Before the Medical & Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland was founded in 1799, there was actually a previous medical society, but it didn't last long.
In 1785, Dr. Charles F. Wiesenthal, Dr. Elisha John Hall of Frederick, and other physicians on the Western Shore gathered to discuss medical reform and the prevalence of quackery in the State. A plan was outlined to form a society, but rejected because of "present circumstances."
But Dr. Wiesenthal petitioned the state to create an early board of three physicians whose duty would be to examine and license all applicants. Fees paid would be used to create a library and later, perhaps, a medical college.
Dr. Wiesenthal had already established a small medical college, operated out of his home on Fayette, east of Gay Street. The "school" was a two-story building, about 70x20 feet, and had the materials to conduct dissections. However, that presented a problem when students from the school were given a corpse who arrived by boat. Even though the body was that of a murderer, the local populace was up in arms, and didn't think that the body should be dissected, so they "kidnapped" it.
Physicians in Baltimore were already loosely organized, and Dr. Wiesenthal had been elected President in 1788. They wanted to present a new law to the legislature that all physicians were to submit to examination and licensure. Unsurprisingly, there was a lot of objection to this proposal. But before much more could happen, Dr. Wiesenthal died in 1789.
Soon afterward, Dr. Wiesenthal's son, Andrew, returned home from London where he had been studying medicine, and was ready to take over what his father had started.
But by the spring of 1790, the Medical Society was riven with dissatisfaction and disaster, and soon was dissolved. Andrew continued with the medical school, and a course of classes was announced for 1790-91, but soon after, the school met the same fate as the society, and probably for the same reasons. However, Andrew continued with lectures for private students until his death in 1798.
The seeds for a medical society had been sown, and it would only be another year before the organization of physicians from each county in Maryland came together, and the legislature passed the bill creating our current organization.
Sadly, there are no contemporary documents or letters regarding the first medical society, save a medical diary and notebook from Professor Nathaniel Potter, one of the original faculty members at the medical college established in 1807, now the University of Maryland's School of Medicine.
All of this stems from an article that was published in Vereinsnachrichten, the newsletter of the German Society in Baltimore (Issue 116, January 2020), which was kindly given to me by the historian, Wayne Schaumberg.
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