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Joseph Carson, M.D..
Professor of Materia Medica and Therapeutics at the University of
Dr. Joseph Carson was born in Philadelphia, April 19, 1808, and died
December 30, 1876, in the sixty-ninth year of his age. After a course of study during three years in the University of
Pennsylvania, he graduated, one of a class of eight, from the Department
of Arts, July 27, 1826.
Naturally inquisitive, and endowed with senses always alert, his few
months' experience in the drug-house gave him information which was
valuable in his subsequent pursuits, and possibly influenced him to
devote himself especially to materia medica in preference to any other
branch. At any rate, with a short training in the art of buying and
selling drugs, and a collegiate education, he commenced the study of
medicine. He became a private or office pupil of Dr. Thomas Hewson. and
followed the courses of lectures prescribed in the medical department of
the University of Pennsylvania, and was graduated from it Doctor of
Medicine in March, 1830.
Very soon after the Commencement, he was elected a resident-physician in
the hospital of the Philadelphia Almshouse, and discharged the duties
satisfactorily during a year or more.
Between Oct. 13. 1831, and August 3, 1832, he served as surgeon of the
ship Georgian, Captain John Land, and visited Madras and Calcutta. The
journal which he kept during the voyage shows that he was a careful
observer. The temperatures of the sea and air and the fluctuations of
the barometer are daily recorded in it ; and marine animals observed are
noted, and some of them figured.
Immediately after his return home he engaged in private practice.
October 29, 1833. he was elected a member of the Academy of Natural
Sciences of Philadelphia, and placed on the Botanical Committee Jan.
1834, and zealously assisted in arranging and caring for the herbarium.
He held the office of librarian two years, from Dec. 1834, until Dec.
1836, and aided in preparing and publishing a catalogue of the books. He
served on the Publication Committee five years, from Dec. 1836, until
Dec. 1841 ; was recording secretary during six months in 1837 ; and was
one of the vice-presidents from Dec. 1869, until Dec. 1875, a period of
five years. His labors and contributions of various kinds during
forty-three years aided considerably to advance the purposes of the
Society—the acquisition and diffusion of knowledge.
He was elected Professor of Materia Medica in The Philadelphia College
of Pharmacy in 1836, and held the chair until 1850. During this period
of fourteen years, he was editor of the American Journal of Pharmacy,
assisted first by Professor Robert Bridges and subsequently by Professor
William Procter, Jr., and contributed twenty-six original papers to its
He edited, with notes and additions, the second American edition,
published in 1843, of Pereira's Materia Medica, and the third American
edition of the same great work published in 1852.
In 1847 lie published his Illustrations of Medical Botany, comprised in
two quarto volumes, with 100 plates.
He was a member of the National Convention for Revising the Pharmacopœia
of the United States, and served on the Committee of Revision and
Publication in 18(50, and was chairman of this committee and president
of the convention in 1870.
Dr. Carson was elected a fellow of the College of Physicians of
Philadelphia Dec. 1838, and was one of the censors for several years. He
was a delegate from the College to the National Medical Convention held
at Philadelphia, May, 1847, which resolved itself into the American
Medical Association; and was appointed a member of the committee on
indigenous botany. Subsequently he was many times a delegate at the
annual meetings of the American Medical Association, and was elected one
of its representatives to the International Medical Congress of 1876.
He was a member of the Philadelphia County Medical Society. He was its
president in 1862, and one of its delegates to the Quarantine Convention
held at Cincinnati, May, 1861.
During 1870, he was elected honorary member of the College of Physicians
and Surgeons of Reading, Pa.; of the State Medical Society of New York;
and of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy.
He was elected, Feb. 1872 a member of the Board of Directors of the
Philadelphia Trust and Safe Deposit Company, in which he was esteemed
for his knowledge of affairs and judicious counsel.
He was physician of the Foster Home in 1840; physician of the lying-in
department of the Pennsylvania Hospital from 1849 until May, 1854. when
it was permanently closed ; and was elected a consulting physician of
the Hospital of the Protestant Episcopal Church in May, 1852.
He was elected Professor of Materia Medica and Therapeutics in the
medical department of the University of Pennsylvania in 1850 ; failing
health induced him to resign the chair in May, 1876, and he was
appointed emeritus professor.
He was always loyal to the interests of the University. Early in the
year 1869 he published "A History of the Medical Department of the
University of Pennsylvania from its foundation in 17G5, with sketches of
the lives of deceased Professors.
Joseph Carson, born
in Philadelphia, April 19, 1808, was of Scottish ancestry, and his early
education was received at the Germantown Academy. At the University of
Pennsylvania, he received in 1825 the degree of A. B.; he then entered
the wholesale drug store of Dr. Edward Lowber, but soon withdrew; and
after devoting a few years to botany, he commenced the study of
medicine, as a pupil of Dr. Thomas T. Hewson, and was graduated from the
University of Pennsylvania in 1830.
He was at once elected Resident Physician of the Pennsylvania Hospital.
Before entering upon private practice he made a voyage to the East
Indies, as Surgeon of the ship Georgiana, and visited Madras and
Calcutta. He returned to Philadelphia in August, 1832, and commenced the
practice of his profession.
In the thirty-third year of his age he married Mary Goddard, who died
soon after ; later he married Mary Hollingsworth.
After the first ten years, his practice rapidly increased, and he gained
an envied position as a practitioner of obstetrics. As this branch of
his profession involved great physical labor and exposure, he was
compelled in the midst of his success to give it up. In 1831 he was
elected Professor of Materia Medica, in the Philadelphia College of
Pharmacy, and held the position until 1850; in that year he was elected
Professor of Materia Medica and Therapeutics in the University of
Pennsylvania, which he held until 1876, when he resigned and was then
elected to the Obstetrical Staff of the Pennsylvania Hospital in 1849,
he held this position until 1854, when this department of the hospital
Dr. Carson was a member of the Philadelphia Medical Society, Academy
Natural Sciences; Lecturer on Materia Medica and Pharmacy in Medical
Institute ; a member of the American Philosophical Society, American
Medical Association, National Convention for Revision of Pharmacopceia,
1860; member Quarantine Convention, Cincinnati, May, 1861 ; Philadelphia
County Medical Society, President, 1862.
He died December 30, 1876, aged about sixty-eight years.
Dr. Carson was a voluminous writer ; he was editor of the "Journal of
Pharmacy," from October 1836 until July, 1850, and contributed to it not
less than seventy-six original papers; while connected with the same, he
edited with notes and additions, two editions of " Pereira's Materia
Medica"; and in 1847 published his ' Illustrations of Medical Botany,"
in two quarto volumes, many of the illustrations having been drawn and
colored by himself. Perhaps the most important of all his works is his
admirable History of the Medical Department of the University of
Pennsylvania, being a testimonial of his regard, love, and loyalty to
his Alma Mater.
(The personal edited research
notes of Michael Echols, the source of which may or
may not be completely documented)