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COLLECTION Identifier: UAI 15.980

Records relating to the founding of the Hersey Professorship of the Theory and Practice of Physic

Overview

The committee reports and Corporation votes extracted from the Harvard Corporation meeting minutes in this collection document the legislative process by which the Hersey Professorship of the Theory and Practice of Physic, the Hersey Professorship of Anatomy and Surgery, and the Erving Professorship of Chemistry and Materia Medica, were established at Harvard College. The creation of these professorships led to the establishment of the Harvard Medical School in 1782.

Dates

  • 1771-1791.

Creator

Researcher Access

Records relating to the founding of the Hersey Professorship of the Theory and Practice of Physic are open for research. Access to fragile original documents may be restricted. Please consult the Public Services staff for further details.

Copying Restriction

Copying of fragile materials may be limited.

Extent

1 cubic feet (1 flat box)
The committee reports and Corporation votes extracted from the Harvard Corporation meeting minutes in this collection document the legislative process by which the Hersey Professorship of the Theory and Practice of Physic, the Hersey Professorship of Anatomy and Surgery, and the Erving Professorship of Chemistry and Materia Medica, were established at Harvard College. The creation of these professorships led to the establishment of the Harvard Medical School in 1782. The votes of the President and Fellows of Harvard College acknowledge Dr. Ezekiel Hersey's bequest of £1000 to Harvard College for the establishment of professorships in anatomy and physic and also ask Mrs. Sarah Derby (formerly Mrs. Hersey) for the loan of a portrait of Dr. Hersey so that a copy can be made and placed in the Philosophy Chamber with the portraits of the founders of other professorships. The extracts relative to medical professorships consist of a committee report and Corporation votes taken from the meeting minutes of the Harvard Corporation pertaining to the establishment of the medical professorships at Harvard University from September 19, 1782 to September 27, 1791. The committee report explains the deficiencies in medical instruction at Harvard in the late eighteenth century and outlines the rules for the appointment and removal of medical professors, specifies the qualifications needed for the professorship, and describes the professorships teaching responsibilities. The Corporation votes note the appointments of Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse as Professor of the Theory and Practice of Physic, Dr. Aaron Dexter as Professor of Chemistry and Materia Medica, and Dr. John Warren as Professor of Anatomy and Surgery. In addition, the votes document the attempts by the Corporation to improve and expand medical instruction at Harvard by seeking to establish a relationship with the Boston Overseers of the Poor to care for the sick in the local Alms House and by asking the Massachusetts General Hospital to organize a public infirmary to serve as a teaching hospital where Harvard medical students could observe their professors treating the sick and poor.

The records were assembled as an archival collection by the archivist at an unknown date from various sources without regard to original provenance in order to document University professorships.

Historical Note

In 1770, Dr. Ezekiel Hersey (1709-1770) bequeathed £1,000 to Harvard College for the support of a Professor of Anatomy and Physic. However, it was twelve years before the Corporation acted on Hersey's bequest to establish a professorship. This delay was due to the insufficient funding of the initial endowment and the monetary inflation of the American Revolutionary War which eroded the College's finances. In 1782, the Corporation decided to establish the "Medical Institution of Harvard University" and appointed Benjamin Waterhouse as Professor of the Theory and Practice of Physic (1783-1812), John Warren as Professor of Anatomy and Surgery (1782-1815), and Aaron Dexter as Professor of Chemistry and Materia Medica (1783-1816). These medical professorships were supported by a system of lecture fees rather than by a salary paid for by the Corporation.

In 1785, the Corporation voted to approve the use Ezekiel Hersey's legacy to support of the Professors of Anatomy and Surgery and the Theory and Practice of Physic, but due to insufficient funding the Board of Overseers rejected this proposal. Fortuitously for the future of the Harvard Medical School, two other members of the Hersey family later bequeathed legacies that doubled the size of the original Hersey bequest. In 1790, Dr. Hersey's widow, Sarah Derby, whose second husband was Richard Derby (1712-1783), a Salem ship owner, left £1,000 to the College to supplement Ezekiel's original bequest. As a result of this additional gift, the Corporation decided in 1791 to equally share the income of these Hersey bequests between a chair in Anatomy and Surgery and a chair in the Theory and Practice of Physic, giving the name of Hersey to both professorships. Two years later, in 1793, the College received £500 from the estate of Dr. Abner Hersey (1722-1787), Ezekiel's younger brother, to provide additional support for a Professor of Surgery and Physic.

Arrangement

The records in this collection are arranged chronologically.

Online access

All of the records have been digitized and are available online. Links accompany detailed descriptions.
Acquisition information The materials in this collection are University records and were acquired in the course of University business.

Two items were acquired through donation in October 1956 from John Gay:
Acquisition information
  1. Vote of the President and Fellows of Harvard College relative to Dr. Ezekiel Hersey's bequest, 1771 April 5.
  2. Vote of the President and Fellows of Harvard College relative to Dr. Exekiel Hersey's bequest, 1772 November 9.

Related Materials

In the Harvard University Archives
  1. The votes in this collection are further described in Harvard University. Corporation. Corporation records: minutes, 1643-1933: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua51010 (UAI 5.30.2, Volume II, 1750-1778; Volume III, 1778-1795).
  2. Jackson, James, 1777-1867. Records of the Hersey Professor of the Theory and Practice of Physic kept by James Jackson, 1814-1827 and undated (UAI 15.983): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua29011

References

  • Bentinck-Smith, William and Elizabeth Stouffer. "Hersey Professorship of the Theory and Practice of Physic, 1791." In Harvard University, History of Named Chairs: Sketches of Donors and Donations. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Secretary to the University, 1991.
  • Quincy, Josiah. The History of Harvard University. Vol. 2. Cambridge, Massachusetts: John Owen, 1840.

General note

This document last updated 2018 November 26.

Processing Information

This material was first classified and described in a Harvard University Archives shelflist prior to 1980. The material was re-processed in 2011. Re-processing involved a collection survey, enhanced description of items from the eighteenth century, and the creation of this finding aid.

This finding aid was created by Dominic P. Grandinetti in June 2011.

Preservation and description of the Records relating to the founding of the Hersey Professorship of the Theory and Practice of Physic was supported, in part, by the Arcadia-funded project Harvard in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.
Link to catalog
Title
Harvard University. Corporation. Records relating to the founding of the Hersey Professorship of the Theory and Practice of Physic, 1771-1791: an inventory
EAD ID
hua27011

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

Contact:
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