Skip to main content

Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.). Medical School

 Organization

The Northwestern University Medical School began as the medical department of Lind University (later Lake Forest University) in 1859, located at Randolph and Market Streets in Chicago. In 1864, the medical department became an independent school, the Chicago Medical College, housed in a building at 22nd and State Streets. The founder of the College, Nathan Smith Davis, was an innovator in medical education who wanted to establish a three-year program that went beyond the traditional lecture-and-apprenticeship program. In 1870, the medical school affiliated with Northwestern, becoming the first professional school to be added to the liberal arts college in fulfillment of the founders' goal of creating a university. The school moved to a building at 26th Street and Prairie Avenue, where it remained until 1893. The Chicago Medical College became the Northwestern University Medical School in 1891. The Medical School moved again in 1893, to a Northwestern University plot of land on the twenty-four hundred block of South Dearborn, where it remained until Northwestern opened its Near North Side Chicago Campus in 1926.

Chicago Medical College founder Nathan Smith Davis served as the school's first dean from 1870, after its union with Northwestern, until 1898. Davis was followed by Franklin Seward Johnson (1898-1901). The third dean was Davis' son, Nathan Smith Davis, Jr. (1901-1907). The younger Davis' tenure as Dean was followed by those of Arthur Robin Edwards (1907-1916), Arthur Isaac Kendall (1916-1924), and Irving Samuel Cutler (1925-1941).

The medical school went through a number of changes in admission and graduation requirements during the first two decades of the twentieth century. In 1908 requirements for admission were raised to include one year of college, rather than just a high school diploma. In 1911, applicants were required to have completed two years of college. The American Medical Association itself did not require this level of education until 1918. Nathan Smith Davis, Jr., who favored more stringent requirements, clashed with his more traditional faculty over this issue and resigned his deanship in 1907.

In 1915, the medical school became one of six schools nationwide to require a fifth-year internship to earn the M.D. degree. These changes caused a drop in enrollment over the next few years, from 470 students in the 1909-1910 academic year to a low of 181 students in 1913-1914. Registration was up again to 413 students in 1919-1920 and, in the long run, the changes served to enhance the medical school's reputation.

For more information on the history of the Northwestern University Medical School, see Leslie B. Arey, Northwestern University Medical School, 1859-1979 (Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Medical School, 1979).

Found in 5 Collections and/or Records:

[Morton Medical Research Building cornerstone ceremony], 1954 June 15

 Item — Multiple Containers
Scope and Contents Silent, black and white film that begins with a view of the Northwestern University Chicago Campus sign then shows Northwestern University Medical School Dean Richard H. Young, MD, walking around the construction site of the Morton Medical Research Building with another man. The south façade of the Ward Memorial Building is shown with its foundations exposed by the digging of the Morton construction site.At a ceremony on June 15, 1954, Sterling Morton, the son of Joy Morton for whom...
Dates: 1954 June 15

Northwestern Marches On, circa 1931

 Item — Multiple Containers
Scope and Contents Warning: this film includes footage of research animals and the dissection of human cadavers, as well as outdated, offensive terms.Silent, black and white film about Northwestern University Medical School, giving a brief history using still images and film, then describing the current operations of the school “for the benefit of our alumni and friends who cannot visit us in person." Intertitle cards describe the images and film that are shown. Most of the footage was presumably shot...
Dates: circa 1931

[Northwestern Marches On (extended cut)], circa 1931

 Item — Multiple Containers
Scope and Contents Warning: this film includes footage of research animals and the dissection of human cadavers, as well as outdated, offensive terms.Silent, black and white film about Northwestern University Medical School, giving a brief history using still images and film, then describing the current operations of the school “for the benefit of our alumni and friends who cannot visit us in person." Intertitle cards describe the images and film that are shown. Most of the footage was presumably shot...
Dates: circa 1931

[Northwestern University Medical School centennial, Abbott Hall footage], 1959-09-29

 Item — Box: 8
Scope and Contents Silent, black and white film of people entering, exiting, and standing outside of buildings on Northwestern University Medical School’s campus, including Abbott Hall and George R. Thorne Hall. Includes shots of the carved names of the two buildings on their exteriors.
Dates: 1959-09-29

[Northwestern University Medical School centennial footage], 1959-09-29

 Item — Box: 8
Scope and Contents Silent, black and white film taken the day of the Northwestern University Medical School’s Centennial Founders Day Convocation on September 29, 1959. Include shots of a group of men, featuring Richard H. Young, MD, Dean of the Medical School, and honorary degree recipients (identified below) in academic gowns and regalia posing for photographs and talking amongst themselves, walking from Abbott Hall across campus into Thorne Hall, and sitting on a stage in an auditorium in front of a large...
Dates: 1959-09-29