John Morgan Biography (1735-1789)
John Morgan was born June 10, 1735 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; he died onOctober 15, 1789 in the same city. He was the son of Evan Morgan, a realtor and dealer in iron and hardware, and Joanna Biles Morgan. He married Mary Hopkinson in 1765 (they had no children). His education consisted of matriculation from Reverend Finley's Nottingham Academy; graduation with an A.B. degree from the College of Philadelphia in 1757; a medical apprenticeship with John Redman; studies in London and Edinburgh from 1760 through 1763, culminating with his taking the M.D. degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1763 (wherehe studied under William Hunter, the Munros, and William Cullen); and finally postgraduate studies in Paris and Italy from 1763 to 1765. In 1765 he returned to Philadelphia where he began his medical practice. In the same year hewas appointed Professor of Theory and Practice of Physic at the College of Philadelphia. From 1775 on, he served as Director-General of Hospitals and Physician-in-Chief of the Continental Army, but the enmity of his subordinates and the nature of Revolutionary politics led to his being dismissed from his position by Congress in 1777 and to his replacement by William Shippen. From 1773 to 1783 he was senior medical officer at Pennsylvania Hospital. Followingtwo years of deliberation, a court of inquiry honorably acquitted Morgan in 1779 of all charges that had led to his dismissal as Director-General of the Army. But these events had by then taken their toll on Morgan, and he returnedto private practice, broken in spirit, poor, and in ill health. He died 12 years later.
John Morgan was a principal founder, with Shippen, of the first medical school in America and of the American Physical Society and the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. As Director General and Physician-in-Chief of the Continental Army, he attempted to improve the quality of medical care provided to members of the American army, and insisted on rigorous examinations for medicalofficers and on the subordination of regimental surgeons to the hospital chiefs. Morgan's library became the cornerstone for the Library of the College of Physicians. Among his writings were A Discourse upon the Institution ofMedical Schools in America (1765), which files the first brief for adequate medical education in this country and commemorates the organization at theCollege of Philadelphia of the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania; A Recommendation of Inoculation According to Baron Dimsdale's Method (1776); A Vindication of His Public Character in the Station of Director-General of the Military Hospitals (1777), in which he ably defendshis actions as Director-General of the Army and demands a court of inquiry to investigate the grounds for his dismissal.