Inaugural Dissertations, Columbia College Faculty of Medicine/College of Physicians & Surgeons, 1771-1857

Producing a paper on a medical topic, variously called a dissertation or a thesis, seems to have been a requirement for graduation from the beginning at both the King’s/Columbia College Faculty of Medicine (1767-1814) and the College of Physicians & Surgeons (est. 1807).  The 1818 P&S Announcement notes that the “candidate shall deliver to one of the Professors a Dissertation on some Medical subject. He is publicly examined on the same, in the College Hall…and may publish, with approbation of one of the Professors, either in the English, French, or Latin languages.”

Though King’s graduated its first BA in medicine in 1769 and its first MD in 1770, the earliest record we have of a published inaugural thesis is Samuel Kissam’s An Inaugural Essay on the Anthelmintic Quality of the Phaseolus zuratensis siliqua hirsuta, or Cow-Itch (1771).

Most inaugural theses, however, were not published: the dissertations of Kissam’s two fellow graduates, for instance, were not.  However, after the Columbia medical faculty was revived in 1791, a large number of its graduates' dissertations did make it into print. The percentage of P&S theses published was considerably smaller: of the eight members of the first graduating class (1811), only three are recorded as having had their dissertations published.  The number of published dissertations goes into steep decline after the 1820s and the last record of a published P&S thesis is in 1857.

There is nothing in the records of P&S that reveals why certain dissertations were published and it should not be assumed that the medical value of those published was higher than those that were not.

The production of an inaugural thesis remained a requirement for graduation until 1888, when the faculty decided to discard it. John Dalton, in his History of the College of Physicians and Surgeons in the City of New York (1888), notes this was part of a sweeping reform of the curriculum. The College extended the term of study to three years, instituted entrance examinations, and substituted written examinations for graduation in place of the oral examinations previously required.  Dalton remarks that the “graduating thesis…had formerly been useful, as affording the only written evidence of the candidate’s ability to express his ideas in correct and intelligible language.” With the change from an oral to a written graduation exam, however, “the graduating thesis has ceased to be of practical benefit, and was only an unnecessary burden on both candidates and examiner.”

The following list of Columbia student dissertations includes all known published ones up through 1857. It was compiled in Jan. 2000 by library assistant Henry Blanco from Robert B. Austin’s Early American Medical Imprints: A Guide to Works Printed in the United States, 1668-1820 (1961) and Francesco Cordasco’s American Medical Imprints, 1820-1910 (1985). Links have been provided to those theses that have been digitized. A few titles that are not specified as inaugural dissertations but which were published around the time the author graduated, have also been included.

Not all the theses listed here are owned by Archives & Special Collections but for those that are call numbers have been noted.  The department also holds a small number of unpublished theses which are not listed here.

The titles are arranged chronologically by date of publication.  Those for 1771-1810 were written by graduates of the King’s/Columbia College Faculty of Physic; all items after 1810 are products of P&S graduates.

INAUGURAL DISSERTATIONS/THESES/ESSAYS ARRANGED BY YEAR
(* Work not specified as a dissertation, but published soon after date of graduation)

1771   

Kissam, Samuel. An inaugural essay on the anthelmintic quality of the Phaseolus zuratensis siliqua hirsuta, or cow-itch (New York, S. Inslee and A. Car, 1771)
M-R582.C55 K64 [Archives & Special Collections holds photostat copy only; the digital version is of the Duke University copy]

1793   

Borrowe, Samuel. An inaugural dissertation on the cynanche trachealis (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1793)
M-RC746 B64

Hicks, John Bowne. An inaugural dissertation on compression of the brain from concussion (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1793)
M-RC394.C7 H52 1793

Post, Jotham. An inaugural dissertation, to disprove the existence of muscular fibres in the vessels (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1793)
M-QP101 P84

Taylor, Willett. An inaugural dissertation on the scarlatina anginosa, as it prevailed in this city (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1793)
c.1 M-RC182.S2 T21
c.2 RC182.S2 T39 1793

Youle, Joseph. An inaugural dissertation on respiration: being an application of the principles of the new chemistry to that function (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1793)
c.1 M-QP121 Y8
c.2 QP121.Y8 1793

1794   

Abeel, David G. An inaugural dissertation on dysentery (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1794)
c.1 M-RC140 Ab3
c.2 Bound Theses CYO Z1

Irving, Peter. An inaugural dissertation on the influenza (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1794)
c.1 M-RC150 Ir8
c.2 RC150.I78 1794
Bound Theses CYO Z1

Ludlow, Edmund. An inaugural dissertation on intermittent fevers (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1794)
[Digital version is from the National Library of Medicine]
Bound Theses CYO Z1

Mead, Henry. An inaugural dissertation on the cholera morbus (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1794)
[Digital version is from the National Library of Medicine]
c.1 M-RC126 M46
c.2 Bound Theses CYO Z1

1795   

Anderson, Peter. An inaugural dissertation on the diarrhoea infantum (New York, Tiebout and O’Brien, 1795)
c.1 RJ426.D5 A52 1795
c.2 Bound Theses CYO Z1

Ross, William Morrey. A chemico-physiological inaugural dissertation on carbone, or charcoal (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1795)
c.1 M-RM666.C35 R73
c.2 Bound Theses CYO Z1

Wetmore, Timothy Fletcher. An inaugural dissertation on the puerperal fever (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1795)
c.1 RG811.W47 1795
c.2 Bound Theses CYO Z1

1796   

Anderson, Alexander. An inaugural dissertation on chronic mania (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1796)
c.1 M-RC616 An2
c.2 Bound Theses CYO Z
c.3 Bound Theses CYO Z

Saltonstall, Winthrop. An inaugural dissertation on the chemical and medical history of septon, azote, or nitrogene; and its combinations with the matter of heat and the principle of acidity (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1796)
[Digital version is from the National Library of Medcine]
Bound Theses CYO Z1

1797   

Bay, William. An inaugural dissertation on the operation of pestilential fluids upon the large intestines, termed by nosologists dysentery (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1797)
[Not held by Archives & Special Collections; digital version from National Library of Medicine]

Hosack, Alexander. An inaugural essay on the yellow fever, as it appeared in this city in 1795 (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1797)
[Not held by Archives & Special Collections; digital version from National Library of Medicine]

1798   

Lent, Adolph C. An inaugural dissertation, shewing in what manner pestilential vapours acquire their acidic quality, and how this is neutralized and destroyed by alkalies (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1798)
[Not held by Archives & Special Collections; digital version from National Library of Medicine]

1802   

Bayley, Joseph. An inaugural dissertation on the origin and propagation of the yellow fever (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1802)
M-RC206 B34

Brower, Jacob Vredenburgh. An inaugural dissertation on the use of Digitalis purpurea, or purple foxglove, in the cure of diseases
(New York, T. and J. Swords, 1802)
M-RM666.D4 B81

Quackenbos, Nicholas John. An inaugural dissertation, in which, by an induction of facts from dysentery, the Mitchillian doctrine of pestilential fluids is illustrated (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1802)
c.1 M-RC140 Q2
c.2 Bound Theses CYO Z

Walker, Richard L. An inaugural dissertation on the perspirable fluids of the human body (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1802)
c.1 M-QP221 W15
c.2 Bound Theses CYO Z

1803   

Forster, Isaac. An inaugural dissertation on dysentery (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1803)
[Digital version is from the National Library of Medicine]
Butler Microform Reading Room Fx3 3395

Manley, James R. An inaugural dissertation on the yellow fever (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1803)
M-RC206 M31

Scofield, Samuel. An inaugural dissertation on the nature and origin of vacinna, or cow-pock (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1803)
M-RM786 Sc32

1804   

Barrow, William. An inaugural dissertation on lumbar abcess (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1804)
c.1 M-RD690 B27
c.2 Bound Theses CYO Z

Ostrander, Ezekiel [Ezekial]. An inaugural dissertation on puerperal fever (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1804)
M-RG811 Os7

Walters, Daniel D. An inaugural dissertation on inflammation (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1804)
M-RB131 W152 1804

1805   

Cock, Thomas. An inaugural dissertation on respiration (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1805)
M-QP121 C64

Kissam, Benjamin. An inaugural dissertation on fistula in ano (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1805)
[Digital version from National Library of Medicine]
c.1 M-RD643 K64
c.2 RD643.K64

1806   

Mott, Valentine. An experimental inquiry into the chemical and medical properties of the Statice limonium of Linnaeus (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1806)
[Digital version is from the National Library of Medicine]
c.1 Bound Theses CYO Z

1807   

Delile, Alire Raffeneau. An inaugural dissertation on pulmonary consumption (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1807)
c.1 RC310.5.D44 1807
c.2 Bound Theses CYO Z

Lytton, William L. An inaugural dissertation on dropsy (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1807)
[Digital version from National Library of Medicine]
c.1 RA1231.M52 M66 1810
c.2 Bound Theses CYO Z

1810   

Moore, Samuel W. An inaugural dissertation on the medical virtues of the white oxide of bismuth; with some preliminary observations on the chemical properties of that metal (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1810)
c.1 M-RM666.B54 M73
c.2 RA1231.M52 M66 1810

Morrell, Robert. An inaugural dissertation on animal heat (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1810)
[Not held by Archives & Special Collections; digital version from National Library of Medicine]

Onderdonck, Henry Ustick. An inaugural dissertation on stone in the bladder (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1810)
c.1 M-RC921 On2
c.2 RC916.O52 1810

1811   

Beck, Theodoric Romeyn [Theodric Romeyn, Theodore Romeyn]. An inaugural dissertation on insanity (New York, J. Seymour, 1811)
M-RC602 B38

Francis, John Wakefield. An inaugural dissertation on mercury, embracing its medical history, curative action, and abuse in certain diseases
(New York, C. S. Van Winkle, 1811)
[Digital version from National Library of Medicine]
M-RM666.M5 F84

Steell, Thomas Edward. An inaugural dissertation on the use of the Digitalis purpurea in the cure of certain diseases (New York, T. and J. Swords, 1811)
c.1 M-RM666 D4 St3

1813   

Anderson, Andrew. An inaugural dissertation on the Eupatorium perfoliatum of Linnaeus (New York, C. S. Van Winkle, 1813)
[Digital version from National Library of Medicine]
M-RS165.E6 An2

Bogart, Henry. An inaugural dissertation on angina pectoris (New York, C. S. Van Winkle, 1813)
[Digital version from National Library of Medicine]
M-RC685.A6 B63

Dyckman, Jacob. An inaugural dissertation on the pathology of the human fluids (New York, Printed for the author by Van Winkle and Wiley, 1814)
c.1 M-RC636 D98
c.2 RB145.D92 1814

1814   

Ives, Ansel W. An experimental inquiry into the proximate cause of death from suspended respiration in drowning and hanging, with the means of resuscitation
(New York, Printed for the author, 1814)
M-RC87 Iv3

1815   

Bliss, James Cotton. An inaugural dissertation on permanent strictures of the urethra (Troy, N.Y., Parker and Bliss, 1815)
M-RC892 B61

Marks, Elias. Conjectural inquiry into the relative influence of the mind and stomach (New York, Printed for the Author, by Van Winkle and Wiley, 1815)
M-BF171 M34

Scudder, John. An inaugural dissertation on the diseases of old age, as connected with a plethoric state of the system (New York, Van Winkle and Wiley, 1815)
M-RC966 Sc2

1816   

Delafield, Edward. An inaugural dissertation on pulmonary consumption (New York, John Forbes and Co., 1816)
M-RC311 D37

Douglas, Luke. An experimental inquiry into the function of the liver, both in the foetus and adult; in which the most popular doctrines representing the function of this organ are examined, and that of Dr. Rush adopted and vindicated. Also, an experimental inquiry into the function of the spleen, gall bladder, pancreas, thyroid and thymus glands, and capsulae renales: being an inaugural dissertation (New York, John Forbes & Co., 1816)
M-QP185 D74 1816

Griffen, Augustus Rupert. An essay on the botanical, chemical, and medical properties of the Fucus edulis of Linnaeus (New York, Van Winkle and Wiley, 1816)
c.1 M-QK569.F45 G87
c.2 RS165.A45 G74 1816

Kissam, Benjamin P. An inaugural dissertation on the functions of the uterus (New York, Van Winkle and Wiley, 1816)
[Digital version from National Library of Medicine]
QP262.K57 1816

Murray, John William Boyles. An essay on neuralgia (New York, J. Seymour, 1816)
[Digital version from National Library of Medicine]
M-RC412 M96

Sullivan, Robert M. A dissertation on the sclerocele of the prostate gland, with an inquiry into the cause of this disease, and also, why this affection occurs more particularly in old and sedentary men
(New York, John Forbes & Co., 1816)
M-RC849 Su5

Townsend, Peter Solomon. A dissertation on the influence of the passions in the production and modification of disease (New York, Printed for the Author by Van Winkle and Wiley, 1816)
M-BF531 T66

1817   

Beck, John Brodhead. An inaugural dissertation on infanticide (New York, J. Seymour, 1817)
M-HV6537 B38
HV6587.B42 1817

Blatchford, Thomas Windeatt. An inaugural dissertation on feigned diseases (New York, Forbes & Co., 1817)
RA1146 B61

Ducachet, Henry William. An inaugural essay on the action of poisons (New York, Van Winkle, Wiley, & Co., 1817)
[Digital version from National Library of Medicine]
M-QP941 D85

1819   

Robinson, Daniel A. An inaugural essay, on the treatment of wounds of the femoral vein (Geneva, N.Y., J. Bogert, 1819)
M-RC691 R57

Stuart, Thomas Middleton. An inaugural essay on genius and its diseases (New York, Collins and Co., 1819)
M-BF412 St9

1821   

Mead, Elijah. An experimental inquiry into the botanical history, chemical properties and medicinal virtues of the Spirea tomentosa of Linnaeus
(New York: William A. Mercein, 1821)
M-RM666.S4 M46

Pennell, Richard. An inaugural essay on the bilious typhus which prevailed in Bancker Street and its vicinity, in the City of New York, in the summer and autumn of 1820 (New York: E. Bliss and E. White, 1821)
c.1 M-RC211.N49 P38
c.2 RA644.T8 P46 1821

1822   

Bird, Fitzgerald. An inaugural dissertation on the Sanguinaria canadensis of Linneus (New York: H. Sage, 1822)
M-RS165.S2 B53 1822
[Digital version from the Wellcome Library, London, UK]

Emmet, John Patten.  An essay on the chemistry of animated matter (New York: C.S. Van Winkle, 1822)
M-QH345.Em6 1822

1823   

Brown, Thomas. * The Ethereal Physician, or the medical powers of electricity demonstrated in the prevention and cure of a great variety of diseases (Albany: Printed for the authors by E. and E. Hosford, 1823)
Butler Microform Reading Room Fx3 3395

Suckley, John L. Secretion; the source of pleasurable sensations. A thesis (New York: J. and J. Harper, 1823)
QP190.Su1 1823

1825

Vaché, Alexander F. On surgical anatomy of the groin, as connected with hernia of the abdomen (New York: William Grattan, 1825)
M-QM543 V12

1827  

Tripler, Charles S. Remarks on delirium tremens, or the irritative fever of drunkenness: an inaugural  dissertation, submitted to the examination of the faculty of the College of  Physicians and Surgeons of the University of the State of New York (New York: J. Seymour, 1827)
[Not held by Archives & Special Collections; digital version from National Library of Medicine]

1830   

Kissam, Richard S. A dissertation on iritis. Submitted to the public examination of the trustees and professors of the College of Physicians and Surgeons in the University of the State of New York. For the degree of Doctor of Medicine, April 6th, 1830 (New York: J. & J. Harper, 1830)
[not in collection]

1832   

Smith, W.G. An inaugural dissertation on opium [New York? s. n., 1832]
M-RM666.O6 Sm6

1835   

Spooner, Shearjashub. An inaugural dissertation on the physiology and diseases of the teeth (New York: J. & W. Sandford, printers, 1835)
R111 .M42 v.3

1837   

Stout, Arthur B. A thesis on the cataract, with some remarks on the eye (New York: Henderson Greene, 1837)
c.1 M-RE451 St7
c.2 RE451.S76 1837

1844   

Ross, Joel H. * Remarks on hot air and vapour bathing, shampooing, etc. [New York, 1845]
[not in collection]

1845

Gibbs, Oliver Wolcott. An inaugural dissertation on a natural system of chemical classifications (Princeton, N.J.: John T. Robinson, 1845)
M-QD467 G35

1857   

Johnson, John George. Inaugural thesis on intra-capsular fractures of the cervix femoris. College of Physicians and Surgeons, University of the State of New York (New York: Miller and Holman, 1857)
M-RD101 J63