What is this?
Lecture notebooks belonging to Surgeon Amos Evans
When is it from?
1802-1803 and 1806
Why is it Important?
Amos Alexander Evans was born on 26 November 1785. His mother, Mary Alexander, eventually bore nine children, of which Amos appears to have been the eldest. Little is know of his early life, but we can presume he followed the pursuits usual of other sons of the gentry. He attended the Academy in Newark, Delaware where he probably received the rudiments of a classical education. When or why Evans chose to pursue the medical profession is not known, but by the fall of 1802 (when he was only 17) he felt confident enough in his understanding to attend 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 he had assumed the post of Professor of medical theory and clinical practice at the University of Pennsylvania and it was here beginning in November 1802 that Evans attended a series of 99 lectures on subjects ranging from advice on siteing hospitals and education of doctors to philosophical disquisitions on reproduction and longevity.
Evans clearly hung on every word, and his notebooks from the lectures are neatly written regurgitations of Rush’s own words. For the most part, Evans took Rush’s teachings at face value, adding little of his own commentary, even when he clearly disagreed. Occasionally though the good 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 was 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 Elkton to get some practical experience. Here he studied under the tutelage of Dr. George Mitchell, a local practitioner. It can be assumed that he continued with Mitchell, learning all he could about the workings of a private practice, until the fall of 1806, when Evans again returned to Philadelphia to take a series of courses taught by the aptly named Professor of Surgery Doctor Philip Syng Physick. His two years practicing medicine with Mitchell apparently affected his hand writing, for his book of lecture notes is full of crabbed script, cross outs and insertions. One suspects that Evans did not lend Dr. Physick the same attention as he did Rush. During this sojourn in Philadelphia, Evans lived at 31 North 8th Street. The medical department of the College of Philadelphia was at that time housed in a wing of the old “President’s House” at the corner of 9th and Market Street, so it would have been a short walk to school.
Evans later sought an appointment as a surgeon’s mate in the US Navy, which he received on 1 September 1808. He joined Constitution in the spring of 1812, and ministered to the men wounded in the engagements with HMS Guerriere and HMS Java. Evans died at Elkton, Maryland in 1848.