The Autobiographical Ana of Robley Dunglison, M. D

The Autobiographical Ana of Robley Dunglison, M. D

The Autobiographical Ana of Robley Dunglison, M. D

The Autobiographical Ana of Robley Dunglison, M. D


Robley Dunglison, distinguished American medical educator,1 was brought to this country from England in 1825 to serve as the Professor of Medicine at the newly founded University of Virginia. While there he was personal physician to Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe and was called into consultation in the treatment of Andrew Jackson.2 Leaving Virginia in 1833, he taught for three years at the University of Maryland, and then for the rest of his life at Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia.

Dunglison Ana, prepared in Philadelphia, about 1852, were designed to preserve personal recollections and records thought to be of particular interest to his family. To the original eight holograph volumes he added supplementary notes from time to time. Thus the work is not a diary, or even an autobiography in the usual sense. Seven of these volumes were presented to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1904 by Mrs. Violette Fisher Dunglison, widow of Dr. Dunglison's son, Richard, and the eighth, with the supplementary notes, was given to the College in 1933 by its then recently retired librarian, Mr. Charles Perry Fisher.

The decision to publish the Ana was based on a number of considerations. In the first place it is evident that Dunglison himself hoped for eventual publication. But more than this, what he has written has achieved historical importance after lying fallow for over a hundred years. Furthermore, his personal recollections of four American presidents, as well as intimate anecdotes concerning a great number of other prominent men of the nineteenth century, promise to be of great interest to general historians as well as to those concerned with biography. Much of what he records here about medical schools with which he was connected directly and indirectly is practically unknown, while significant aspects of his own work, particularly in the field of medical literature, are here publicly presented for the first time. Significant, too, is the extended account of his participation in the experiments of William Beaumont on the physiology of gastric digestion.

The Dunglison manuscripts have not been generally known to scholars. Dr. Samuel D. Gross used them in the preparation of a biographical sketch of Dr. Dunglison not long after his death.3 Henry S. Randall consulted the Ana while preparing the biography of Thomas Jefferson during Dunglison's lifetime,4 and Robert C. McLean used them in writing a biography of George Tucker as recently as 1961. But nearly all others who have mentioned Dunglison's memoranda seem to have been unaware of the existence of the originals.

Reminiscences such as the Ana contain may be colored by personal bias; with this in mind, Dunglison, who kept copies of much of his correspondence, and retained other records of his many activities, backed up much of his statements with documentary proof. This adds to the historical value of these memorabilia. There is a serious dearth of personal documentation such as this. The account of his training and professional activities before leaving England for America reveals the difficult path in the way of an aspirant to a specialized career in medical teaching and writing. He exerted a decided influence upon the form and direction of medical education in the United States, and three medical schools with which he was associated have endured. To their lasting success he contributed no small part.

During his teaching career at Jefferson Medical College, he attracted many students from all parts of . . .

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