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ing year of his attendance was improved by his following the practice of Dr. John Jones, an eminent surgeon, who had left New York in consequence of its occupation by the British. In 1782, he graduated as a Bachelor of Medicine in the college of Philadelphia, an institution to whose reputation he was destined to contribute so largely at a subsequent period of life. As a student, he was distinguished by his zeal, his assiduity, and the promptitude and extent of his information, qualities which were well exhibited on the day of his examination. At that period the profession of medicine was divided into two sects of theorists, one advocating the doctrine of Lentor, invented by Boerhaave, and the other that of Spasm, originating with the no less celebrated Professor of Edinburgh, Dr. Cullen. A schism on this subject existed in the faculty of the college of Philadelphia, and as each professor required explanations conformably to the theory he was attached to, our candidate had to vary his answers so as to suit the predilection of the interrogator. This delicate task he executed with so much address and good sense, as to excite the highest admiration of the audience.
From his own country, Dr. Wistar repaired to Great Britain, where he remained three years. In Edinburgh, then the chief resort of Americans, he became highly distinguished for the same qualities which he had exhibited at home. He was there the friend and associate of Sir James M’Intosh, afterwards one of the leading members of the British Parliament- of Mr. Emmett, subsequently one of the most powerful and eminent members of the New York bar, and of Dr. Jeffray, now professor of Anatomy in the University of Glasgow. In the collision of such talent, Dr. Wistar wielded with great effect the weapons of debate, and obtained in the midst of these competitors the high honor of being made, for two successive years, president of the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh. In 1786, he graduated there as doctor of medicine, having written a thesis, entitled De Animo Demisso. The chief objects of his studies were anatomy, surgery, and chemistry. In January, 1787, he returned home, having left in Edinburgh a name which was most affectionately and respectfully remembered for a long time afterwards.
In the year 1792, Dr. WISTAR became the associate of Dr. Shippen, after the latter had stood alone for thirty years, in his efforts to create a permanent school. This union grew out of the existence, from 1789 to 1792, of two medical institutions; the most recent of which had its origin from feelings generated by the revolutionary
One of these schools and the eldest belonged to the college of Philadelphia, and the other to the university of the state of Pennsylvania. Dr. Shippen was professor of anatomy in both. In the year 1789, Dr. Wistar had been appointed professor of chemistry in the college ; but before accepting, he hesitated much, lest by his acquiescence the consolidation of the two institutions, which he had much at heart, should be delayed or prevented. During his deliberations it occurred to him, that he could be much more efficient as a professor in procuring this union, than as a private individual; he therefore accepted the place of chemist, and in three years afterwards, had
satisfaction of seeing his wishes realized, and of reflecting that he himself had contributed largely, by his moderation and good management, to an arrangement which has since been so successful in developing the character and usefulness of the present institution, under the title of University of Pennsylvania.
Nature did not grant to Dr. WISTAR that graceful and commanding exterior which she had lavished on Dr. Shippen, but even strangers were struck with the benignity of his countenance. Extreme suavity of deportment on every occasion of life, was his predominant mode of conduct. Many of his students remember the courteous and sprightly smile, with which he entered and departed from his lecture room. As a teacher, he allured them, by gentleness and affability, to flock round him on every occasion, and to ask him such questions as their want of information or misapprehension suggested. He was always on the alert to serve them in sickness, and to procure for them such places of profit and trust as his personal influence could control, but invariably, on such occasions, with a conscientious regard to his knowledge of their characters and to their qualifications. This principle of impartial, but merciful justice, always guided him in his decisions on the claims of candidates for medical degrees. Willing to attribute every deficiency to embarrassment, he only became convinced that it was ignorance, when every proper mode of inquiry repeatedly and leisurely tried, proved the incapacity of the candidate. In such cases his decisions were inflexible; as a conscientious man having a public trust of first rate importance, he never consented for any one to take a recognised appointment in the profession, with a smaller share of knowledge than what he conceived necessary to the practice of medicine. From the goodness of his heart, he felt more on many such occasions, for the candidate than the candidate felt for himself. His justice was evidently so impartial, and his goodness so conspicuous, that the slightest breath of censure was never cast upon his proceeding, either by the fortunate or the unfortunate; on the contrary, their admiration of him had received a new impulse.
In his social intercourse he possessed unusual tact in communicating pleasure. Though gifted with unusual strength and cultivation of intellect, and possessing varied and immense resources of conversation, he, on every occasion, seemed more desirous to hear than to be heard. From this turn of mind, his conversation abounded, in a remarkable degree, in questions; he culled information in that way from every source, and where he found a deficiency, he imparted abundantly of his own stock. Many young men, on first obtaining the pleasure of his acquaintance, were struck with this peculiarity-he inquired concerning the mountains, the rivers, the natural productions, the manners of the section of country to which they belonged, and listened with patient and obvious satisfaction to their answers. These interrogations not being expected, the person to whom they were addressed was not always prepared to answer them correctly. But if, through a desire of displaying more information than he actually possessed, the unfortunate individual answered like one who was well acquainted with the subject, another well-timed and pertinent question, hinted to him that it was better for him to confess ignorance than to speak erroneously, for he was talking to one already acquainted with the subject of conversation. All this was done with so much delicacy, that pleasure instead of pain was excited, and many persons must have resolved forth with to make themselves well acquainted with objects so readily learned, and which till then, it had never occurred to them, could become such interesting subjects of inquiry and of conversation. This happy tact made Dr. Wistar the charm of every circle. Unbounded in his hospitality, and fascinating in his manners, his house was the resort of literary men of every description, both citizens and strangers; his company was courted equally by the young and the old, the gay and the sedate. Upon his habit of a Saturday evening entertainment, has been founded the well known associations of Philadelphia, called the Wistar parties whose hebdomadal hospitality contributes so much to the charm of its society, and to the gratification of respectable strangers. It was very justly said of him, “if he addressed a promiscuous circle, he spoke like a man of the world, carefully avoiding every thing professional, technical, or in any way insulated; if an individual, he so suited his remarks to his taste and capacities, as to entice him into discourse, and draw from him his knowledge of the subject discussed."*
So deeply had his philanthropy affected his general deportment, that persons but just acquainted with him, were as fully persuaded of his disposition as those who had known him for years. In the sick room he was the ministering angel, compassionate, unwearied, prompt, and deeply skilled; in bad cases never abandoning his patients, or ceasing to apply the resources of the art till life was extinct. In those terrible and unexpected accidents which sometimes come with overwhelming suddenness upon the practitioner of surgery, when even the stoutest and most collected hearts are paralyzed, Dr. WISTAR, though on common occasions the most sensitive of mankind, found here all his faculties at their post. Whatever ingenuity could devise, and skill combine, was rapidly executed. He was not one who, in witnessing the immensity of a calamity, forgot the means by which it could be repaired. He practised on the most disinterested principles, being possessed of a good fortune with a lucrative professorship, his charges were proverbially moderate. In this, however, he probably did a disservice to the profession. Inconsiderable charges from a man of his reputation and extent of business, in forming a sort of rule in the profession, of course affected deeply such as were only beginning, and such as had not the other resources which he wielded. Indeed, society itself is scarcely benefited by such a proceeding, for it is generally admitted, that the most able members of the profession, have, for the most part, received the first impulse from the stimulus of necessity, encouraged with the hope of reward; but if the value of the latter be diminished much, it turns the minds of enterprising men from the pursuit, and renders those who are already in it, lukewarm; under which circumstances medicine loses much of its skill and respectability. No man, however, entertained higher notions of the value of professional services than Dr. WISTAR, and it was this very lofty conception of them which prevented him from estimating their worth in pounds, shillings, and pence.
Scrupulous and conscientious to an extreme in doing every thing for a patient which he thought could be of service, his efforts went much beyond those of a simple medical attendant. He felt the deepest personal interest for his patient, and not unfrequently afterwards his mind was filled with the strongest sentiments of friendship, founded principally on the benefits which it had been his happiness to extend. In difficult chronic cases he made numerous and protracted visits, and entered into the most minute and comprehensive investigation of them. It was on such occasions that the solace and sympathy of friendship were superadded to the balm of the healing art, and that impressions of devoted affection to him are to be found among numbers of individuals yet alive in Philadelphia, who upon any one touching this string even gently, find it vibrate to the inmost recesses of their hearts, and in the crowd of recollections which the association excites, incapable of utterance, give vent to them in a flood of tears. To call this man good, is only to show the insufficiency of human language.
* Eulogium on CASPAR WISTAR, by Charles Caldwell, M. D.
In a point of vast importance to the harmony of society and to the efficacy of Christian convictions, he was a perfect model. The rule “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” was most indelibly and productively imprinted on his mind. Endowed by nature with a sensibility to be compared only with that of a delicate, youthful, and highly refined female, it is not to be expected but that in his profession he received some rude shocks, enough so indeed to stagger a mind more coarsely organized than his own. Incapable of injustice and of rancor himself, when the first burst of indignation was over, which he owed to human nature, then came the sunshine of a calm and undisturbed conscience. Judging other men by himself, he trusted that there was some mistake, that it had not been intended, that the person had been betrayed into extremities by a vehement and uncontrollable disposition. If, however, a perseverance in injury proved that it was a deliberate and unrepented act of malice, no harsh retort came from his lips ; they were closed forever upon the personal demerits.of the individual, while he did ample justice to the merits, professional, or otherwise, which the person may have possessed. From this Christian charity, even many
of his most intimate friends declare that they never heard him depart, nor utter an unkind word against such as had flagrantly injured him.
Dr. WISTAR commenced the discharge of his duties as adjunct professor of anatomy in the little building in Fifth street, opposite the State-House yard. It is now called the Health Office. The increasing celebrity of the school, producing a corresponding concourse of students, that house was insufficient to contain them. Accordingly, about the year 1807, a building was erected on Ninth