice, despite the fact that at fifty-four years of age he was obliged to learn a new language, and where he received a degree in the name of the Royal University of Havana.   In 1865 the Medical Department re-opened.  Dr. Hunt returned and obtained a new appropriation from the Louisiana Legislature for the immediate needs of the College.    

He contributed to many medical journals and wrote on the treatment of yellow fever.  Dr. Hunt was house-surgeon at the New Orleans Charity Hospital and also served as President of the Physico-Medical Society.

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The First Circular or Prospectus of the Medical College of Louisiana

The Medical College of Louisiana, now Tulane University School of Medicine, was founded by three young physicians in 1834. They published a document, officially titled The First Circular or Prospectus of the Medical College of Louisiana. This is the original document pertaining to the establishment of Tulane University as a whole. This manuscript served as a copy for the printer announcement of and justification for the founding of the first medical school in New Orleans. It was drafted on 23 September 1834 by Dr. Thomas Hunt with the assistance of Dr's. John H. Harrison and Warren Stone. The Prospectus was published a week later, on 29 September 1834, in French and English versions on the front page of the L'Abeille (The Bee), the local, bilingual newspaper.  

The Prospectus caused a storm of controversy in New Orleans at the time. The French physicians of the community were outraged that these youthful American physicians of the community (the eldest of the three founders was twenty-six) should presume the latter were more qualified to teach medicine than the former.

With the formation of additional colleges, the Medial College of Louisiana evolved into the University of Louisiana in 1847. The University was renamed Tulane University, and became a wholly private institution in 1884.

 In selecting N. Orleans as a place for the location of their school the undersigned have been governed by the following among other considerations:

  • 1st Because it is the largest and most populous town in the South West, and the most accessible to students.
  • 2d Because its Hospitals which will be open to the undersigned for the purpose of instruction are the largest in the Southern and Western States: so that practical Medicine and Surgery can be taught at the bedside of the patient. -- the only proper place for their study.
  • 3d Because the study of Anatomy can be prosecuted with more advantage, and at a cheaper rate here than in any other city in the U.S.
  • 4th Because N.O. is so healthy during eight months in the year. that students can remain in it, and study the different types of disease at different seasons.
  • 5th Because it is a commercial town, and more surgical accidents occur to seamen than to any other class of individuals, and its is consequently the best field for the study of Surgery in the South West.
  • 6th Because in consequence of its great population its hospitals are always filled with patients. [picture of Prospectus text]
  • 7th Because, as the undersigned pledge themselves, students can get board at $25. a month.
  • The Lecture of the Medl. Col. of La. will commence on the 1st Monday of January 1835, and will continue for four months from that day -- 

Thos. Hunt, M.D. Prof of Anat. & Physiolgy 
Jno. Harrison, M.D. Adjunct 
Chas. A. Luzenberg, M.D. Prof. Surgery 
J. Munro Mackie, M.D. Prof. Theory Pract. Med. 
Thos. R. Ingalls, M.D. Prof. Chemistry 
Edwin Balhurst Smith, M.D. Prof. Mat. Med. 
Augustus H. Cenas, M.D. Prof. Obstet. & Dis. Women & Child. 
Thos. Hunt, M.D. Dean of the Faculty

[23 September 1834]

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