Elisha Bartlett

Birth: 1804, Oct. 4
Death: 1855, Jul. 19
Occupation: doctor

Associated Counties

  • Baltimore City

Additional Information

  • Dates:
    Notes: Herringshaw’s Encyclopedia of American Biography of the Nineteenth Century.
    Herringshaw’s Encyclopedia of American Biography, page 86

    BARTLETT, ELISHA, physician, author, was born in 1805, in Smithfield, R. I. He was a Rhode Island physician; and the author of The Fevers of the United States; and Simple Settings in Verse for Portraits and Pictures in Mr. Dicken’s Gallery. He died July 18, 1855, in Smithfield, R. I

    Source: Herringshaw’s Encyclopedia of American Biography. See: Ancestry.com

  • Dates: 1804-1855
    Notes: Born at Smithfield, Rhode Island, October 6, 1804, Elisha Bartlett was singularly fortunate in his parents, who were members of the Society of Friends, strong, earnest souls, well endowed with graces of the head and of the heart.

    At Smithfield, at Uxbridge, Mass., and at a well-known Friends’ institution in New York, Bartlett obtained a very thorough preliminary education. Details of his medical course are not at hand, but after studying with Dr. Willard, of Uxbridge, Drs. Greene and Heywood, of Worcester, and Dr. Levi Wheaton, of Providence, and attendng medical lectures at Boston, and at Providence, he took his doctor’s degree at Brown University in 1826, a year before the Untimely end of the medical department.

    In June, 1826, Bartlett sailed for Europe, and writing September 4, he speaks of attending every day at the Jardin des Plantes to hear the lectures of Cloquet and Cuvier.

    In 1827, shortly after completing his twenty-third year, Bartlett settled at Lowell, then a town of only 3,500 inhabitants, but growing rapidly, owing to the establishment of numerous mills. This was his home for nearly twenty years.

    In 1832 he held his first teaching position, that of professor of pathological anatomy and of materia medica in the Berkshire Medical Institution, at Pittsfield, and of 1839 was appointed to the chair of practice in Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, the school founded by Nathan Smith in 1798.

    In 1841 he accepted the chair of the theory and practice of medicine in the Transylvania University, Lexington, Ky., at that time the strongest and best equipped school in the West, but became professor of the theory and practice of medicine at the University of Maryland in 1844, and of materia medica and obstetrics in the Vermont Medical College, the session of which began in March and continued for thirteen week. Among his colleagues were Alonzo Clark, Benjamin R. Palmer and Edward M. Moore, and later John C. Halton (q.v.).

    On March 13, 1849, he received the appointment of professor of the theory and practice of medicine in the University of Louisville.

    The condition of medical politics at that time in the town was not satisfactory, and a new school had been started in opposition to the University; among the Bartlett letters are a number from the elder Yandell which show a state of very high tension. Bartlett spent but one session in Louisville. He and Gross accepted chairs in the University of New York. The appointment of the former to the chair of the institutes and practice of medicines is dated September 19, 1850.

    Among his colleagues in the University were J.W. Draper, Martyn Paine (q.v.) and Granville Sharp Pattison (q.v.). Things do not seeem to have worked very smoothly. In the spring of 1851 overtures were made to him from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York, in which Faculty were his warm friends, Alonzo Clark and Willard Parker, and he was elected to the chair of materia medica and medical jurisprudence in the following year, 1852. Here he lectured during the next two sessions until compelled by ill health to retire.

    Bartlett began his career as a medical writer with the Monthly Journal of Medical Literature and American Medical Students’ Gazette, only three numbers of which were issued.

    Among the articles in these three numbers there are some of special merit. One signed S.N., “On the Claims of Medicine to the Character fo Certainty,” may have suggested to Bartlett his well-known essay, “On the Degree of Certainty in Medicine.”

    In July, 1832, he became associated with A.L. Pierson (q.v.) and J.B. Flint (q.v.) in a much more pretentious and important journal, the Medical Magazine, Boston, a monthly publication which continued for three years.

    In 1831 appeared a little work entitled, “Sketches of the Character and Writings of Eminent Living Surgeons and Physicians of Paris,” translated from the French of J.L.H. Peisse. Of the nine lives, those of Dupuytren and Broussais are still of interest to us, and there is no work in English from which one can get better insight into the history of medicine in Paris in the early part of this century.

    Bartlett’s claim to remembrance, so far as his medical writings are concerned, rests mainly on his works on “Fevers” issued in 1842, and subsequent editions in the years 1847, 1852 and 1857. It remains one of the most notable of contributions of American physicians to the subject. Between the time of Bartlett’s visit to Paris and 1840, a group of students had studied under Louis, and had returned to this country thoroughly familer with typhoid fever, the prevalent form in the French capital at that time.

    As to the work itself, the interest today rests chiefly with the remarkably accurate picture which is given of typhoid fever — a picture the main outlines of which are as well and firmly drawn as in any work which has appeared since.

    “An Essay on the Philosophy of Medicine,” 1844, a classic in American medical literature, is the most characteristic of Bartlett’s works, and the one to which in the future students will turn most often, since it represents one of the most successful attempts to apply the principles of deductive reasoning to medicine, and it moreover illustrates the mental attitude of an acute and thoughtful observer in the middle of the century.

    In 1848 appeared on the Bartlett’s most characteristic works, a little volume of eighty-four pages, entitled, “An Inquiry into the Degree of Certainty of Medicine, and into the Nature and Extent of its Power over Disease.” The reception of the essay in certain quarters indicates how shocking it tone appeared to some of the staid old conservatives of the day. I came across a review of it in the Medical Examiner, November, 1848, from which I give the following extract: “This is a curious production, the like of which we have seldom seem from the pen of anyone who has passed the age of a sophmore. What makes it the more remarkable is the circumstances that the writer is a gentleman of education and experience and the author of works which have given him a wide reputation.”

    This last of Bartlett’s strictly medical publications was a little monography on the “History, Diagnosis and Treatment of Edematous Laryngitis,” published in Louisville at the time he held the chair of practice at the University in 1850.

    Bartlett was at his best in the occasional address. Perhaps the most characteristic is one entitled, “The Head and the Heart, or the Relative Importance of Intellectual and Moral Education,” which is a stirring plea for a higher tone in social and political morality. In the same clear, ringing accent he speaks in his address on Spurzheim of the dangers of democracy. In a lecture on the “Sense of the Beautiful,” delivered in 1843, Bartlett appears as an apostle of culture, pleading in glowing language for the education of his faculty.

    One of the last of Bartlett’s publications was “A Discourse on the Times, Character and Writings of Hoppocrates,” delivered as an introductory address before the trustees, faculty and medical class of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, at the opening of the session of 1852-53. The three pictures which he gives of Hippocrates as a young practitioner in the Isle of Thasos, at the death-bed of Pericles, and as a teacher in the Isle of Cos, are masterpieces worthy of Walter Savage Landor.

    When at Louisville some obscure nervous trouble, the nature of which I have not been able to ascertain, attacked Dr. Bartlett. Against it in New York he fought bravely but in vain, and after the session of 1853-54 retired to Smithfield, his native place. The prolonged illness terminated in paralysis, but, fortunately, did not impair his mental faculties in the slightest degree. He died on the nineteenth of July, 1855.

    William Osler

    Elisha Bartlett, a Rhode Island Philosopher, William Osler, Providence, 1900.
    An address on the life of Elisha Bartlett, delivered before the Middlesex North District Med. Soc., 1855 (E. Huntington).

    Source: Kelly, Howard A. and Burrage, Walter J., American Medical Biographies Baltimore: Norman, Remington Company: 63-65

  • Dates: 1804-1855
    Notes:
    Source: Quinan, John Russell, Medical Annals of Baltimore from 1608 to 1880, including Events, Men and Literature to which is added a Subject Index and Record of Public Services Baltimore: Press of Isaac Friedenwald: 62
  • Dates: 1804-1855
    Notes: Born at Smithfield, R.I., 1804. Educated at Friends’ School, New York; attended medical lectures at Boston and Providence; M.D., Brown University, Rhode Island, 1826; settled in practice at Lowell, Mass., 1827; Professor in nine schools in the North and West, and a frequent visitor to Europe; Professor of Practice, University of Maryland, 1844-46; Mayor of Lowell, 1836-38; member of Massachusetts Legislature, 1840 (two terms); author of ‘Sketches of Living Physicians and Surgeons of Paris,’ Trans., Boston, 1831; a ‘Treatise on Fevers,’ 8vo, 1842 (four editions); ‘Philosophy of Medical Science,’ 8vo, 1844; ‘Inquiry into Degree of Certainty in Medicine,’ 8vo, 1848; ‘Poems,’ 1855. He as an able writer and teacher. Died at Smithfield, R.I., 1855.
    Source: Cordell, Eugene Fauntleroy, Medical Annals of Maryland 1799-1899 Baltimore: The Medical and Chirurgical Faculty for the State of Maryland: 314
  • Dates: 1805-1855
    Notes: The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans: Volume I
    A
    Bartlett, Homer Newton
    page 209

    BARTLETT, Elisha, physician, was born at Smithfield, R.I. Oct. 6, 1805. After his graduation from the medical department of Brown university in 1826, he was appointed lecturer on pathological anatomy at the Berkshire medical institution. In 1838 he went to Dartmouth college,[p.209] where for two years he filled the chair of the theory and practice of medicine and pathological anatomy. He was subsequently professor in the Transylvania college, Lexington, Ky., in the University of Maryland, and in the University of New York. In 1852 he was appointed to the chair of materia medica and medical jurisprudence in the College of physicians and surgeons, New York, holding the position until the year of his death. From 1843 to 1852 he lectured at the Vermont medical college. Among his published works are the following: “History, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Typhoid and Typhus Fever” (1842); “History, Diagnosis, and Treatment of the Fevers of the United States” (1847); “Inquiry into the Degree of Certainty in Medicine” (1848); “Brief Sketch of the Life of William Charles Wells” (1849); “Discourse on Times, Character, and Writings of Hippocrates” (1852), and “Simple Settings in Verse for Six Portraits and Pictures in Mr. Dickens’s Gallery” (1855). He was also editor of the Monthly Journal of Medical Literature in Lowell. He died in the house in which he was born, July 18, 1855.

    Source: The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans: Volume I. See: Ancestry.com

  • Dates: 1843
    Notes: Dr. Elisha Bartlett, Professor of Practice, University of Maryland
    Source: Quinan, John Russell, Medical Annals of Baltimore from 1608 to 1880, including Events, Men and Literature to which is added a Subject Index and Record of Public Services Baltimore: Press of Isaac Friedenwald: 38
  • Dates: 1843
    Notes: Dr. Elisha Bartlett becomes Professor of Practice at the University of Maryland.
    Source: Cordell, Eugene Fauntleroy, Medical Annals of Maryland 1799-1899 Baltimore: The Medical and Chirurgical Faculty for the State of Maryland: 697
  • Dates: 1844-46
    Notes: Professor, University of Maryland School of Medicine
    Source: Cordell, Eugene Fauntleroy, Historical Sketch of the University of Maryland School of Medicine (1807-1890), with an Introductory Chapter, Notices of the Schools of Law, Arts and Sciences, and Theology, and the Department of Dentistry, and a General Catalog of Medical Alumni Baltimore: Press of Isaac Friedenwald: 210
  • Dates: 1845
    Notes: Smallpox epidemic in the city, 110 deaths. Dr. William Power assumes charge of the Chair of Practice at the University in the absence of Professor Bartlett.
    Source: Cordell, Eugene Fauntleroy, Medical Annals of Maryland 1799-1899 Baltimore: The Medical and Chirurgical Faculty for the State of Maryland: 699
  • Dates: 1855
    Notes: Dr. Elisha Bartlett ob aet 51
    Source: Quinan, John Russell, Medical Annals of Baltimore from 1608 to 1880, including Events, Men and Literature to which is added a Subject Index and Record of Public Services Baltimore: Press of Isaac Friedenwald: 40

Bibliography

  • Bartlett, Elisha, The history, diagnosis, and treatment of the fevers of the United States Philadelphia: Blanchard and Lea.
  • Bartlett, Elisha, The history, diagnosis, and treatment of the fevers of the United States Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard.
  • Bartlett, Elisha, The history, diagnosis, and treatment of the fevers of the United States Birmingham, AL: Classics of the Medicine Library.
  • Bartlett, Elisha, The History, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Typhoid and of Typhus Fever; with an Essay on the Diagnosis of Bilious Remittent and of Yellow Feber Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard.
  • Bartlett, Elisha, An essary on the philosophy of medical science Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard.
  • Bartlett, Elisha, An inquiry into the degree of certainty in medicine; and into the nature and extent of its power over disease Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard.
  • Bartlett, Elisha, A Brief Sketch of the Life, Character and Writings of William Charles Wells, M.D., F.R.S: An Address Delivered Before the Louisville Medical Society, December 7th 1849. Louisville, KY: Prentice and Weissenger.
  • Bartlett, Elisha, A Discourse on the Times, Character, and Writings of Hippocrates. Read before the Trustees, Faculty and Medical Class of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, at the Opening Term of 1852-3 New York, London: Bailliere.
  • Bartlett, Elisha, The history, diagnosis, and treatment of the fevers of the United States Philadelphia: Blanchard and Lea.
  • Bartlett, Elisha, The Monthly Journal of Medical Literature and the Literature of Science. Lowell, MA: n.pub..
  • Bartlett, Elisha, An Introductory Lecture on the Objects and Nature of Medical Science: Delivered in the Hall of the Medical Department of Transylvania University, on the 3d Day of November, 1841 Lexington, KY: N.L. & J.W. Finnell, Printers.
  • Bartlett, Elisha and Alonzo Clark, The History, Diagnosis, and Treatment of the Fevers of the United States Philadelphia: Blanchard and Lea.
  • Bartlett, Elisha and Alonzo Clark, The History, Diagnosis, and Treatment of the Fevers of the United States Philadelphia: Blanchard and Lea.