The Medical Repository was a publication designed to provide a forum for discussion and education concerning modern ideas of medicine. During the first several decades of American independence the medical community in the United States was extremely active in developing new methods of treatment and conducting important experiments. Leaders such as Dr. Benjamin Rush and Benjamin Franklin planted the seeds of a vibrant atmosphere of inquiry and study. The Medical Repository began as an expression of this movement and was run by Samuel Mitchill who was a professor of Chemistry at Columbia College.
This specific book was the third volume published in 1800 and includes essays on a wide variety of medical news and research. Topics ranged from studies on yellow fever by Dr. Rush, to chemical nomenclature, vaccinations, and even issues relating to the discipline of husbandry. Perhaps the most significant and interesting inclusion is the report on George Washington’s death by Dr. James Craik and Dr. Elisha Dick–the attending and consulting physicians. Beginning on page 311 the two doctors explain the nature of the disease and the various attempted treatments. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful in saving Washington’s life and they explain that, “on Saturday night, when, retaining the full possession of his intellect, he expired without a struggle” (p. 312). The whole story, however, reveals that many of the treatment methods very well might have contributed to Washington’s demise and is certainly worth a read.
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