A Medical Society for Massachusetts

in by Warren

Author: Graph Iatroos, a pseudonym

Date: February 1765

“Sir There has been [for] some time on foot a proposal [for] forming medical Societies or Associations of Doctors analogous to those of the Clergy for the more speedy Improvement of our young Physicians; as by communicating to each other any Discoveries in any of the Branches of Physick, especially Botony, for which this Country is an ample Field. To get the Profession upon a more respectable footing in the Country by suppressing this Herd of Empiricks who have bro’t such intolerable contempt on the Epithet Country Practitioner. And to increase Charity & good Will amongst the lawful Members of the Professional that they may avoid condemning & calumnating each other before the Plebians as it is too common for the last that’s call’d in a difficult Case to do by those that preeceded him which we apprehend to be highly detrimental to the Profession and the chief Root from whence these very Empiricks spring.

We don’t know what Objections there may [be], there have been such Societies in Boston and where medical Academies are established & Empiricks are punished by Law there is not much need of them. We should esteem it a favor to be convinced of the impracticality of such a Scheme if it is so, & if not why it may not immediately take place.-

If you like our Design as all do to whom we have proposed it, we humbly conceive that the only way to effect it is for you to join heartily in the Cause & agree upon come certain time and Place to meet in of which all the Physicians digni honore must be notified and to bring with each of them a written Plan of Regulations if they please, at the Meeting to chuse a Moderator and after hearing each Plan that to be adopted which shall obtain a Majority of votes &c. &c. &c.

Presuming upon your Concurrence we desire you to promote the Design by circulating this Paper thro’ the Hands of all the undermentioned Physicians, or others beyond their Limits, but we must be careful that it falls not into the Hands of any but orthodox Physicians, and to prevent it your should deliver it yourself or send it by a trusty Person carefully seald & superscribed lest a teltale Wife or Child divulge that which must be as secret as Masonry till some Societies are established.

The Gentlemen within the compass of our knowledge whom we think it necessary to invite are a follows, viz: In Cambridge Kneeland.       Roxbury Davis        Dorchester Holson, Williams      Milton  Gardiner.       Brantree Sables.        Weymouth Tufts.             Hingham Hersey         Scituate Stockbridge.       Medford Tufts.      Watertown Conors &  Newton King      Dedham Ames.            Medfield Jerault                 Middleboro’ Oliver.          Wooburn Flagg.    Waltham Williams.        Weston Starr              Needhan Deming    Concord Minott  [Several additional physician names appear. Their towns of residence are unclear to this modern reader: Drs. William, Spring, Hiller, Wolson, and Prescott.

You are desired to repair to Gardners Tavern on Boston Neck at the hour of two P.M. precisely on the third Monday in March 1765.

It is hoped that the elder and established Physicians will promote this Affair by their Influence that cannot by their Presence.

Yrs. [Signed] Graph. Iatroos Utopia 2d. of 2d. Moon. 1765th. Year of the Christian Era.”

Source: Manuscript is at Harvard Countway Medical Library, Center for the History of Medicine. Cataloged as B MS c 75.2 A.L.s. (unidentified hand); n.p., 1765. 1 s. (2p.) Text appears in Burrage, History of the Massachusetts Medical Society, 1923, without the list of invitees.

Commentary: This is a new attribution to Joseph Warren based on internal references in the document and a formal forensic handwriting analysis, performed for the new biography of Warren, by Dr. Richard Fraser.

Warren, writing under a pseudonym meaning physician secretary, proposes an organizational meeting for Eastern Massachusetts physicians. As a young physician, asides reveal an elitist attitude, male chauvinism, and penchant for masonic secrecy. He was in practice for less than two years, but had already garnered positive public attention for his service during the smallpox epidemic and inoculation campaign of early 1764.

He did not attend the meeting to which he here invites fellow practitioners. Cotton Tufts wrote minutes of that meeting, also available in MSS at Countway’s Center for the History of Medicine. Sustained medical organizational efforts throughout British North America failed until after Independence.

Previous post:

Next post: