McGill University Medical Faculty

MD and MDCM graduates and their theses 1833-1877

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1832 statutes Statutes
Statutes for the government of the Medical Faculty of McGill College. (22 May 1832)
Revised Statutes for the government of the Medical Faculty of McGill College. (17 June 1842.)

 

 

McGill University Medical Faculty - MD and MDCM graduates and their theses 1833-1877

The A-Z version of the listing is HERE as a pdf file

The chronological version of the listing is HERE as a pdf file

Between 1833, when William Leslie Logie became the first person to graduate in medicine in Canada, and 1877, when the graduation regulations were changed, one of the requirements for graduating in medicine at McGill University was the completion of a thesis or 'inaugural dissertation'.

Like many aspects of the early McGill medical school, this was similar to the requirements for obtaining an MD at Edinburgh University. In 1877, when the practice ended, William Osler discussed the change and, in his "Introductory Lecture" to the incoming Class on October 1st 1877, he said "…the abolition of theses is a change which I am sure you all appreciate. They were relics of the past, and though formerly they might have been important means of ascertaining a man's capacity and judging his fitness for a degree, this is now done in other and more effective ways and the Thesis had degenerated, as a rule, into a very inferior medical essay quite devoid of originality." (See: Canada medical and surgical journal v.6:5; November 1877; 203-204.)

The Faculty's first set of Statutes (1832) required students to submit an 'inaugural dissertation ... of not less than 24 printed octavo pages' but the requirement to provide a printed version was no longer there in the 1842 revision - by which time there had been only 14 graduates and we only know of four printed dissertations. Perhaps coincidentally, Edinburgh removed its requirement for printed copies of their dissertations and required theses in English - rather than in Latin - in the early 1830s. Until 1849 the McGill degree program lasted for 3 years, in summer 1848 the University determined that all students commencing study after May 1849 would have to attend for four years.
(British American Journal of Medical and Physical Science v.5:5, Sept. 1849, p.137.)

Apart from the few of the obligatory 'inaugural dissertations' that we know were actually printed as pamphlets or in journals, it is assumed only one - hand-written - copy of most of them were produced and it is unclear what happened to them. They may have been returned to their authors, they may have been seen as ephemeral documents and destroyed, they may have burnt in the 1907 fire at the medical building. The bottom-line is that only a handful of them survive. All we know of 99% of them is their title. If a thesis was printed and a copy has been identified this is noted in the "Comments". In addition to the handful published as pamphlets, a few theses were published or abstracted in local journals, these are quite hard to identify and others may be discovered; details are in the "Comments" column. The Medical Chronicle (v.2, 1854, p. 168) actually announced that they would publish one McGill thesis a year - as far as can be seen only two (Craik and Reid) actually appeared there.

The database contains the names of all 742 McGill medical graduates between 1833 and 1877 - compiled from the McGill records - with information on the 'home towns' of the students and their theses titles, primarily taken from the printed graduation records. In some cases these details contained typos or misspellings but there are multiple lists for some year and if multiple lists exist the discrepancies have been investigated and the errors corrected. (As was common at the time there is great variation in the use of Mc, Mac and M' prefixes.) The spelling of place names has also been corrected. It is not clear whether the "home town" represents the birthplace of the student or where they lived when they applied for admission or graduation or where they intended to practice after graduation but the rationale does not appear to be consistent. The place of residence in 1894 has been added, from the 1895 McGill Graduates Directory (with a few, who are not listed there, having information from the 1890 edition, in [ ].) The * indicates that they were noted as being dead in 1894.

At least one of the first names and sometimes initial(s) of almost all students are given in the graduation or Faculty Announcement lists but these have been expanded by looking at graduate directories, other biographical sources (in particular, the Osler Library's Canadian Health Obituaries Index.) Names were also confirmed, where possible, in Provincial medical directories, in local medical histories, in the online Dictionary of Canadian Biography and by consulting .genealogical and biographical databases  In a few cases two forms of a family (or first) name are given; the most likely correct one being first with the variant in [ ].

In the 1850s and 1860s several members of the (British) army medical staff stationed in Canada obtained McGill medical degrees; in these cases their regiment has been preceded by the word "Army" so that they can easily be identified. (A few others joined the Army after graduation, this is often revealed in the 1895 ‘residence’ information.) The names of graduates who were in the Army were confirmed in Alfred Peterkin's Commissioned officers in the medical services of the British Army, 1660-1960. London: Wellcome Historical Medical Library, 1968.

The list excludes the honorary and ad eundem MD or MDCM degrees awarded during these years. A listing of these men with brief biographical sketches is available in the Osler Library Newsletter # 122.

The places of origin of the students (see table below) and their thesis subjects merit a detailed study but it is interesting to note that almost all the students came from Quebec and Ontario (one from Cuba, one from Barbados, West Indies, a handful from the United States, the British Isles and the British Army.) See also George Weisz's useful article The Geographical Origins and Destinations of Medical Graduates in Quebec, 1834-1939. (in: Histoire sociale- Social History. Vol. XIX, n" 37 (mai-May 1986) : 93-119.) The thesis subjects range from the scientific to the more esoteric such as the 1858 "Spontaneous Human Combustion", the 1866 "Evils of tight lacing' and the 1863 "Sketch of the practice of medicine in the uncivilized world".

According to the 1842 Statutes, theses could be written in English, French or Latin but most theses are in English, a few, including Dansereau's 1835 one on "Délire tremblant" are in French; it appears from the titles that none were submitted in Latin.

Starting in 1852 the Faculty produced printed "Annual Announcement" publications and these listed the graduates from the previous year, usually including their thesis title. Lists of all medical graduates up to that point also appear in some of these annual volumes. Between 1844 and the start of the annual Announcements the thesis titles have been taken from medical journals. Unfortunately, between 1833 and 1844 there were no medical journals being published in Canada (the Quebec Medical Journal-Journal médicine du Quebec had ceased in 1827 and the Montreal Medical Gazette only began publishing in 1844). It is possible that the theses titles for the other graduates from 1834-1845 are available in the Medical Faculty archives and/or the popular press and, as time allows, these avenues will be explored. The information for 1844+ was primarily obtained from:

          1844
   Montreal Medical Gazette v.1:3 June 1844.
          1845    British American Medical and Physical Journal v.1:3 June 1845
          1846    British American Medical and Physical Journal v.2:2 June 1846
          1847    British American Medical and Physical Journal v.3:2 June 1847
          1848    British American Medical and Physical Journal v.4:2 June 1848
          1849    British American Medical and Physical Journal v.5:2 June 1849
          1850    British American Medical and Physical Journal v.6:2 June 1850
          1851    British American Medical and Physical Journal v.7:2 June 1851
          1851    Upper Canada Journal of Medical, Surgical and Physical Science  v.1:3 June 1851
          1853    Medical Chronicle v.1:1 June 1853
          1854    Medical Chronicle v.2:1 June 1854
          1855    Medical Chronicle v.3:1 June 1855
          1856    Medical Chronicle v.4:1 June 1856

          1852-1862
McGill College. Faculty of Medicine. Annual announcement of the Medical Faculty of McGill College, Montreal, for session ... . [Montréal?] : The College, [1852?]-1862; (Montreal: J. Lovell)

          1863-1877 McGill University. Faculty of Medicine. Annual announcement of the Faculty of Medicine of the McGill University, Montreal, for the ... session [Montréal?]: The University, 1863-1883 (Montreal: J.C. Becket)

As noted above, the annual Announcements for several years also list the names of all the medical graduates up to that date and other consolidated lists appear in the booklet "McGill College. Faculty of Medicine. Semi-centennial Celebration of the Medical Faculty, 1882." and the various McGill graduate directories. As one might expect, the information is not always exactly the same! In cases where there were multiple versions/spellings of names in the various list, these were checked in the McGill University. Directory of graduates. Montreal: Graduates’ Society of McGill University, 1890 and 1895.

Though it is not intended to make this into a biographical database:

* If a person is listed in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography there is a notation DCB in the comments column. 

* If someone is mentioned in William Canniff's The Medical Profession in Upper Canada 1783-1850 there is a notation WC

* If someone has a brief biography in Hanaway & Cruess' McGill Medicine there is a notation H-C in the comments column.

* If a person is mentioned in Edward Bensley's McGill Medical Luminaries there is a notation MML
 
* There are also many local medical histories and a particularly useful source was Donald Brearley's. Physicians; A directory of short character sketches about physicians from the Belleville area (roughly 45 mile radius) in Ontario who graduated before 1940. Available HERE. Individuals noted in Brearley have a DB in the comments column.

If a person was registered in either Quebec or Ontario PRIOR TO 1867 the year of registration is noted in the Comments column. Q = Quebec, Lower Canada and Canada East. O = Ontario, Upper Canada and Canada West. A more exact date of registration may be found HERE

In several years from 1854 -1864 the Faculty awarded a prize for the best thesis - in a couple of years it was awarded to several students. These names and the names of students awarded a Prize for the "Examination on the Final Branches" are noted in the Comments column. (Additional Prizes were, sometimes, awarded (Primary Branches, Materia Medica, Clinical Medicine etc.) These are, not noted here but are noted in the Faculty Announcements for the subsequent academic year.

Starting in 1865 the Faculty awarded the Holmes Gold Medal and, apart from 1876, no longer awarded a specific thesis prize. The winners of the Holmes Gold Medal are noted by HGM in the Comments column. The Holmes Gold medal is described in the Canada Medical Journal (v. 1; 1865, p 535-536.) as:

"Since the last convocation the Medical Faculty in this University determined to establish a gold medal prize to be awarded for superior excellence to a member of the graduating class only. The competitors to be selected from those men whose inaugural dissertation is deemed worthy of receiving one hundred marks, the highest number of marks given for any thesis being two hundred.

The medal is in value about fifty dollars, the dies having been struck in England by Mr. F. Carter of Birmingham. It is to perpetuate the memory of one of the original founders of the school, the late Dr. Holmes, a man who in his walk through life commanded the love and esteem of all who knew him, from his many excellent qualities as a scholar and Christian gentleman. On one side of the medal is seen in bold relief the head of Hippocrates, with the name in Greek characters; and on the obverse is the coat-of-arms of the College, beneath which is the following, “Facultas Medicinæ Donavit”. This is surrounded by a wreath of laurel, outside of which are the words, “In memoriam Andreæ F. Holmes, M.D., L.L.D.” On the rim of the medal is engraved the name of the successful candidate, with the date.

The medal is given to him who proves himself the best man after special examination by answering, in writing, three questions proposed by each member of the faculty."

The 'home town' of the students is interesting and, though it is unclear if the definition used by McGill was consistent, the following table may be of interest.(The table includes Webster, who died before actually graduating, Cream, whose degree was withdrawn and Godin, who did not apply for his degree.)

Place
Number
Army
24
Cuba & WI
2
NS,NB,NL,PEI
28
UK
4
USA
15
Ontario
364
Quebec
195
Montreal
110
TOTAL
742

NOTES

* In the 1832 Statutes McGill University described its primary medical degree as "Doctor in Medicine and Surgery". In the 1842 Statutes it is described as a "Doctor of Medicine and Surgery" but between 1833 and 1861 the designatory letters actually used by graduates, the University and the Faculty were MD. Starting in May 1862 the degree awarded became (and remains) "Doctor of Medicine and Master of Surgery and the designatory letters became MD CM. Only the degree title and designation appears to have changed, the curriculum did not appear to change at that time.

* No MD degrees were awarded between 1835 and 1841 because the University was closed for three years between 1836 and 1839 due to the political troubles at that time in both Upper and Lower Canada.

* Several graduates have a "Comment" "Had BA" or "Had MA". These comments - and others noting other qualifications - are taken from the graduation or Announcement lists and obviously refer to degrees or qualifications obtained prior to their enrollment in the Medical School. The list does not include information on subsequent degrees or honours.

* Several graduates have a Comment "Too young". During these years it was only possible to graduate with an MD or MDCM if one was 21 years of age. In most (all?) cases these students received their degree the following year though they are listed under the year they passed the necessary examinations. One, Henry Webster, died accidentally before he could legally graduate but his name is in the lists.
 
* Between 1848 and 1850 several students of the Montreal School of Medicine, Independent School of Medicine and St Lawrence School of Medicine were examined by McGill and received McGill MD degrees. These students are identified in the "Comments" column.

* The degree of Thomas Neill Cream (1876) was withdrawn, he was hanged in England for multiple murders in 1892. Interestingly the degree of Eric Sparham (1852) who was also convicted of murder, in Brockville, in 1875 after an apparently botched abortion, was not withdrawn. (See: Osler Library Newsletter #123

* In 1861 Joseph C.E. Godin "passed his Examination, but did not apply for his degree." A short sketch of his life is in preparation for the Osler Library Newsletter.


This resource is made freely available to historians, genealogists and others; a full study of the 'catchment-area' of the Faculty and of the thesis topics might be a useful research project.

Any errors and omissions should be reported to me but this site is not a 'biographical site' and I do not intend to add information concerning a graduates' subsequent career, accomplishments or dates of birth or death. I will continue to try to complete the graduates' full names and seek any missing thesis titles.

In due course it is hoped that a searchable version of this file will be loaded onto the Osler Library website; in the interim I am happy to provide an Excel format version to serious researchers. Please contact me.

Toronto, 28 November 2016

 

McGill-announcement-1862

 

Below is the degree certificate of Robert Todd Reynolds from 1836 - the earliest McGill degree certificate whose whereabouts is known. The original is in the collection of the Fort Malden National Historic Site at Amherstberg in Ontario; a copy is at the Osler Library (Robert Todd Reynolds Fonds). The Reynolds family were associated with Fort Malden for many years. The degree awarded is Doctor in Medicine and Surgery, though the normal post-nominal information was MD.

Below is a degree certificate (Robert Palmer Howard (1848) - showing he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Medicine
and Surgery (Doctorem Medicinae et Chirurgiae).
The post-nominal degree designation was MD. (From the Osler Library at McGill University, Robert Palmer Howard Fonds).

1848 degree

The degree certificate below (Edward Lewis Lundy) is from 1862; the first year that the degree awarded was a
Doctoratus in Medicina et Magistratus in Chirurgia. (Doctor of Medicine and Master of Surgery).
The post-nominal degree designation became, and remains, MD CM.

1862 mdcm

1862 McGill MDCM degree certificate for Edward Lewis Lundy.
(Reproduced courtesy of the Army Medical Services Museum, where it is part of RAMC/388/7 and deposited at the Wellcome Library.)


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