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History of Medicine and the Civil War: A Guide -- Exhibit to accompany Binding Wounds, Pushing Boundaries: African Americans in Civil War Medicine: Dogwood, Poplar and Willow Bark -- Medical Therapy & Materia Medica

Jones Hall - January 8, 2018 to February 16, 2018.


Pharmacology was called "materia medica" in the 18th century.    During the Civil War American physicians rejected the French approach which was to wait for nature's cure and also other so called "heroic therapies' such as bloodletting, purging and enemas.  They administered drugs using a system known as "physiologcal materia medica".  Army medical examining boards tested physician candidates on the principles.  

The Matas Library has a print version of a materia medica by Francis Peyre Porcher (1825-1895) that belonged to Dr. Stanford E. ChailleĢ : Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests...Medical Botany of the Confederate States  prepared and published by order of the Surgeon-General, Richmond Virginia. Charleston, 1863.

This book served as a type of survival for the Confederate medical officers during the blockade of Southern ports. The work has been credited with maintaining the Southern war effort for many months longer than if it had not been written.  It allowed physicians to supply their medicinal needs by using locally available plants in the Southern states in the preparation of drugs. - Jeremy Norman's History of - 


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]

Images of The Prospectus

The Prospectus manuscript

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