On 24th June 1950 at the Society’s 8th meeting Professor Whitfield Bell described the life and work of John Morgan an Edinburgh medical gradutae of 1763.
Morgan was the principal founder of the first medical school in America, at Philadelphia in 1765. Indeed it was from the Edinburgh Medical School that the inspiration, the model, and the trained men to found this first medical school in America came. Morgan’s project for American medical practice and education comprised three heads. He wanted to raise the standards of professional practice by separating the practice of medicine from the practice of surgery and the sale of drugs. He founded a medical school in connection with a U niversity, and required candidates for medical degrees first to have had a sound general training in the liberal arts and sciences. He wanted to create in Philadelphia a College of Physicians like the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, of which he was a Fellow (1763), that physicians might exchange ideas’ and encourage and enforce high standards.
Professor Bell concluded that in some measure, Morgan failed in each of his enterprises. Philadelphia had only a population of some 30,000; the conditions of life in America were not suited to the kind of specialisation and the standard which existed in Britain. Ultimately, however, most of Morgan’s ideas were adopted, by other persons, and from this point of view he justified Benjamin Franklin’s prediction that he would” be of great use to his country and an honour to the Medical School of Edinburgh.”
This portrait, a copy of the original by Angelica Kaufman, hangs in the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh