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Commencement Address at Columbia College of Physicians & Surgeons About Medical Ethics 1862

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In the address he delivered March 14, 1862, Dr. Brown makes references to his own education and to the general state of medical education, as well as to the ignorance and superstition of medical advances by certain members of society, touching on competing reliance on faith-based and sound medical treatments, as well as the role of legislation on public health.

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Brown, D. Tilden, M.D. AN ADDRESS DELIVERED BEFORE THE ALUMNI ASSOCIATION OF THE COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS AND SURGEONS, MEDICAL DEPARTMENT OF COLUMBIA COLLEGE, NEW-YORK, AT THE SPRING COMMENCEMENT, MARCH 14, 1862. BY D. TILDEN BROWN, M.D., PHYSICIAN OF THE BLOOMINGDALE ASYLUM FOR THE INSANE, NEW-YORK CITY. New-York: John A. Gray, Printer, Stereotyper, and Binder, Fire-Proof Building, Corner of Frankfort and Jacob Streets, 1862. 22.5 cm, [title-page; exchanged letters between Dr. Joseph H. Vedder and Dr. D. Tilden Brown; list of the officers of the Alumni Association for the year 1862-63; address p. 5 – 43; 2 concluding blanks]. First and only edition, the fifth recorded copy. Other copies are recorded at Columbia University, health Science; University of Rochester Medical Center; Harvard University, Medical School, Countway Library; Wright State University, Fordham Health Science Library. A heavy beige paper wrapper over stab-stitch sewing. A fine copy.

D. Tilden Brown (1822 – 1889) was a medical student in New York City 1841 – 1847 and employed at the Sheppard Asylum in Baltimore. He was also sent to Nicaragua (1848 – 1850) by his company, Compañia de Vapores de Nicaragua, to make determinations relative to a trans-isthmian canal across Central America. One of Brown’s partners was Cornelius Vanderbilt’s representative for the American Atlantic and Pacific Canal Company in Nicaragua. Dr. Brown is remembered not only as an early psychiatrist, but also as an explorer and a businessman.

In the address he delivered March 14, 1862, Dr. Brown makes references to his own education and to the general state of medical education, as well as to the ignorance and superstition of medical advances by certain members of society, touching on competing reliance on faith-based and sound medical treatments, as well as the role of legislation on public health. Brown cites the dilemma of Dr. Jolly mistakenly as a Dickens character (in fact, from Wilkie Collins, “Picking up Waifs at Sea” in All the Year Round) in determining which baby belongs to which mother, and the logical resolution by the captain, who gives the heaviest baby to the heaviest mother, as one of several negative stereotypes for incompetent physicians: “Now how comes this? In the language of the day, what is the key to their position? Temperament! It is the old world-wide story of tact and talent, told in living characters. As the majority of the human race mistake their notions for opinions, so they select their physician by a caprice which they call judgement.” Brown addressed the medical malpractice of the time, citing a death from the wrong drug, as well as the then-recent death of President Lincoln’s son. Drs. Rush and Warren are cited for their work at Bunker-Hill, and some of his colleagues at the Bloomingdale Asylum are cited for both competent and incompetent practice.