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School of Medicine Timeline


In Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin presents his vision of a school in a pamphlet titled "Proposals for the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania." Unlike other American colonial colleges, the new school would not focus on education of the clergy. Instead, it would prepare students for lives in business and public service. The proposed program of study becomes the nation's first modern liberal arts curriculum. The university — called The College of Philadelphia — opens its doors in 1751, when the first classes are held.

The son of a Philadelphia shopkeeper, John Morgan graduates from The College of Philadelphia and becomes a regimental surgeon of Pennsylvania’s provincial troops. Within a few years, he travels to Europe to advance his medical expertise, but soon returns to his alma mater with plans to found a medical school there.

Dr. William Shippen gives an introductory lecture for a course on anatomy at Pennsylvania Hospital. The hospital’s board of managers, strapped for funds, does not start the school, but offers Shippen instructional materials; in return, Shippen charges a fee benefiting the hospital. His courses in anatomy and midwifery are the first systematic teaching of medical subjects that approach an academic level in the American colonies.

In May, the trustees accept Dr. John Morgan’s request to be appointed professor of the theory and practice of physics. In September, they elect Dr. William Shippen professor of anatomy, surgery and midwifery. The School of Medicine dates its origin to these appointments. Bound in purpose, Morgan and Shippen remained rivals until Morgan’s death in 1789.

The trustees elect Dr. Adam Kuhn professor of botany and materia medica. The College of Philadelphia graduates its first Bachelor of Medicine degree students.

Dr. Benjamin Rush is elected professor of chemistry.

The College of Philadelphia becomes the University of the State of Pennsylvania.

Surgeon’s Hall becomes the first building used specifically and exclusively by the University of Pennsylvania for medical teaching. It is the first purpose-built medical teaching facility in the new nation.

The University moves to Ninth and Market Streets.


Robert Hare, America’s foremost chemist, is appointed chair of chemistry. He is the School’s first non-M.D. professor and is credited with bringing modern research methods and science to Penn Medicine.

At a total cost of $38,000, the University constructs a new, custom-built Medical Hall that contains three large lecture rooms, a museum, anatomical lecture and demonstration rooms, several offices for the faculty, and an office for business administration.

The American Medical Association is established in Philadelphia with longtime Chair of Medicine Dr. Nathaniel Chapman as its first president.

At the start of the Civil War, the surgeons general of both sides are Penn Medicine graduates: Dr. Clement A. Finley, M’1818, for the North and Dr. David C. DeLeon, M’1836, for the South. In the next four years, some 1,700 graduates of the School of Medicine participate in the war: 6 percent of all Union Army physicians and 26 percent of all Confederates.

Late 1860s
Trustees discuss moving the University from Ninth and Market Streets to West Philadelphia. A young lecturer in clinical medicine, Dr. William Pepper Jr., champions the move and advances the idea of building a teaching Pepper hospital at the site. At this time, medical students still train at Pennsylvania Hospital.

At the urging of Dr. William Pepper, with fellow Penn alumni Dr. Horatio Wood and Dr. William F. Norris, a meeting of the medical alumni convenes for the purpose of organizing plans for a hospital owned by the University and staffed by the medical faculty. The Hospital finance committee, chaired by Dr. Pepper, launches a campaign to raise $700,000.

Dr. William Pepper concludes that Penn’s 10-acre campus isn't large enough to provide for the planned hospital buildings. He petitions members of City Council who grant Penn an additional 6.9 acres for $500 in cash and 50 free hospital beds, which are allotted to serve Philadelphia's poor.

In May, ground is broken for the first hospital building, designed in “university Gothic” style by Penn drawing instructor Thomas W. Richards. In the center of the building is a laboratory, which links medical research with clinical care from the start. (The original hospital building was razed in 1950. The Gates Building now stands on the site.) Richards also designs College and Logan Halls.

On July 15, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, the nation’s first teaching hospital built expressly for that purpose, opens to patients.

On June 15, the “Father of Motion Pictures,” Edward Muybridge, ushers in a new era in photography with his serial fast-motion images of a trotting horse. A few years later, Penn commissions him to make a further study of animal and human locomotion. Dr. Edward T. Reichert, M’1879, serves on the team of scientists and engineers helping Muybridge develop the necessary equipment and chemical recipe for this seminal study. Dr. Reichert goes on to lead Penn’s Department of Physiology for 34 years.


Penn surgeon Dr. D. Hayes Agnew, M’1838, is summoned to the bedside of President James Garfield, who has been wounded by an assassin’s bullet. The president rallies despite his personal physicians’ failure to remove the bullet with their fingers and long forceps. By the time Dr. Agnew arrives, the damage is done; thus, he recommends conservative management. President Garfield dies of infection two months after the shooting.

Dr. Nathan Francis Mossell becomes the first African-American to receive a medical degree from Penn. Later, he helps found the Frederick Douglass Hospital in Philadelphia, serving as chief of staff and medical director for nearly 40 years. Dr. Mossell dies in 1946 at age 90.

The Medical Classes of 1889, 1890, and 1891 raise $750 to commission Philadelphia artist AgnewEakinsThomas Eakins to paint Penn surgeon Dr. D. Hayes Agnew on the eve of his retirement. The Agnew Clinic has since become one of Thomas Eakins’s most celebrated works. (The image is featured on Penn Medicine's diploma.)

On February 22, Penn physics professor Arthur Goodspeed, conducting experiments on cathode ray tubes with his guest William Jennings (a British photographer), inadvertently creates the world’s first X-ray image of two coins (Jennings’s trolley fare). Goodspeed isn't aware of what he has done until he reads Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen’s seminal report on X-rays in 1895.

Part of the vast, decades-old teaching collection of anatomical specimens belonging to Dr. Caspar Wistar, chair of anatomy, falls victim to a fire in Logan Hall. The event leads Wistar’s great-nephew, Isaac J. Wistar, to move to protect the collection in a new location. Thus begins the storied history of The Wistar Institute, the first private institution devoted to medical research and training. The Institute building at 36th and Spruce Streets, just across from Logan Hall, opens in 1894.

Provost Dr. William Pepper Jr. introduces a new four-year medical curriculum.

The William Pepper Sr. Laboratory of Clinical Medicine is established — the nation’s first laboratory devoted to clinical research. Provost Pepper names the laboratory in honor of his father, who had been professor of the theory and practice of medicine at Penn from 1860 to 1864.

The Medical Laboratories Building opens. Pathology, pharmacology and physiology are the first departments to be allocated coveted space.MorganBuildingIn 1928, the Anatomy-Chemistry Wing is added. In 1987, the building gets a new name: the John Morgan Building.

The University of Pennsylvania Medical Department is officially renamed the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Penn merges with the Medico-Chirurgical College of Philadelphia (founded as a medical society in 1849), and two years later, with the Polyclinic Graduate College and Hospital (founded in 1883). Per merger agreements, which create Penn's Graduate School of Medicine, Penn builds a hospital next to the existing Polyclinic Hospital on Lombard Street between 18th and 19th. The faculty of the Graduate School merge with that of the School of Medicine in 1964, and Graduate Hospital is sold in 1979.

The first two women, Dr. Gladys Girardeau and Dr. Alberta Peltz, graduate from the School of Medicine.

The medical institution known as the Philadelphia Almshouse (since 1834) is officially named Philadelphia General Hospital, administered by the city’s Department of Public Health. The 16-acre institution, a neighbor to Penn geographically and operationally, closes in 1977.

Walter J. Freeman graduates from the School of Medicine. He goes on to pioneer the lobotomy and champion it in the U.S. and abroad throughout his professional career (1924-1968), thus making him one of medical history's most infamous figures.

Penn pharmacologist Dr. Alfred N. Richards discovers how the kidney makes urine. During World War II, he chairs a government committee stimulating and supervising the development of many significant wartime products and methods. The first mass production and distribution of penicillin are carried out under his lead.

Dr. Otto F. Meyerhof, research professor in physiological chemistry (1940-1951), receives the Nobel Prize for Medicine jointly with Archibald V. Hill (England) for discovering the fixed relationship between the consumption of oxygen and the metabolism of lactic acid in muscle.

The Eldridge R. Johnson Foundation for medical physics is established at the School of Medicine. It is the first institute for applying the forces of physics to medicine. The Foundation develops a reputation as a leading center in the biophysics of the nervous system.

Dr. Francis C. Wood, M’26, advances the diagnostic capabilities of the electrocardiogram. His experiments help prove that heart ischemia causes the pain of angina pectoris. Wood serves as chair of the Department of Medicine from 1947 to 1965.

Penn researches Drs. A. E. Makepeace, George L. Weinstein and Maurice Freidman study how pregnancy prevents ovulation. Their research leads to the invention of “the pill” in 1960.

While at Penn, Dr. Christian Lambertsen, M’43, SCUBAapplies for a patent on his self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (eventually known as SCUBA). The following year, he offers it to the U.S. Navy, who dismisses both the device and the idea that divers would be able to swim under submarine nets and clamp explosives to the hulls of ships. The Office of Strategic Services accepts his ideas instead, collaborating with him on secret operations. Later, Lambertsen founds the University's Institute for Environmental Medicine.

The 20th General Hospital, with a 700-member staff of predominantly Penn people, begins operations in northeast India. Hospital staff treats the wounds of American and Chinese forces fighting the Japanese in Burma, and also treats malaria and dysentery. Dr. I. S. Ravdin heads the hospital. In two years, the Hospital admits 50,232 patients.

Penn medical student William Y. Inouye, M’53, devises a dialysis machine out of a pressure cooker. His device is later adopted for worldwide use.

Dr. Emily Mudd1952
Dr. Emily Mudd, only the third woman to be named to the faculty of the School of Medicine, becomes Penn’s first female full professor.

Professor of Biophysicsand Physical Dr. Britton Chance Biochemistry Dr. Britton Chance wins an Olympic gold medal as a member of the U.S. sailing team. His day job: director of the esteemed Eldridge R. Johnson Foundation, a position he held for 34 years.

Dr. James H. Robinson, M’53, graduates from the School of Medicine. Later, he becomes the first African-American to complete his internship and residency at HUP.

Dr. I. S. Ravdin is summoned to Washington to observe surgery on President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who suffered a bowel obstruction.

Dr. Peter C. Nowell, M’52, collaborates Nowellwith David Hungerford, Ph.D., a Penn graduate student, to produce the first evidence that abnormal chromosomes can cause cancer. They observe an abnormally small chromosome — dubbed the “Philadelphia chromosome”— in the cancerous white blood cells of patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia. The discovery shatters the widespread belief that cancer has no genetic basis.

Early 1960s
Dr. Aaron T. Beck designed a revolutionary form of Dr. Aaron T. Beckpsychotherapy, called “cognitive therapy,” as a short-term (12 to 16 sessions) method of correcting depressive patients’ erroneous thinking, helping them to perceive their situations more realistically and positively. Later he creates Penn’s Center for Cognitive Therapy. In 2006, Dr. Beck receives the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research. The chairman of the Lasker jury calls cognitive therapy “one of the most important advances — if not the most important advance — in the treatment of mental diseases in the last 50 years.”

Pediatrician Dr. Elizabeth Kirk Rose, M’26, initiates a gathering of female medical students and alumnae, which later becomes the annual Women in Medicine Dinner. The event is named in Dr. Rose’s honor in 1998.

Cardiologist Dr. Edward S. Cooper becomes HUP’s first African-American attending physician. In 1973, he becomes the first African-American tenured physician-professor in the School of Medicine.

Radiology resident Dr. David A. Kuhl, M’55, conceives of and constructs a device that represents the first true computed axial tomographic (CAT) imaging system. As a member of the faculty, he goes on to develop the procedure known as single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and the principles of positron emission tomography (PET).

Dr. Clyde Barker performs HUP’s first transplantation surgery (a kidney), beginning the Hospital's development of what is today one of the nation’s largest transplant programs.

Dr. Jonathan E. Rhoads, GRM’40, Jonathan E. Rhoadsand his colleagues pioneer the development of intravenous nutrition. This approach, known as total parenteral nutrition, is now widely used to support patients who are unable to eat.

Dr. Ragnar Granit, research fellow (1929-1931), honorary Sc.D.’71, receives the Nobel Prize for Medicine with Haldan Keffer Hartline, research fellow (1931-1936), professor, and honorary Sc.D.’71, and George Wald for their discoveries concerning the primary physiological and chemical visual processes in the eye.

Dr. Helen O. Dickens, the School of Medicine’s first African-American female full professor, establishes the Office of Minority Affairs.

Research conducted by Dr. Joseph Stokes, M’20, chair of pediatrics (1939-1963), leads to development of the rubella (German measles) vaccine.

All cigarette machines removed from HUP.

Dr. Gerald M. Edelman, M’54, wins the Nobel Prize in Medicine for discoveries about the chemical nature of antibodies.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (founded in 1855) moves from 18th and Bainbridge Streets to south of HUP.

Dr. Albert Kligman, M’47, Ph.D., develops Retin-A, a cream used to treat acne and superficial wrinkles.

Jonathan E. RhoadsDr. Baruch Samuel Blumberg, professor of medicine ’64, Honorary Sc.D.’90, receives the Nobel Prize for Medicine jointly with D. Carleton Gajdusek for their discoveries concerning new mechanisms for the origin and dissemination of infectious diseases.

Research Medicine Chair Robert Austrian, M.D., receives the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Research for developing and demonstrating the efficacy of a vaccine against pneumococcal diseases. The vaccine has since saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

Computer systems are phased in at HUP.

Dr. Luigi Mastroianni Jr. performs the first successful human in-vitro fertilization in the Philadelphia region. His groundbreaking animal research in the mid to late 1970s paved the way for IVF.

1984 – 1999
A period of growth and construction begins. Major campus developments over the next 15 years: Devon MRI Center (1984); the 12-year-old Philadelphia Hilton Hotel is purchased and renamed Penn Tower (1986); Founders Pavilion (1987); Clinical Research Building (1990); Jonathan E. Rhoads Pavilion (1994); Stellar/Chance Laboratories (1995); Biomedical Research Building II/III (1999).

Michael Stuart Brown,M’66, receives the Nobel Prize for Medicine Michael Stuart Brownjointly with Joseph L. Goldstein for their discoveries concerning the regulation of cholesterol metabolism.

The University of Pennsylvania Medical Center is formed, comprising the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the School of Medicine.

The 21st Century Endowed Scholars Fund is established with a gift from Dr. Walter Gamble, M’57, and his wife, Anne. The Fund provides full tuition for select Penn medical students.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System is formed as the world’s first integrated academic health system.

The first women are appointed to serve as permanent department chairs: Priscilla A. Schaeffer, Ph.D., Microbiology, and Marjorie A. Bowman, M.D., Family Practice and Community Medicine.

The nation’s first hospital, Pennsylvania Hospital, joins the Health System, restoring the School of Medicine’s 232-year relationship with the institution.

Dr. Stanley B. Prusiner, M’68, receives the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his discovery of prions, the class of pathogen indicated as the infectious agent in mad cow disease and human neurodegenerative diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Vice Dean for Education Dr. Gail Morrison, M’71, unveils Curriculum 2000.

On September 1, Dr. Arthur H. Rubenstein Rubensteinarrives as executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System and dean of the School of Medicine. Two months later, an umbrella organization, which creates a governing body and unites the operations of the School of Medicine and the Health System in new ways, is established and named Penn Medicine.

More than 200 School of Medicine alumni are among the physicians staffing New York area hospitals that treated the more than 6,000 people injured in the terrorist attacks of September 11.

The School of Medicine ranks second (its highest ranking ever) in total funding among medical schools that receive research funds from the National Institutes of Health. For the eighth year in a row, U.S. News & World Report lists the School of Medicine among the top five research-oriented medical schools in the country.

Perelman Center2005
On October 20, groundbreaking commences for the Center for Advanced Medicine, an 800,000-square-foot outpatient care facility. Weeks later, it is christened the Raymond and Ruth Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, when Wharton alumnus and Penn Medicine trustee Ray Perelman and his wife make a $25 million gift. The building, which includes 300,000 square feet of parking space, opened in October 2008.

Perelman CenterDr. Frederick Kaplan, M.D., Dr. Eileen Shore, Ph.D., and other researchers in Dr. Kaplan’s lab discover the genetic mutation that causes fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), a rare disease that causes soft tissue to turn to bone, eventually immobilizing patients. This discovery is important not only for FOP patients, but may also lead to new therapies for more common skeletal conditions.

At UPHS, for the first time in the Northeastern United States, a temporary Total Artificial Heart (TAH-t) is implanted in a 46-year-old transplant patient to keep him alive and his organs healthy as he waits for a donor heart to become available.

February 23 – Elizabeth Kirk Rose, M.D., for whom the Women in Medicine Event is named, passes away at age 106. She was the most senior alumnus in the University of Pennsylvania.

CyclotronThe Mid-Atlantic region’s only cyclotron arrives from Europe for installation at Penn’s Roberts Proton Therapy Center, funded in part by a multimillion-dollar gift from Penn alumnus Ralph J. Roberts and his son, Brian L. Roberts. Proton therapy is the most targeted, precise radiation therapy available. It offers treatment for cancers such as head and neck tumors, where sparing surrounding tissues is essential. The largest and most comprehensive facility of its kind in the world, the Roberts Proton Therapy Center opened in 2009.


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