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Stanford University School of Medicine and the Predecessor Schools: An Historical Perspective
Part III. Founding of First Medical School and Successions 1858-

Chapter 17. Third and Fourth Annual Sessions Medical Department, University of the Pacific and Demise of Medical Societies

Third Annual Session of the Medical Department
November 1860 to March 1861

The first two sessions of the school were held from May to September because the summer months in San Francisco are cool and quite satisfactory for anatomical dissection. Other medical colleges in the country, not being so favored, generally scheduled their classes during the winter. In order to be in conformity with eastern institutions, the Faculty decided to conduct the third and future sessions from the first Monday in November to mid-March. The Preliminary Course of gratis lectures, usually delivered during the month preceding the session, was omitted in 1860 because of the previous session having been so recently concluded.[1][2][3]

Seventeen students were matriculated for the third session, an increase of three over the class size of the previous session.[4]

In October 1860, anticipating the beginning of the third session of the school, Cooper recalled the opposition it had now begun to overcome:[5]

Though the Faculty of the Medical Department of the University of the Pacific has met with a degree of unjust opposition, almost unparalleled in the history of new medical schools, probably none other ever complained or faltered less. Not two years have elapsed since the opening ceremonies were held, publicly inaugurating the school. Many spoke of it as a "magnificent humbug," gotten up by the "self-created professors," simply for the purpose of producing an excitement, for selfish ends only; but it is very different now. There is hardly an enemy of the school who would dare to risk his reputation as a man of sense, by stating that he does not believe it to be a permanent institution.

Cooper Congratulates the Faculty

In January 1861, midway in the session, Cooper evaluated the performance of the Faculty that had now gained maturity and a firm sense of purpose:[6]

The present (third) session of this Medical College commenced under far more flattering auspices than ever before. The Faculty are now receiving the most unequivocal evidence that a sphere of great usefulness is open to them, if they adhere to their original designs of laboring unceasingly for the success of the great object of their ambition, viz: the building up an Institution that will stand forever as a monument of the industry and devotion of medical men, to the advancement of medical science, during the earlier days of California.

The Faculty of this School have made no false step. They have not been compromised by imprudent haste to make an early impression in its favor, but have worked quietly and faithfully to teach, in the most thorough manner, all the students resorting to the School for instruction; and the fact is already patent, on this coast, that students, expecting to graduate, must be prepared to pass successfully a most rigid examination, and, for this same reputation, the College has, even thus early, lost students. But it is the design to make the standards of qualifications for a degree as high, if not higher, than that of any other Medical College in the United States. . .

This Faculty have done nothing for display. They have been led on by none of the troublesome infatuations that encumber the early efforts to establish many medical schools, the Faculties of which, at a premature period, make immense and unnecessary sacrifices for the purpose of erecting gorgeous buildings, to accommodate a dozen or twenty students.


The third session went smoothly and Commencement Exercises were held on the evening of 14 March 1861 before a large audience in Tucker's Hall. Five students completed their medical studies during the third session. They were joined by the student who had graduated the previous year so that M. D. degrees were formally conferred on all six students during the ceremony.[7]

Professor Carman Resigns, Professor Gibbons Appointed

Henry Gibbons, Sr. (1808-1884)

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A photo ofHenry Gibbons, Sr. (1808-1884)

In the interval between the third and fourth sessions, significant changes occurred in the faculty. Dr. B. R. Carman, Professor of Materia Medica, resigned his chair because of illness and moved from San Francisco to Mexico where he made his permanent home. The Board of Trustees of the University of the Pacific promptly appointed Dr. Henry Gibbons to replace Dr. Carman as Professor of Materia Medica. Cooper characterized Dr. Gibbons as a pleasing and ready speaker, a terse and vigorous writer, and one of the most faithful laborers in the cause of medical science on the Pacific coast. Professor Gibbons was already acquainted with the laborious duties of a medical lecturer, having for some time occupied a chair in the Philadelphia College of Medicine.[8][9]

Professor Levi Cooper Lane Appointed

As we have already reported, Dr. Levi Cooper Lane paid a visit to San Francisco in 1860 while serving as a naval surgeon aboard the U. S. Warren. At that time he decided to resign his commission and undertake studies in Europe preparatory to an appointment in the Medical Department. While in Europe during 1860-61 he took special courses at the University of Göttingen in Germany, including vivisection with Rudolph Wagner and Physiological and Toxicological Chemistry with Professors Boedeker and Woehler. At Paris, besides attending some of the principal hospitals, he attended a course of vivisections under Flourens, and a course of chemical lectures under Fremy and Chevreul. Upon his return to San Francisco in the spring of 1861, Dr. Lane was appointed Professor of Physiology in the Medical Department, taking over that assignment from Dr. Cole who continued to serve as Professor of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children, and Dean.[10]

In addition to his duties as a lecturer on Physiology and assistant to Cooper in his practice at the Pacific Clinical Infirmary, Lane began immediately to write book reviews for the San Francisco Medical Press, this being a first step in his increasing responsibility for editing the journal.[11]

Fourth Annual Session of the Medical Department
November 1861 to March 1862

Faculty during the Fourth Session

Reflecting the resignation of Dr. Carman and the appointment of Drs. Gibbons and Lane, the Faculty for the fourth session was expanded from the original six Professors to the following seven:

  • J. Morison, M. D.
    Professor of Pathology and Principles and Practice of Medicine
  • Isaac Rowell, M. D.
    Professor of Chemistry
  • R. Beverly Cole, M. D., Dean
    Professor of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women
  • E. S. Cooper, M. D.
    Professor of Anatomy and Surgery
  • Henry Gibbons, M. D.
    Professor of Materia Medica
  • Levi C. Lane, M. D.
    Professor of Physiology
  • Hon. George Barstow
    Professor of Medical Jurisprudence

Early in this narrative we referred to the vital roles of Henry Gibbons and Levi Lane, and the special ties that guided and sustained their efforts, during the formative and later years of the new institution. We shall in due course learn how these two men, having joined the Faculty on the eve of an unforeseen crisis that threatened the life of the school, were ultimately responsible for its survival - thereby affirming the ambiguous theorem that: "Man is not the creature of circumstances. Circumstances are the creatures of men."[12]

Matriculates and Graduates

Twenty-eight students registered for the fourth session, up from seventeen matriculates in the third session. The Fourth Commencement of the Medical Department was held on 13 March 1862, and the degree of M. D. was conferred on five graduates. The marked difference between class size and number of graduates in this and previous sessions was in consequence of the high standards and rigorous examinations to which all students were subjected, "regardless of influence, money or favor." Outlook for the school seemed promising indeed at the close of the fourth session.[13]

The Commencement Address, full of pithy advice and wry humor, was delivered to the graduates by Professor Gibbons. Some excerpts will convey the tone of his remarks:[14]

Let me commend you to thorough rather than extensive reading. It is as easy to read too much as to eat too much. The digestive powers of the mind are limited, as well as those of the stomach. Thorough is infinitely better than extensive reading. The multiplication of books is the curse of the age. If the aspirant for the immortality of authorship can do no better, he works up an old book in a new style, throwing in handfuls of Greek words for seasoning. . . .

I would not dissuade you from authorship, if you have anything worth writing. But when you use the pen, express yourselves distinctly, and in the simple vernacular, as far as possible. An old alchemist prefaced his book with the caution that it was to be understood in an incomprehensible way. Be careful not to mystify yourselves or your readers. . .

There is a subject to which I desire to call your special attention - autopsic examinations. These have been culpably neglected in California, rather from indifference on the part of physicians, than for want of opportunity. Knowledge useful to the living is invariably derived from inspection of the dead. Intelligent people seldom object. So much importance have physicians attached to this subject, that they have frequently left instructions to have their bodies inspected after death for the purpose of removing the popular prejudice against dissection. . .

There are fashions in medicine which it is often needful to resist - fashions within the pale of the profession, and fashions in the popular crowd without. . . Formerly it was the fashion with physicians to drug their patients liberally. This was necessary, forasmuch as the skill of the doctor was measured by the number and magnitude of his potions. There was another advantage from this treatment. When I was a boy, the rising generation stood in reverential awe of turbulent tartar, with gallon drenches of warm water - of Glauber's Salts, spiced with senna - of rich, old-fashioned Castor Oil. The consequence was, we did not dare to get sick more than once a year.. . .

There is one fashion in Medicine handed down from the past generation, which persists unchangeably, and seems likely to be perpetual: I allude to the prescription of alcoholic beverages. These are recommended to an immense extent, and in defiance of all moral considerations. . . Alcoholic medicines have this superlative merit, that the patient is sure to give them a thorough trial. Perhaps they are taken by physicians, to refute the slander that doctors have never been known to swallow their own physic.

First Hospital Facilities Acquired for Teaching

n the spring of 1862 Dr. James. P. Whitney, having made peace with Cooper, invited the medical students to attend his rounds and conferences at St. Mary's Hospital, recently opened by the Sisters of Mercy on a beautiful site at First and Bryant Streets overlooking the Bay. Four stories high, the building was divided into twelve large, commodious general wards, and a like number of smaller wards, all furnished and equipped in a manner comparable to the best hospitals in the East.

The Hospital was under the professional charge of Dr. Lee, as Resident, and Drs. Bowie, Toland and Whitney, as Visiting Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Whitney's morning rounds were from 9 to 10 on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and his evening conferences were on the same days from 8 to 9. In the mornings, the students were afforded the opportunity to observe and record cases, and listen to practical remarks upon them by Dr. Whitney and his colleagues. In the evenings Dr. Whitney expounded his views on Practical Medicine and Surgery. His lectures included wholesome counsel on the advantages and disadvantages, pleasures and perplexities attendant on the study and practice of medicine. His first Summer Course of Clinical Instruction was announced to begin on the 2nd Tuesday in June 1862, and to continue for three months This was the first hospital-based course of clinical instruction for medical students in the far West.[15][16]

Dr. Whitney was a voluble speaker with an exceptional command of the medical literature. He obviously enjoyed regaling the students and, as an instructor, was quite popular. The importance of his contribution to the teaching program was recognized in early 1863 by his appointment as Professor of Physiology. According to the Annual Announcement for 1863-64, the title was later changed to Professor of Institutes of Medicine.[17]

It was thus through Dr. Whitney's influence that the Medical Department acquired its first formal access to a general hospital. He was doubtless motivated to make this arrangement by the fact that his son, James D. Whitney, was a first-year medical student in the University of the Pacific in 1861-62. James continued as a second-year student in 1862-63 and was awarded the M. D. degree in March 1863. Incidentally, James was a classmate of the son of Professor Henry Gibbons, Henry Gibbon, Jr., who also graduated in 1863.

Demise of Medical Societies

Now that we have seen Cooper's fledgling medical school safely through its fourth session in the spring of 1862, it is time to consider the fate of the medical societies in which he was deeply involved. He had made remarkable progress, against persistent and unscrupulous opposition, toward the goals he conceived in 1855. He had:

  • established a Clinic and Infirmary
  • inaugurated a teaching program in Anatomy and Surgery
  • acquired a large surgical practice
  • organized medical societies (local and state)
  • published a medical journal
  • founded a medical school.

These were gratifying achievements, except that now the local and state medical societies he sponsored early in his California sojourn were both in a precarious state. When proposing the formation of a State Medical Society in letters to Thomas Logan in 1855, Cooper stated his conviction that:

Nothing in my humble opinion would go so far towards the elevation of Medicine and Surgery and suppressing Quackery as a well organized State Association connected with local Societies all having unanimity of feeling and concurrence of action and composed of working liberal men who consider no efforts of their own as any sacrifice provided the good of the profession is enhanced thereby.

This admirable credo was expressed in a season of hope before the advertising of his Infirmary and the aggressive promotion of his teaching program and surgical practice had offended entrenched physicians in San Francisco. As we have seen, they formed an implacable clique against him and sought to frustrate all his projects, especially the State Medical Society.

The subsequent discord among the doctors in the community threatened the survival of the San Francisco County Medico-Chirurgical Association and the California State Medical Society. Cooper had been a central figure in the development of both these organizations and their current malaise, to which he had contributed by his own missteps, was of such concern to him that he addressed the subject in an editorial in the first issue of the San Francisco Medical Press in January 1860:[18]

Medical Associations. Their true Designs. Too often Medical Societies are converted into medico-political engines, used for accomplishment of individual and selfish designs; and then they lose their dignified character and become, like too many other organizations, not only useless, but pernicious. Medical Societies should be entirely free from selfish objects and influences. They should be confined to the discussion of medical subjects, and to collecting the fruits of the labors of the various members, that all may enjoy the benefits of their discoveries and united experience. Individual quarrels should never be brought into Societies for Medical Improvement. All those matters should be settled outside. Thus far, Medical Societies in California, while they have not failed in accomplishing many of the objects for which they should be formed, have had their usefulness much impaired by the intrigues of a few designing medical men, who have gained admission for no other purpose than to use them for selfish ends. Fortunately, however, these parties are becoming well known and hence their unworthy objects must meet with defeat, and the cause of Medical Science escape the injury and reproach that their success would have brought upon it.

Cooper was painfully accurate in the observation, based on his own experience, that interpersonal conflict was the bane of California medical societies. With characteristic resolve, he set out at once to do all he could through the pages of the Medical Press to restore harmony and revitalize the flagging programs of the Medico-Chirurgical Association and the State Medical Society.

San Francisco Medico-Chirurgical Association

The January 1860 issue of the Press included the following editorial regarding the Association:[19]

This Society was organized in August, 1855. Though its proceedings have been marred by considerable discord, it has still done much in the cause of the profession. During the first year of its organization, it had forty-six regular meetings, and twenty-one original papers were read. Many of the discussions held during that time would have been creditable to any Medical Association. But at present, its meetings, though harmonious and profitable when they do occur, are irregular. We hope the members will not lose the character they have so justly earned, of being the most liberal and industrious of any constituting a Medical organization in this city.

The effect on the Medico-Chirurgical Association of Cooper's encouraging words, accompanied by his personal participation in the Association meetings, was prompt - and a tribute to his considerable influence. In the April 1860 issue of the Press he was able to report:[20]

This Association, which is and has always been the only working medical society in this city, has now regular meetings at the office of Dr. B. R. Carman, corner of Dupont and Washington streets, every Monday, at 8 o'clock, P. M.

At each meeting, original papers are read, discussions of medical subjects are had, and reports of important medical and surgical cases are made. Every medical man in this city, who wishes to see the profession advance, should become a member.

Officers for the ensuing year were elected and included Professors Carman (Vice-President), Cooper (Corresponding Secretary), Cole (Recording Secretary), and Rowell and Morison (Board of Censors). The redoubtable Dr. Henry Gibbons was also on the Board of Censors. We can discern the guiding hand of Cooper In this resurrection of the Association since half the newly-elected officers were Professors in his new school, and Cooper himself was restored to his original office of Corresponding Secretary.

Cooper now used the Press to promote the Association. He published the Proceedings of its meetings in the numbers for July and October 1860 and January 1861, reporting that a wide range of topics was discussed with a lively airing of opinions. Nevertheless, in spite of this promising revival induced by Cooper, we find no further mention of the Association in the Press or elsewhere after January 1861. We can only assume that conditions in San Francisco were not yet conducive to the long survival of a local medical society devoted to medical improvement; and that the Association, in spite of the driving force of Cooper, quietly expired.

California State Medical Society

Our last summary of a meeting of the California State Medical Society concerned the Fourth Session held in Sacramento in February 1859. On that occasion Beverly Cole narrowly escaped censure and expulsion for his defamatory comments on California women in his Report on Obstetrics and Diseases of Women. The meeting was so contentious that, on the recommendation of Dr. Gibbons, the members agreed not to publish the minutes. Therefore, our only account of the meeting is that reported in the Sacramento Daily Union. We should also recall that the dissension stirred up by the attack on Cooper during the Third Session, and on Cole during the Fourth, resulted in wholesale resignation from the Society by disgruntled members.

As a result of these unfortunate events, the future of the State Medical Society was quite uncertain during the period leading up to the Fifth Session scheduled to convene in Sacramento on 8 February 1860. No one understood the gravity of the situation better than Cooper, or felt it more personally. As the prime mover in the founding of the Society and its most devoted advocate, he was determined to prevent its demise by rallying the faithful members. in December 1859 he addressed to them the following letter:[21]

San Francisco, 20 December 1859

Dear Sir,
On the 8th of February 1860 will be held a Medical Convention at Sacramento for the purpose of forming a new State Medical Society, or of restoring the old to the advancement of the objects for which it was organized, and your former enthusiasm induces me to think the profession of the State should count much on your future efforts in furthering this great work.

I know that the discord and confusion which have reigned in the heart of the association from its formation have been enough to discourage you in your attempts to ameliorate the condition of the profession. It has been enough even to disgust one, but when we consider that this has all been the work of a few individuals, why should we let it lessen our efforts in subserving the cause of our noble profession.

I as an individual have submitted to insults too great almost to be borne both in connection with and out of the State Medical Society, and which with few exceptions I have suffered to pass unnoticed for the sake of harmony, and I do not regret having done so.

(I have great satisfaction in) meeting medical men in Convention, whose enthusiasm increases my own, and whose love of the profession is easy to perceive though checked by the treatment of unprincipled men in our ranks. The pleasure of seeing all the high-toned, and honorable medical men in California brought together in harmonious cooperation for the elevation of our beloved profession would compensate me for years of insult offered by unworthy medical men, who are not really worth minding at last.

All true friends of medical improvement in our State should be present on the 8th of February. Cannot I count on you? Remember the eyes of the whole medical world are upon us. Let us exceed the most sanguine anticipations of the medical profession abroad in our efforts to advance medical science on the coast.

Yours respectfully,
E. S. Cooper, M. D.

Fortunately, the publication of the first issue of the Press in January 1860 gave him a further opportunity to announce that the Society would meet in February and that "it should not be forgotten or unattended by any one who has the good of the profession at heart." This announcement was accompanied in the same issue of the Press by the following editorial in which he traces "for the record" the Society's vexed course:[22]

State Medical Society. Nothing more was wanting to convince us that great spirit and energy existed in the Medical profession of California, than the promptitude with which the members responded to the call for a Convention to form a State Association. Nearly one hundred were present, which is more than double the number that constituted the Convention which formed the American Medical Association. A more intelligent assemblage of medical men we never saw. This was in February, 1856, a few months after our arrival on this coast; and it is unnecessary to say that we felt proud of the Medical profession of the State we had selected as the place of our permanent home.

But the spirit of discord entered that Convention. Medical men, who opposed the formation of a State Medical Society, were there, and were present because they intended either to break up the Convention, or to convert it into an engine to be devoted to the accomplishment of their own wishes. Their designs were not discovered and their influence prevailed. They were elected to the offices, appointed chairmen of all the committees, and, in fact, had the entire management of the Society in their own hands. Medical men who had thought of nothing but the reading of papers and the discussion of medical subjects, were soon found to be greatly their inferiors in medico-political management; and the consequence was that the working men of the profession became disgusted, and many of them did not attend the subsequent meetings. There is, however, an abundance of good material now in the Society, if it can be brought together and harmonized, to make one of the most efficient State Medical Societies in the Union.

Bitterness and recrimination are tempered with nostalgia and lingering hope in these brief reflections of Cooper on the intrigues that had now brought the Society to the brink of ruin.

Fifth Annual Session of the Medical Society of the State of California
Sacramento, 8-9 February 1860

The meeting was opened by President R. B. Ellis in the chair.

When the roll was called only fourteen members answered to their names. Only three of the members were from San Francisco, namely Professors Cooper and Rowell, and Dr. B. A. Sheldon who was Recording Secretary of the Society. There were eight members from Sacramento and three from towns in that vicinity.[23]

Letters of resignation were received from two more influential members, Drs. S. M. Mouser and John F. Morse of Sacramento, both of whom served on the Committee on Medical Education. Dr. Morse, and Dr. Thomas M. Logan who had resigned in 1859, were chiefly responsible for aligning the Sacramento Medical Society with Cooper's original proposal to establish the State Society. Five new members were admitted to the State Society during the session, more than offsetting the numerical loss of two by resignation.

The Finance Committee reported that previous imprudent expenditures had resulted in the accumulation of an unfunded debt of about five hundred dollars. It was necessary to raise this amount at once by voluntary contributions from the much reduced membership of the Society. Cooper was greatly heartened by the manner in which the members, present and absent, responded to the fiscal emergency. They promptly retired the debt by personal donations. This led the ever-hopeful Cooper to declare that[24]

Now no medical man of intelligence in California can doubt but that the (Society) will occupy in future a sphere of great usefulness and distinction. We may expect its sessions to be occupied henceforth by the reading of reports containing the improvements and discoveries made in medicine and surgery throughout the State, during each year, by which every member may be a recipient of the benefits conferred by the industry and invention of all others.

Selection of officers was the next order of business and the following were duly elected:

  • President: Isaac Rowell, M. D.
  • Vice Presidents: R. Beverly Cole, M. D., and three others
  • Corresponding Secretary: E. S. Cooper, M. D.
  • Censors: Henry Gibbons, M. D. and six others

With respect to the Standing Committees normally appointed during the session by the incoming President, it was decided to grant President Rowell a period of three months in which to make his selections. (We have been unable to find a list of the members of these Standing Committees although we do know that Cooper was appointed to the Standing Committee on Surgery.)

All the malcontents and disillusioned members of the Society having now resigned, the above slate of officers was congenial to Cooper and to his conception of the Society's proper functions. Small wonder that he should at this point breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to the "unanimity of feeling and concurrence of action" which had so far been absent from the Society's annual proceedings.

The latter part of each session was customarily allocated to the scientific program and Reports of Standing Committees. On this occasion there were no papers to be presented and only Cooper was prepared with a Committee Report. He, in his usual thorough manner, delivered an elaborate three-part Report from the Committee on Surgery. He began with an exposition on the importance of early, wide and open drainage of septic joints, insisting that admission of air into joints is not harmful as commonly supposed. He then discussed successful reimplantation of a traumatically amputated thumb, and the capacity of bone to reconstitute itself after being subperiosteally resected. All this was most favorably received and the discussion was animated. Cooper was elated for there was more good feeling and rapport among the small group than the beleaguered Society had yet seen.

As a kind of benediction at the close of this gratifying session, Cooper offered the following Resolution:

Resolved: That the members present pledge themselves to fidelity in carrying out the objects for which the Society was formed, viz: promoting unanimity of feeling and concurrence of action among medical men of the State, in their efforts to advance our noble profession.

The Resolution was adopted and the Society adjourned, sine die. The session had lasted only two days instead of the usual three.

In the months following the Fifth Session Cooper made a valiant effort to restore the confidence and interest of the medical profession in the State Society. He wrote two lengthy editorials in the Medical Press and a letter to the membership exhorting all hands to attend the Sixth Session which was scheduled to begin on 13 February 1861. The meeting was again to be held on the neutral ground of Sacramento.

In his two editorials, published in the October 1860 and the January 1861 issues of the Press, Cooper again reviewed the history of the Society, rebuked those enemies of medical improvement who sought its control for selfish purposes, and praised the Society's great potential - "so that a brilliant career may justly be anticipated for it in the future; and let not those who wish to see the profession of the State advance, fail to be in attendance at the next meeting."[25][26]

The following is the letter sent by Cooper to all California physicians urging their attendance at the 1861 Session of the State Society:[27]

San Francisco, 10 December 1860

Dear Sir,
As Corresponding Secretary of the State Medical Society it becomes my duty to memorialize the members of the approaching Anniversary which will be on 13 February 1861; and not knowing who or where all the members are I send this circular to all the medical men of the State whose names and Post Office addresses are recorded in the State Register, thinking thereby to be sure of notifying all. It is desirable to have members who can attend the meeting to do so because all will thereby be benefited by the mutual labor of all. In our profession the members perform so much (intense) labor and submit to so many self sacrifices that it becomes our duty to ourselves and to our common cause to stand by each other in every honorable way and nothing strengthens our bond of union so much as meeting each other frequently in associations for medical improvement.

I would most earnestly recommend the formation of local medical societies in every county in the State where none exist at this time. From those, delegates should be sent to the meetings of the State Society so that every part of the State may be represented.

Finally I would beg to urge those who have been appointed upon the Standing Committees to be prepared to make full reports by the time of the approaching meeting so that not only unanimity of feeling and concurrence of action may prevail but also that the accumulation of valuable facts embraced in the reports may this year give a decided advance to Medicine and Surgery on this coast.

E.S. Cooper, M. D.
Corresponding Secretary
State Medical Society

Sixth Annual Session of the Medical Society of the State of California Sacramento, 13-14 February 1861

The minutes of the Sixth Annual Session were never published as far as we know. The following information regarding the session was obtained from a handwritten copy of the minutes found in the E. S. Cooper Collection at the California Historical Society Library in San Francisco.[28]

The meeting was called to order by President Isaac Rowell at 11:30 A. M. on 13 February. The number of members in attendance is uncertain, but from the names mentioned in the minutes it appears that thirteen were present. Again there were only three members from San Francisco. These were Professors Cooper, Cole and Rowell. There were five members from Sacramento, and five from the vicinity of Sacramento and north. One resignation was received, and one new member was admitted to the Society.

After transaction of some routine business President Rowell delivered his Annual Address, of which we have no record. This was followed by selection of a full complement of Society officers and Standing Committees for 1861. Dr. S. F. Hamm of Diamond Springs in El Dorado County was elected President. He was originally from Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1848. Dr. Cooper was reelected Corresponding Secretary.[29][30]

Reports of Standing Committees now being in order, the only one prepared to speak was Dr. Cooper who presented the Report on Surgery. The substance of his remarks was not recorded in the minutes, but we know that his presentation was as usual a lengthy one, requiring continuation into the second day of the meeting. His remarks were followed by a paper on diphtheria by Dr. Hubbard of Marysville and a second paper on the same subject by Dr. Pierson of Sacramento.

The program was completed by the end of the second day and, having no further business to transact or scientific reports to consider, the Society adjourned on February fourteenth after what appears to have been a lackluster session.

The attendance figures of the 1860 and 1861 sessions showed that the physicians of San Francisco (except for Cooper and his associates) had abandoned the State Society, and that it now depended for its existence on less than a dozen Sacramento and other up-country doctors. Yet Cooper's editorial describing the 1861 session was reassuring:[31]

The Sixth Annual Meeting of the Medical Society of the State of California was held at Sacramento in February 1861.

The attendance was not very large, but the proceedings throughout were characterized by harmony among the members, great enthusiasm in the cause of the medical profession of California, and a determination to make the Society a great contributor to the progress of medical science on this coast. . .

We regret that so few medical men of the State take an interest in the Society, and that the burden of keeping it up rests upon a few, but we feel fully compensated for our regrets, in the fact, that the few so manfully and enthusiastically perform this great duty. We are glad that there are medical men in California, who fully comprehend the obligations they owe, alike to themselves and their profession, in keeping up societies for medical improvement, and that nothing dampens their ardor. Their courage is invincible, and a few years more will suffice to show the results of their labors, not only by their own advancement but that of the science of medicine on this coast. They have wills as strong as destiny itself. Stimulated by a love for the profession, affection and sympathy for each other, and untiring energies, what utter folly to talk of anything but great success in the end?

These were Cooper's brave last words on the subject of the California State Medical Society. There is no further mention of the State Society in his writings or a clue anywhere as to why a Seventh Session was never convened. Great were his expectations when he brashly launched the drive for a State Society in 1855, only three months after his arrival in San Francisco. Six years later it quietly disappeared from the scene.

Could it be that events outside the medical sphere discouraged Cooper from continuing his vigorous editorial advocacy for the Society? There was no hint in the Medical Press or in the handwritten minutes of the Sixth Session that a great national catastrophe was impending during the early months of 1861. The declaration of the Confederate States of America took place on 8 February 1861, five days before the convening of the Session.

The Confederacy consisted of the southern States that were determined to secede from the Union if necessary to protect, expand and perpetuate the slavery of the Negro race. Other factors influenced the States' decision but slave labor was the linchpin of the movement. In his inaugural address on 4 March 1861 as the sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln warned the secessionists that the momentous issue of civil war was in their hands, that there would be no conflict without their being the aggressors. They responded on 12 April 1861 by firing the first gun of the Civil War in an unprovoked attack on Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. The disunionists had fired on the flag, the North was inflamed and the issue was joined.[32]

In his authoritative recounting of California's Medical Story, Dr. Henry Harris suggested that the stupendous tragedy of the Civil War was responsible for the "disorganization" of the State Society. He also pointed out that Professor Isaac Rowell was a highly vocal abolitionist and that his identification with the Society would probably have alienated physicians of "Southern breeding and sympathies."[33]

While the outbreak of the Civil War may have had some bearing on the dissolution of the State Society, it was probably not the major cause for the following reasons. California's constitution banned slavery and there was never serious doubt of its adherence to the Union. The State was so far from the scenes of bloodshed and destruction east of the Mississippi, that social order in California was little disrupted. Many doctors volunteered or were called to military duty, but the majority remained and could have supported medical societies had they been so inclined.

Why then did medical organizations in general, and the State Society in particular, fail to thrive on the coast both before and after beginning of the war? In January 1865 when Henry Gibbons became editor of the Medical Press, he pondered the question. As the cause for the demise of medical societies, he cited indifference of the doctors and attempts to subvert the societies into courts of enquiry and condemnation, and he pled for restoration of the societies as a means of combating these very conditions:[34]

Something Wrong. There is not one medical society in California, nor as far as we know, anywhere in the three States of the Pacific (at this time). It makes our ears tingle to record the shameful fact. Not even in San Franciso, where there are two hundred regularly educated physicians, is there an association of medical men for the advancement of the interests of the profession and of science. In years past there have been societies in active and useful operation in several localities; but they have died, either from indifference on the part of the members, or the attempt to subvert them into courts of enquiry and condemnation, for the purpose of punishing certain individuals who may have given offense to others. Cliques and coteries are the invariable result of the absence of associations. The existence of such nuisances is the objection mostly presented, when the proposal is made to form a society. "You cannot maintain a society. There is not enough esprit de corps - too much petty jealousy - too many Ishmaelites." Thus do men talk, pleading the disease as an objection to the remedy.

Societies would cure the evil, or at least tend to that result. Their absence foments exclusiveness, envy, snarling, and irregularities of all kinds. Social intercourse is the great need of our profession in California. Beneath its genial influence, petty jealousies and suspicions would vanish, and give place to mutual respect and confidence. Besides, the interests of medical science require organizations. It is positively impossible to cultivate the field of medicine profitably and thoroughly, without the aid of association. This is especially the case in the newly settled regions on the Pacific coast. . . Is it not time to move in this matter? Ought not medical societies to exist in all the chief centres of population on this coast? We beseech our brethren everywhere to take the subject in hand.

When Gibbons wrote this requiem for the pioneer medical societies of California, he surely had in mind the contributions and ordeals of Elias Cooper. It is fair to regard Cooper as at once the most effective (and controversial) exponent of medical organization on the Pacific coast during the 1850's. Although the societies he sponsored did not survive the Civil War era, they established traditions and laid the foundation for their resurrection in more durable form after the war.

While practicing in Peoria, Cooper was in full sympathy with the historic movement, initiated by the formation of the American Medical Association in 1847, to establish local and state medical societies nationwide. As a founding member of the Illinois Medical Society, he participated enthusiastically in its program. When he departed for California, he considered himself no less than an apostle of medical organization to the West, and in exactly ten weeks from his arrival in San Francisco we find him engaged in co-founding the San Francisco County Medico-Chirurgical Association. We have already told how the organization of the Association was swiftly accomplished including the election of Cooper as Corresponding Secretary. He chaired the By-Laws Committee and by securing the adoption of three series of resolutions of his own design he not only determined the modus operandi of the Association but he stamped it with his now familiar statement of principles:[35]


1. That unanimity of feeling and concurrence of action among the members of the Society is indispensable to its perpetuity;

2. That the members of this Society shall know no contention, save that which prompts us to contend with each other for the highest merits in the cultivation of the literature of our profession, the most skill in its practice, the greatest candor towards each other, and the sincerest devotion to the true interests and dignity of our calling.

We have seen how Cooper lost no time in proposing to the Sacramento Medical Society that they collaborate with the Association in establishing a State Medical Society based on these same principles. Within seven months the State Society was a reality.

This recapitulation of the launching of the two most productive medical societies on the Pacific coast in the 1850's serves to recall Cooper's seminal role in their founding. Throughout their fleeting tenure he was the most diligent in presenting medical reports and scientific observations - activities which were in his view the primary objective of medical societies.

The reasons these pioneer societies ceased to exist are clear. In the case of the Medico-Chirurgical Association, Cooper's personal leadership and program contributions were critical to its survival. In the end, however, not even the dynamic Cooper could prevail over the indifference and cleavages within the medical community of San Francisco, and the Association simply died of inanition.

For the extinction of the State Society, the Pathological Society of San Francisco (founded "for the promotion of science") and its partisans deserve full credit. As Cooper observed, they were masters of political maneuver and thereby gained administrative control. Regrettably, Cooper and Cole presented them with issues which they successfully exploited to fatally undermine the confidence of the membership. In simplest terms, the State Society was the hapless victim of the rule and ruin tactics of a "pathological clique. "[36]

Within three months of his arrival in San Francisco, Cooper had identified the Pathological Society as his Nemesis and he never ceased to denounce it. His premonition regarding the Society's future menace to his plans was all too prophetic, but his diatribes against the entrenched cabal proved futile. As to the Pathological Society's contribution to improvement of the medical profession and promotion of science on the Pacific coast, Cooper would have heartily concurred in the Society's epitaph as belatedly pronounced by Henry Gibbons in 1870:[37][38]

The Pathological Society (was) so-called because it was always in a pathological condition. A few choice spirits, segregating themselves from the common herd, assumed to be the Profession. Like another distinguished body - the French Academy - their number was limited. Their meetings were secret, and what they did for science never transpired. The Pathological Society lived and died stealthily, leaving, as the only visible trace of its arduous labors, a pyramid - somewhat smaller than that of Cheops - composed of empty bottles and oyster-shells.

Adieu to Doctor Wooster

At some time during 1860 David Wooster's indictment for perjury was dismissed by the California Supreme Court. Cooper registered his disappointment with this outcome in an editorial in the Medical Press for January 1861 and added that:[39]

It is a very difficult matter in California to effect a conviction for the crime of perjury, however clear the evidence of guilt may be. . .In this case, it would appear that there must have been some knotty legal questions involved, as the County Judge occupied nearly six months in deciding upon Wooster's (plea of innocence), and the Supreme Court about as long.

Also in January 1861, Cooper learned that David Wooster had submitted an application for a position as Visiting Surgeon at the U. S. Marine Hospital in San Francisco: His reaction to this information was harsh and uncompromising:[40]

San Francisco, 21 January 1861
The Honorable Eugene Sullivan

Dear Sir,
I learn that there are a great many candidates for the situation of Visiting Surgeon to the U. S. Marine Hospital (in San Francisco) and that you will be likely to have the appointing privilege. I consider it my duty to write you. The situation is one of the finest the U. S. can confer upon a Medical Man and ought to be filled by a worthy one. There are several candidates who are most worthy and some whom it would be a disgrace to any government to appoint. . .

There is one candidate. . . that as you value your future reputation you will not have appointed because sooner or later his true character will be known to be no better (than that of) a State Prison convict and that person is Dr. David Wooster.

He bears the reputation of a cattle thief in Yuba County (his former residence) and I do know him to be an unmitigated perjurer for which as you may remember he was indicted though not convicted.

I take this privilege of writing you because I consider it my duty to watch over the interest of the profession of this coast and I know it cannot be unacceptable to you to be informed in regard to what are the merits of those upon whom you confer the patronage of government. . .

(E. S. Cooper)

Cooper enclosed the following petition in the above letter to Mr. Sullivan:[41]

Petition: We the undersigned citizens of San Francisco, California, having learned that Dr. David Wooster is a candidate for the situation of Visiting Surgeon or Resident Physician at the U. S. Marine Hospital of this city, would most especially remonstrate against said appointment having as we think a thorough knowledge of his moral character.

Wooster did not receive the appointment to the staff of the U. S. Marine Hospital. Whether Cooper's fulminations were responsible for that outcome, we do not know. In any case, public exchanges in the Cooper-Wooster feud finally ceased in the declining days of 1861. Cooper's attention was increasingly claimed by the medical school. The Civil War commanded the services of Wooster. He bid "Vale! Vale!" to the Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal in a valedictory editorial in the December 1861 issue. The last item in that issue of the Journal is an abstract of Wooster's Monthly Reports as Surgeon to the 5th Infantry Regiment of the California Volunteers, stationed at Camp Union, Sacramento. From there, Wooster was soon posted to the Arizona-New Mexico sector, too far for him to launch further barbs at Cooper. Thus concluded the most notorious episode of medical duplicity and professional treachery in California history.[42][43]


  1. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: Change of time of the sessions of the University of the Pacific. Its Past and Prospective," San Francisco Medical Press 1, no. 4 (1860 Oct): 236 Lane Library catalog record
  2. Elias S. Cooper , ed., "Quotation from American Gazette," San Francisco Medical Press 2, no. 5 (Jan 1961): 32 Lane Library catalog record
  3. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: Commencement of the Medical Department of the University of the Pacific," San Francisco Medical Press 2, no. 6 (April 1861): 97 Lane Library catalog record
  4. University of the Pacific Medical Department, Record of Students and Instructors, April 1859-Jan 1883 - Box 1.7, Medical Department of the University of the Pacific Collection of publications, Lane Medical Archives, Stanford Lane Library catalog record
  5. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: Change of time of the sessions of the University of the Pacific - Its Past and Prospective," San Francisco Medical Press 1, no. 4 (Oct. 1860): 237 Lane Library catalog record
  6. Elias S. Cooper , "Present session of the Medical Department of the University of the Pacific," San Francisco Medical Press 2, no. 5 (Jan. 1861): 50-51 Lane Library catalog record
  7. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: New Medical Schools. University of the Pacific, Medical Department," San Francisco Medical Press 2, no. 6 (April 1861): 98-99 Lane Library catalog record
  8. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: Personal," San Francisco Medical Press 2, no. 7 (July 1861): 160 Lane Library catalog record
  9. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: Professor Henry Gibbons," San Francisco Medical Press 2, no. 7 (Jul 1861): 182 Lane Library catalog record
  10. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: Professor of Physiology in the Medical Department of the University of the Pacific," San Francisco Medical Press 2, no. 7 (Jul 1861): 160-61 Lane Library catalog record
  11. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: Under obligations," San Francisco Medical Press 2, no. 7 (Jul 1861): 161 Lane Library catalog record
  12. Benjamin Disraeli , Vivian Grey, 2 vols. (Leipzig: Bernhard Tauchnitz, 1859), v. 1, ch. 7, p. 172
  13. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: Fourth Commencement of the Medical Department of the University of the Pacific," San Francisco Medical Press 3, no. 10 (Apr 1862): 108-09 Lane Library catalog record
  14. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: Address of Professor Gibbons," San Francisco Medical Press 3, no. 10 (Apr 1862): 98-103 Lane Library catalog record
  15. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table," San Francisco Medical Press 3, no. 10 (April 1862): 87-88 Lane Library catalog record
  16. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: Dr. Whitney's Summer Course," San Francisco Medical Press 3, no. 10 (April 1862): 109 Lane Library catalog record
  17. Levi C. Lane , "Editor's Table: Medical Department of the University of the Pacific," San Francisco Medical Press 5, no. 13 (Apr 1863): 54 Lane Library catalog record
  18. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: Medical Associations: Their True Designs," San Francisco Medical Press 1, no. 1 (Jan 1860): 55 Lane Library catalog record
  19. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: San Francisco County Medico-Chirurgical Association," San Francisco Medical Press 1, no. 1 (Jan 1860): 53-54 Lane Library catalog record
  20. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: San Francisco County Medico-Chirurgical Association," San Francisco Medical Press 1, no. 2 (1860 Apr): 118-19 Lane Library catalog record
  21. Copy of letter from Dr. E.S. Cooper to Dr. Obed Harvey of Placerville, Eldorado County, Rixford Papers, MSS 8 Box 1.7, Lane Medical Archives, Stanford. In this standard letter sent to Dr. Harvey and other members of the State Medical Society, Cooper erroneously stated that the Society meeting would be held on February 10th 1860 The correct date was February 8th and, to avoid confusion, this date was used in the text
  22. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: State Medical Society," San Francisco Medical Press 1, no. 1 (Jan 1860): 54 Lane Library catalog record
  23. Elias S. Cooper , "Abstract of Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Session of the Medical Society of the State of California..," San Francisco Medical Press 1, no. 2 (Apr 1860): 65-73 Lane Library catalog record
  24. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: The State Medical Society," San Francisco Medical Press 1, no. 2 (Apr 1860): 109-110 Lane Library catalog record
  25. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: California State Medical Society. Impediments to its former Prosperity..," San Francisco Medical Press 1, no. 4 (Oct 1860): 249-252 Lane Library catalog record
  26. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: Meeting of the State Medical Society," San Francisco Medical Press 2, no. 5 (Jan 1861): 39-40 Lane Library catalog record
  27. Correspondence 1857-1862 - Box 1, Folder 4, Elias Samuel Cooper Papers - MS 458, California Historical Society, North Baker Research Library
  28. Correspondence 1867-1862 - Box 1, Folder 4, Item 37, Elias Samuel Cooper Papers - MS 458, California Historical Society, North Baker Research Library
  29. E. S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: Officers and Standing Committees of the Medical Society of the State of California for 1861," San Francisco Medical Press 2, no. 6 (1861 Apr): 101-104 Lane Library catalog record
  30. John B. Trask and David Wooster , eds. "Medical Register of the State of California," Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal 1, no. 12 (Nov 1858): 501 Lane Library catalog record
  31. E. S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: State Medical Society," San Francisco Medical Press 2, no. 6 (Apr 1861): 95-96 Lane Library catalog record
  32. Samuel E. Morison , The Oxford History of the American People (New York: Oxford University Press, 1965), 608-611
  33. Henry Harris , California's Medical Story (San Francisco: J. W. Stacey, Inc., 1932), 152-154 Lane Library catalog record
  34. Henry Gibbons , "Editor's Table: Something Wrong," San Francisco Medical Press 6, no. 20 (Jan 1865): 188-189 Lane Library catalog record
  35. Minutes and Meetings, p. 5, San Francisco County Medico-Chirurgical Association - MS 3119, California Historical Society
  36. Annual Sessions of California State Medical Society Convention:
    • 1st Session, 12-14 March 1856, Sacramento: Proceedings, California State Medical Society, 1-3, 1856-58 (Sacramento: James Anthony & Co., 1858) Lane Library catalog record
    • 2nd Session, 11-13 February 1857, Sacramento: Proceedings, California State Medical Society, 1-3, 1856-58 (Sacramento: James Anthony & Co., 1858) Lane Library catalog record
    • 3rd Session, 10-12 February 1858, San Francisco: Proceedings, California State Medical Society, 1-3, 1856-58 (Sacramento: James Anthony & Co., 1858) Lane Library catalog record
    • 4th Session, 9-11 February 1859, Sacramento: No Proceedings were published by the Society. Proceedings of the Fourth Annual Session were reported in Sacramento Daily Union as follows: 1st day - Vol. 16, Whole No. 2456, Thursday, Feb 10, 1859, 2nd day - Vol. 16, Whole No. 2457, Friday, Feb 11, 1859, 3rd day - Vol. 16, Whole No. 2458, Saturday, Feb 12, 1859 Library catalog record
    • Standing Committees for 1859-60, published in San Francisco Medical Press 1, no. 1 (Jan 1860): 64 Library catalog record
    • 5th Session, 8-9 February 1860, Sacramento: Abstract of Proceedings published in San Francisco Medical Press 1, no. 2 (Apr 1860): 65-73 Library catalog record
    • 6th (and last) Session, 13-14 February 1861,Sacramento: Handwritten Minutes of this Session held at California Historical Society. Correspondence 1857-1862 - Box 1, Folder 4, Item 37, Elias Samuel Cooper Papers - MS 458, California Historical Society, North Baker Research Library Library catalog record
    • Officers and Standing Committees selected during 6th Session, published in San Francisco Medical Press 2, no. 6 (Apr 1861): 101-104 Lane Library catalog record
  37. J. Marion Read and Mary E. Mathes , History of the San Francisco Medical Society, Vol. 1, 1850 to 1900 (San Francisco: Published by the San Francisco Medical Society, 1958), 11 Lane Library catalog record
  38. Henry Gibbons , "Introductory Lecture to the Eighth Session of the Medical Department of the University of the Pacific: Delivered July 5, 1870," Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal 4, no. 39 (August 1870): See insert of 12 pages following page 144. Page 3 of Insert Lane Library catalog record
  39. Elias S. Cooper , "Editor's Table: Demurrer Sustained," San Francisco Medical Press 2, no. 5 (Jan 1861): 49-50 Lane Library catalog record
  40. Correspondence 1857-1862 - Box 1, Folder 4, Item 35, Elias Samuel Cooper Papers - MS 458, California Historical Society, North Baker Research Library
  41. Correspondence 1857-1862 - Box 1, Folder 4, Item 36, Elias Samuel Cooper Papers - MS 458, California Historical Society, North Baker Research Library. The text of a petition opposing the candidacy of Dr. Wooster for the position of Visiting Surgeon at the U. S. Marine Hospital in San Francisco was filed in the E. S. Cooper papers adjacent to the Sullivan letter. There were no names undersigning the text of the petition in the archival file, but we assume that a copy of the petition with appended signatures was enclosed in the letter to Mr. Sullivan
  42. David Wooster , "Editor's Table: To the Readers of the Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal," Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal 4 (Dec 1861): 368 Lane Library catalog record
  43. David Wooster , "Editor's Table: Camp Union, Sacramento," Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal 4 (Dec 1861): 398 Lane Library catalog record