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September 18, 2013

Medicine and Natural History

From July through September Observing the Natural World: The Art and Science of Natural History exhibits artwork, manuscripts and archives, and rare books from Kelvin Smith Library’s Special Collections and University Archives. In preparing the exhibit we realized how much campus and regional initiatives mirrored broader developments in the field of biology. One particularly striking example is how biology was taught in universities. For much of the 19th century, most biology instruction, then called natural history, was done by medical schools.

When the Medical Department of Western Reserve College was established in 1843, Samuel St. John, John Lang Cassels, and Jared Potter Kirtland were three of the earliest faculty.

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left to right: Samuel St. John, John Lang Cassels, and Jared Potter Kirtland

St. John was Professor of Chemistry, Natural History, and Medical Jurisprudence. From 1843 to 1856 he taught courses in botany and zoology, natural history, philosophy of natural history, anatomy, physiology, and conchology.

Cassels was a member of the Medical faculty from 1843-1873 and twice served as Dean, 1843-44 and 1961-73. He taught courses in geology, mineralogy, and botany.

Kirtland served on the Medical faculty from 1843-1863 and also served as Dean, in 1846. While his teaching was not in natural history, but theory and practice of medicine, Kirtland was a famous naturalist. He founded the Cleveland Academy of Natural Science, predecessor of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. He participated in the 1837 geological survey of Ohio, producing a report cataloging the state’s mammals, birds reptiles, fishes, and mollusks. His horticultural experiments developed improved varieties of serveral fruits. Dr. Kirtland also served three terms in the Ohio House of Representatives. The papers of this remarkable man are held by the Kelvin Smith Library’s Special Collections and a finding aid is available.

The exhibit, in Kelvin Smith Library’s Special Collections Hatch Reading Room, is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. till 4:30 p.m., through September 27.

Posted by jmt3 at September 18, 2013 06:12 PM

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