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DR. JOHN FOTHERGILL

(1712 - 1781)

Dr. John Fothergill had his practice based in London, but was still instrumental in Pennsylvania Hospital history. A benevolent friend of Benjamin Franklin, he took great interest in assisting the hospital, and he helped Franklin to advance the new institution's interests in England. In 1762 he sent seven cases of anatomical drawings by Jan Van Rymsdyk (considered to be the best anatomical artist of his day) and three anatomical casts of a pregnant woman (on display along the south wall of the Historic Library) to Pennsylvania Hospital. The drawings and plaster casts were greatly valued by medical students and lay public alike, who attended anatomy lectures with Dr. William Shippen, Jr. for a small fee. The text of Dr. Fothergill's letter to Pennsylvania Hospital's Managers appears below (in the writing style of the day), as well as an excerpt from the Minutes of the meeting of the Board of Managers at which they received the gift.

Dr. Fothergill also donated the first book to the library: Experimental History of the Materia Medica by William Lewis (H. Baldwin, London: 1761). Dr. Fothergill's own investigations and writings covered the subjects of natural philosophy, therapeutics, pharmacy and botany - many of which are included in his collection of Works (Charles Dilly, London: 1784), also in the library's collection. Franklin said of his friend: "I can hardly conceive that a better man ever existed."

From Dr. Fothergill to James Pemberton, fourth secretary to the Board of Managers, April 7, 1762:

....I purpose to send by Docr Shippen a present to it of some intrinsic Value tho' not probably of immediate Benefitt, I need not tell thee that the Knowledge of Anatomy is of exceeding great use to Practitioners in Physic & Surgery & that the means of procuring Subjects with you are not easy, some pretty accurate anatomical Drawings about half as big as the Life have fallen into my hands & Which I purpose to send to your Hospital to be under the care of the Physicians & to be by some of them explained to the Students or pupils who may attend the Hospital.

In the want of real Subjects these will have their Use & I have recommended it to Dr. Shippen to give a Course of Anatomical Lectures to such as may attend, he is very well qualified for the Subject & will soon be followed by an able Assistant Dr. Morgan both of whom I apprehend will not only be useful to the Province in their Employments but if suitably countenanced by the Legislature will be able to erect a School for Physic amongst you that may draw many students from various parts of America & the West Indies & at least furnish them with a better Idea of the Rudiments of their Profession than they have at present the Means of acquiring on your Side of the Water.

Should the Managers of the Hospital think proper I could wish that if the Drawings & Casts I shall send P. the next Convoy come safe that they might be lodged in some low Apartment of the Hospital not to be seen by every Person but with the Permission of a Trustee & for some small Gratuity for the Benefitt of the House. The Drawings are in Crayons & should therefore not be kept in too dry a place nor shaked about too much."

From the Minutes of the Managers Meeting, November 9, 1762:

(The managers) Open'd three Cases containing Eighteen different curious Views of various parts of the Human Body in Crayons framed and glaized; three Cases of Anatomical Castings & one Case containing a Skeleton & Foetus...

if any Professor of Anatomy is desirous to exhibit Lectures he is to apply to them for Liberty.

All such Pupils as attend the said Lectures intended to be exhibited by Dr. Shippen or any other Person should pay a Pistole each.

And such Persons who from Curiosity may apply to view the said Paintings &c. should pay a Dollar each except the Managers and Physicians of the House. Which Gratuities shall be applied to the use of the Hospital.


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