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Smith, Robert K.
Manuscript Medical Lecture Notebook of Dr. Robert K. Smith, one-time chief resident of Blockley Almshouse, a.k.a Philadelphia Hospital and Insane Asylum, kept while a student at Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1835-1836

Small quarto, 124 manuscript pages, plus blanks, bound in original ¾ leather over marble papered boards, binding worn along edges, corners, spine and spine tips, boards rubbed and scuffed, some toning, entries written mostly in ink, a couple of pages in pencil, in a legible hand. Front flyleaf has the following ownership inscription in ink: “Notes on Lectures Delivered / at Jefferson Medical College / Taken by Robt. K. Smith T.M./ During the Session 1835.6 / Bohemia Manor Cecil County / Maryland / Robt. K. Smith Mem of Jefferson M. College.”

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Robert K. Smith’s notebook contains his notes on lectures of the session 1835-1836 from November 1835 to February 1836; and includes his notes on:  Dr. Jacob Green, M.D. on Chemistry (includes a piece on Galvanic Electricity); Surgery by Dr. George McClellan, M.D.; Materia Medica by Dr. Samuel Colhoun, M.D.; Midwifery by Dr. Samuel McClellan, M.D.; Practice of Medicine by Dr. John Revere, M.D.; and Anatomy by Dr. Granville Sharp Pattison, M.D.

    An online 1835-1836 catalogue of Jefferson Medical College confirms the above listed physicians and their course of lectures at Jefferson Medical College for the year (1835-1836). At the time there were 233 students registered for the lectures, having grown from only 96 in 1832-1833. The fee for each course of lectures was $15.00, another $10.00 allowed you into the Dissecting Rooms and Demonstrations. The fee for your diploma was $15.00 and $5.00 to the janitor, plus another fee of $5.00 for admittance into the museum for instruction by the Curator in the Art of making Anatomical Preparations and to the privilege of attending the Clinical instruction of the Dispensary. In all, one year at the medical school cost $159.00.

    Robert K. Smith, listed as “of Pennsylvania”, was listed as a student for the 1834-1835 lecture course year, and the notebook offered here shows him as a student for 1835-1836. The Jefferson Medical College catalogue for 1836-1837 shows him as a student in that 1835-1836 class, however this catalogue shows him being “of Delaware” and graduating in 1836 with the thesis “The Influence of Habit.”

      Robert K. Smith (1817-1877)

     Robert K. Smith was born about 1817 in Pennsylvania (per the 1850 census) and apparently (from the notebook) moved to Bohemia Manor in Cecil County, Maryland by the time he took these lecture courses at Jefferson (1835-1836). By the 1840s he is found living in Delaware where his two oldest children were born and were he was found as a member of the Delaware Chapter of the Pennsylvania State Medical Society; and by at least 1850 he is found in Darby, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, which is on the southwest border of Philadelphia.

     Robert K. Smith held the “position of Resident-in-Chief” in 1855-1856 and again in 1858-1859 at Philadelphia General Hospital (“Blockley Almshouse” a.k.a. Philadelphia Hospital and Lunatic Asylum). He had general charge of all hospital affairs and besides routine work, lectured at times in the amphitheater. One such lecture given at the hospital in the winter of 1855-1856 was a lecture on the clinical course of the hospital and was published in pamphlet form in 1855. He was first elected to the position on 2 July 1855 and was selected by the guardians and is said to have co-operated most efficiently with the clinical board, delivering in October a most excellent introductory lecture, and participating in the clinical instructions communicated to the class. In a newspaper announcement for the lecture, he was listed as the President of the Medical Board.

   The 1860 U.S. Census found Dr. Robert K. Smith enumerated in Philadelphia’s 24th Ward. It said he was born in 1817 in Pennsylvania, and that his wife Sallie was born in Delaware in 1819. Their two oldest children were born in Maryland, and the two youngest were born in Pennsylvania. Smith was listed as a physician.

    Dr. Robert K. Smith died on 21 November 1877 at the age of 60 and was buried at Great Valley Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Malvern, Chester County, Pennsylvania, again a Philadelphia suburb. His wife died on 17 May 1884 and was also buried at Great Valley. The couple married 27 September 1838 at the Church of the Beloved Disciple in Philadelphia.

       Sample quotes from the Notebook:

“Midwifery by Dr. S. McClellan

The ovaria lie between the fallopian tubes or rather underneath them & between the uterus & rectum. The fallopian tubes are sometimes enlarged which the semen pas to the ovarian. By the removal of the ovaria the function of reproduction is destroyed. The catamenia differ in colour & chemical property from the blood. It does not coagulate. Unless care be taken in warm weather it becomes acidic & injures the mucous membrane of the vagina. If the discharge coagulates it does not warrant us in saying that there is disease existing or that she cannot perform her part in generation. This discharge is from the uterus but perfect discharges sometimes occur from the vagina. When there is a derangement of the uterine functions, discharges from the nose, lungs and other membranes occur. Yet the true seat is the uterus & it comes from the capillary vessels of mucous tissue of that part…”

“Chemistry by Dr. Jacob Green

Galvanic Electricity when 2 different metals unite the galvanization is generated. When it was first discovered it was supposed that the nerve & muscle were in opposite states of electricity. But this was proved to be erroneous by subsequent experiments made by Volta who found it to be the metals that were in opposite states of electricity. The next discovery of Volta was his [Crown of Cups] & the next the Battery which is the same or upon the same principle. The 2 wires which are connected to the Batteries called the poles the one at the zinc side the positive & the one at the copper end the negative. Every change in the electrical state of a body produces an equal chemical change. Oxygen Iodine & Chlorine are negative. Nitrogen Hydrogen & the metals are positive. Any three substances coming together produces electricity. The pairing of potato beet & turnips placed in successive contact produce electricity. It is the contact of the plates that first generates the galvanism and it is through the medium of the acid that it is kept up…”