Amos Evans’s Notes from Dr. James Jackson’s Lectures
Amos Alexander Evans, born on November 26, 1785 in Elkton, Maryland, was the eldest son of Mary Alexander and John Evans. He attended the Academy at Newark, Delaware, where he received the rudiments of a classical education. By the fall of 1802, at age 17, Amos attended a series of medical lectures by the famed Philadelphia physician Dr. Benjamin Rush. One of the preeminent medical men in the country, Rush had signed the Declaration of Independence and served as Surgeon General of the Continental Army. By 1791, Rush had assumed the post of Professor of Medical Theory and Clinical Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. It was there, beginning in November 1802, that Evans attended a series of 99 lectures on subjects ranging from advice on siting hospitals, to the education of doctors, to philosophical disquisitions on reproduction, longevity, the influence of various factors on disease, and other topics.
Evans’ lecture notebooks are neatly written records of Rush’s own words, adding little of his own commentary. Occasionally, though, the doctor’s musings did produce a rise in the young student: “The Doctor thinks that Latin & Greek languages by no means essentially necessary to the study of medecine!!! [sic]” At other times, however, Rush’s advice appears eminently practical: “A legible hand writing is particularly enforced, as serious mischief has been done by prescriptions being indistinctly written.”
Having completed the course of lectures, Evans returned home to Maryland to get some practical medical experience. In 1804, at age 19, he began studying under the tutelage of Dr. George Mitchell, a local practitioner in Elkton, Maryland. In the fall of 1806, Evans again returned to the University of Philadelphia to take a series of courses taught by Dr. Philip Syng Physick, Professor of Surgery. Unlike the neatly scribed notebooks for Dr. Rush, these lecture notes are full of crabbed script, cross outs, and insertions. Following his studies, Evans passed his medical examination and received his medical license for the state of Maryland.
Evans later sought an appointment as a surgeon’s mate in the U.S. Navy, which he received on September 1, 1808. He was commissioned as surgeon in 1810, and joined USS Constitution in the spring of 1812. In addition to treating daily ailments and occupational injuries, Evans ministered to the men wounded in the battles with HMS Guerriere and HMS Java. Stationed in the cockpit, a cramped space on the orlop deck just above the after magazine and hold, Evans tended to the wounded and performed surgeries on a makeshift table. He was detached from Constitution in 1813.
After the War of 1812, Evans was stationed at the Marine Hospital in Boston. He continued his studies at Harvard Medical School and attended the lectures for Dr. James Jackson, Professor of Theology and Practice of Physic and cofounder of Massachusetts General Hospital. As with previous lectures, Evans recorded the details of these lessons in a notebook. This notebook is titled, “Notes of Doct. Jackson’s Lectures on the Theory and Practice of Medicine, & of Clinical Practice in the Alms House at Boston. Novr. 2d. 1813.” He received a degree from Harvard Medical School in 1814. Evans died at Elkton, Maryland in 1848.