Samuel M. Smith, M.D. (born in Greenfield, Ohio), and the Beginning of Psychiatry

(Taken from Pinta, E.R. (1994). A History of Psychiatry at The Ohio State University, 1847-1993, pp. 3-12)

The Department of Psychiatry of The Ohio State University traces its inception to the 1847 appointment of Samuel M. Smith, M.D. (1816-1874), as "Professor of Medical Jurisprudence and Insanity" at the Willoughby Medical College of Columbus.   Psychiatry at OSU can therefore be considered to have had its birth on Feb. 19, 1847.  On this date, the trustees of the Willoughby Medical College met in the Columbus law offices of Joseph R. Swan and John W Andrews and unanimously appointed Dr. Smith, a prominent Columbus physician, to this chair (33; 37).  With this appointment, the first academic department of psychiatry (or its equivalent) in this country was established (I; 4, p. 56).

In recognition of Dr. Smith's appointment, the American Journal of Insanity in October 1847 declared: "We are gratified to learn that a professorship of insanity has been established at one Medical School.  The Willoughby University, Columbus, Ohio, has appointed Samuel M. Smith, M.D., Professor of Medical Jurisprudence and Insanity.  We think there should be a distinct course of Lectures on Mental Maladies at every Medical School.  Dr. Smith has some practical knowledge of Insanity, having been an Assistant Physician at the Ohio Lunatic Asylum for several years" (1).

The Willoughby Medical College of Columbus was a precursor of the College of Medicine of The Ohio State University (35, pp. 324, 51 1).  On this basis, the OSU Department of Psychiatry lays claim to being the first department of its kind in the nation.
History of the Willoughby Medical College of Columbus ...

The Willoughby University of Lake Erie, the forerunner of the Willoughby Medical College of Columbus, was chartered on March 3, 1834.  It was located nineteen miles east of Cleveland near the Chagrin River in what is now Willoughby.  The college trustees decided to move the University to Columbus in 1847.  This decision followed several years of competition for students with another medical school in northeastern Ohio--the Medical Department of Western Reserve College, founded in 1843.  Another factor in the decision to move was a poor relationship that developed with the townspeople of Willoughby following the school's alleged involvement in an 1843 grave-robbing incident (43).

On Jan. 14, 1847, the state legislature passed an amendment to the 1834 charter of the Willoughby University of Lake Erie, authorizing its transfer to Columbus as the "Willoughby Medical College of Columbus." Noah H. Swayne, one of Ohio's most famous jurists and a future U.S. Supreme Court justice under President Lincoln, was named President of the College.  John H. Butterfield, M.D., who had been with the school in Willoughby, was made Dean.  Besides Mr. Swayne, the members of the Board of Trustees of the relocated college included many prominent citizens of Columbus--John W. Andrews, William Armstrong, William Dennison, Jr., John Field, Samuel Medary, Robert Neil, Aaron F. Perry, S. D. Preston, Dr. C. F. Schenck, Alfred P. Stone, Joseph Sullivant, William S. Sullivant, Joseph R. Swan and Charles H. Wing (35, p. 45).  To these farsighted individuals goes the credit for establishing the country's first department of psychiatry.

The Willoughby Medical College begins its classes ...

The Ohio State Journal of Aug. 13, 1847, announced the opening series of lectures for the Willoughby Medical College of Columbus.  Classes were to begin on November 3rd and to continue for sixteen weeks (17).  To accommodate students, the Willoughby trustees purchased the Clay Club Room, a large wooden building used by the supporters of Henry Clay during his unsuccessful 1844 Whig presidential campaign.  They arranged for the building to be moved from East State Street, opposite the State Capitol Building, to the northwest corner of Gay and High streets (35, p. 143).

Lyne Starling, one of the founding-fathers of Columbus, contemplated the bestowal of a large gift to a charitable institution.  He was persuaded by his friends, including Dr. Smith, to donate $30,000 (later adding an additional $5,000) to the Willoughby Medical College of Columbus.  The gift was used for the construction of a new hospital and teaching facility (35, pp. 142-43).

The following year on Jan. 28, 1848, Willoughby Medical College became known as Starling Medical College in honor of its benefactor.  Classes continued in the same building and laboratories--with the same equipment, students, faculty and dean.  However, the school that began classes as the Willoughby Medical College of Columbus graduated its first students under its charter as Starling Medical College.  William S. Sullivant was made President of Starling Medical College.  A new Board of Trustees was chosen that included three former trustees of the Willoughby Medical College of Columbus--Mr.  Sullivant, Joseph R. Swan and John W Andrews.  Four new members of the Board--Dean Butterfield, Robert W. McCoy, Dr. Francis Carter and Dr. Smith were appointed (35, p. 94).

Dr. Smith was given the title of Professor of Materia Medica Therapeutics and Medical Jurisprudence at the reorganized college.  Upon the death of Dean Butterfield in 1849, the Starling trustees chose Dr. Smith to become the second dean of Starling Medical College.  He held this title from 1849 to 1858 and from 1860 to 1863.  He also held the title of "Professor of Theory and Practice of Medicine" from 1850 until his death in 1874 (35, p. 106).  He remained a trustee of Starling Medical College throughout his life (36).

Following a merger in 1907 with the Ohio Medical University, a rival college, the school became known as Starling-Ohio Medical College.  In 1914 Starling-Ohio Medical College transferred its assets to The Ohio State University and it became The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

Lectures on insanity ...

Although Dr. Smith's appointment as professor of "psychiatry" was for slightly less than one year, records demonstrate that he delivered his "lectures on insanity" for at least a six-year period, and most likely longer.  Annual catalog announcements for Starling Medical College continued to list Dr. Smith's lectures from 1847 through 1853.  After this date there is a gap in available bulletins until 1868 when William L. Peck, M.D., was appointed Professor of Insanity and Nervous Diseases (7).

Dr. Smith's lectures must have represented a comprehensive approach to the description, treatment and causes of mental illness.  The 1847 Announcement of Courses for the Willoughby Medical College of Columbus stated the following: "Professor Smith will give a series of lectures on the nature and treatment of insanity, and those diseases leading to it, for which his connection for several years with one of the best hospitals peculiarly qualifies him" (35, pp. 78-79).  It is significant that Dr. Smith's 1847 lectures were part of the required curriculum, while several other subjects were offered in a preliminary, non-required format (17).

Dr. Smith's continuing interest in PsYchiatry was demonstrated by his involvement with the Columbus Asylum for the Insane as a trustee from 1856 until his death in 1874, and by an appointment in 1870 to a special committee of the Ohio State Medical Association to examine the plea of insanity in cases of homicide (38).
Background of Dr. Smith ...

Samuel Mitchel Smith was born in Greenfield, Highland County, Ohio, on Nov. 28,1816.  He was the only child of Samuel and Nancy (Mitchel) Smith.  His family was a pioneer family of Highland County and his mother was one of the first white (not Native American) children born there (3).  His paternal grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War, and his father operated a tannery in Greenfield, also finding time to be minister of the Presbyterian Church.  Dr. Smith's mother died of postpartum complications resulting from his birth.  She had not yet reached her twentieth birthday.  A family story told that her final words were a prayer that her son would be spared "to serve acceptably the God she trusted." This was repeated often to young Samuel and guided his decisions in life and helped shape the choice of his career (19).

Samuel M. Smith entered Miami University at Oxford, Ohio, in the fall of 1832, graduating in 1836.  Following graduation, he was placed in charge of an academy in Rising Sun, Indiana, where he studied medicine under a local physician, Dr. John Morrison.  He attended the 1837-1838 session of lectures at the Medical Department of the Cincinnati College (6).  The Medical Department of the Cincinnati College was one of several Ohio medical colleges founded by Daniel Drake, M.D., the dominant figure of early medicine in the Cincinnati area.  It had a four-year existence from 1835 to 1839 (14).

Contrary to what is recorded in some biographies of Dr. Smith (37; 38), he never received a medical degree in course from the Medical College of Ohio (now the University of Cincinnati) (5), nor is there a record of his attending lectures at this institution.  He matriculated to Philadelphia in 1838, receiving a medical degree in 1839 from the nation's first medical school--the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania (19; 35, p. 428; 36).  After a brief return to Highland County, Dr. Smith moved to Columbus.  In 1840 he accepted a position as an assistant physician at the Central Ohio Lunatic Asylum, a large facility on East Broad Street near what is now Parsons Avenue (36).  The Central Ohio Lunatic Asylum was built in 1835 and destroyed by fire in 1868.  The superintendent during the years of Dr. Smith's association was William Maclay Awl, M.D. (1799-1876).  Dr. Awl was one of the thirteen founders of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane (original name of the American Psychiatric Association) and its second president from 1848 to 1851.   It was under Dr. Awl's supervision that Dr. Smith received his first experience and training in psychiatry.
In 1843 Dr. Smith resigned his position at the Central Asylum and opened an office for the practice of medicine on the corner of High and Town streets, opposite the City House (I 6).  In the same year, he married Susan Evans Anthony, daughter of General Charles Anthony of Springfield, Ohio.  Shortly afterwards he moved his office to East Rich Street near High Street.  He later relocated to 154 East State St., where his office remained until his death (28; 37).

An appointment at an early school of medical instruction ...

Dr. Smith's appointment to the Chair of Medical Jurisprudence and Insanity at the Willoughby Medical College of Columbus was not his first medical teaching experience.  Eight months earlier, the Columbus Ohio Press announced a four month series of lectures on Materia Medica and Therapeutics delivered by Dr. Smith for the Columbus Medical and Surgical Institute. These lectures began on March 10, 1847 (34).  Three of the five faculty named to this Institute--Drs.  Smith, Butterfield and Richard L. Howard were members of the first faculty of the Willoughby Medical College of Columbus.  There is no record that the Columbus Medical and Surgical Institute had a charter to confer medical degrees, and like a number of antebellum schools of medical instruction in Ohio it most likely had a brief existence.

The Smith family ...

Dr. Smith and his wife had two sons and two daughters (44).  A fifth child (sex unknown) died in infancy in 1851 (8).  Both sons died early in their adult lives--Charles at age twenty-one in 1874, and Samuel at thirty in 1878 (18; 21).  Elizabeth, the eldest daughter, married General James M. Comly, a prominent Columbus soldier, attorney and journalist.  Shortly after becoming President, Rutherford B. Hayes appointed General Comly to the post of Minister to the Hawaiian Islands (1 1).  One of their sons, Smith M. Comly, became President of the National Fuel Company of Columbus.  In 1915 Smith M. Comly was appointed a trustee of the OSU College of Medicine--the same position held by his grandfather sixty-seven years earlier (12).

The Smiths' younger daughter, Frances, studied music in Europe and sang grand opera there under the stage name "Fannie Manetti." With her husband, Mr. John Jackson, a music critic for the New York World, she is said to have translated the first Wagnerian operas presented in English at the New York Metropolitan Opera House (25).

William Dean Howells, the prolific author who spent the first part of his life in Ohio, was a long-time friend of the Smith family.  His autobiographical work, Years of My Youth, offers a glimpse of family life in the Smith household.  Howells noted: "It was not only a literary house, it was even more a musical house, where there was both singing and playing, with interludes of laughter and joking in all forms of seemly mirth, with the whole family till the little boys of it stumbled up the stairs half asleep (sic)" (26, p. 141).

Dr. Smith was described as a man of liberal education and large professional attainments.  He was known as an eloquent speaker and as a skillful diagnostician and physician.  He was also an ardent abolitionist, outspoken in his dislike for slavery (35, p. 87).  His attitude toward slavery is also recorded by Howells, who wrote that with some men antislavery was a matter of politics "but with Dr. S it is a matter of ethics" (26, p. 146).  In later years, Dr. Smith and his son-in-law, General Comly, were co-owners of the Ohio State Journal (35, p. 428), a newspaper with a long antislavery tradition.

Positions Held by Dr. Smith ...

Dr. Smith held many offices of trust and honor.  In 1859 Governor Salmon P. Chase appointed Dr. Smith Surgeon General of Ohio, a position he held again during the Civil War from 1862 to 1864 (28).  The responsibilities as Ohio's Civil War Surgeon General required tremendous time and energy.  Dr. Smith was in charge of sending expeditions to bring wounded soldiers back to Ohio and of equipping and sending surgeons to the front lines.  He made expeditions to Pittsburgh Landing, Nashville, Stone River and Antietam.  On one of his returns from the lines, he brought back an oak sapling that was split by a cannonball.  He planted it on the grounds of the State Capitol where it remained for over one hundred years, not removed until 1964 when the grounds were reconstructed.  During the Civil War, he was also a member of the Board of Examiners of Army Surgeons at Camp Chase, west of Columbus (3, pp. 424-25).

Dr. Smith was a delegate to the Prison Reform Congress held in London in 1872 (35, p. 428).  He is said to be the first physician in Columbus to administer chloroform to a woman in labor (28).  He was also a physician at the Institution for the Deaf and Dumb in Columbus and an Examiner of Pensions (35, p. 428).  In this latter capacity, he kept a valuable record of different accounts of Civil War battles from soldiers applying for pensions.  In 1871 he was a Republican candidate for the State Senate (19).

Dr. Smith was an active member of the Ohio State Medical Society (now the Ohio State Medical Association), serving as its twenty-fifth president from 1869 to 1870.  Comments made by Dr. Smith in his retiring presidential address seem as valid today as they did then.  Dr. Smith explained: "With all the advantages of  the best organized institutions, equipped in every department with the best selected and most abundant means of illustration, the most profound, eloquent and apt teachers--there are some things they cannot command, cannot furnish; of these, the most desirable, the most essential, are brains ... a capacity to receive instruction, a power to appreciate it, an industry that shall persevere until success is conquered." He went on to note a "want of precision in language," which interfered with communication between medical men.  He also disliked /da want of accuracy and care in observation and experiment." He asked, "Where did you observe, how did you observe, and what right have you to observe; what precaution did you take against deception, and what proof do you have that you are not deceived?"

More important than all others, however, Dr. Smith believed that the lack of love for truth was a most disturbing factor in the medical men of his day.  He asked what happened to the zeal of the medical student when he departed medical school and answered, "His zeal abates, his application flags, his energies fail, his ardor for truth cools and he falls into the rut of routine; or seduced by the glare of untried fancies that are constantly arising in his path, he follows with an unstable fitfulness the phantom of the hour." He goes on to ask, "Is there any community of a dozen or more physicians that does not have a well-defined representative of the two extremes: the one iterating, reiterating day after day, month after month--yes, year after year the same medicines in the same questionable combinations for half the diseases, with their diversified character, grade and stage that occur in their practice; the other rarely adhering to one course of treatment in the same disease for half a dozen cases in succession or for as many successive months" (37; 40).

Death of Dr. Smith ...

In 1872 Dr. Smith survived what was thought to be a cerebral hemorrhage, resulting in partial hemiplegia.  In January 1874, a second attack completely disabled him (28).  He died in Columbus on Nov. 30, 1874, two days after his fifty-eighth birthday.  At his autopsy no indication of cerebral hemorrhage was found, and reviewed today the findings seem more consistent with cerebral tuberculosis (29; 41).

Dr. Smith lived on the northeast corner of Fourth and East State streets--on the site where the Norwich Hotel was constructed--for many years prior to his death (35, p. 152).  He was buried in Green Lawn Cemetery.  His grave is close to the resting place of his teacher, Dr. Awl.

Following his death, Columbus newspapers printed eulogies by many leading citizens of Columbus and memorial resolutions by the faculty and students of Starling Medical College.  One eulogy was delivered by Reverend James Poindexter of the Second (Colored) Baptist Church (sic).  Reverend Poindexter, who later became the first African-American elected to the Columbus City Council, remembered Dr. Smith as a personal friend and a strong opponent to slavery "who was always willing to extend his home and his aid to the underground railroad" (20).

Statue of Dr. Smith ... 

During their travels abroad, Dr. Smith and his wife were impressed with drinking fountain statues found in Germany and other parts of Europe.  They decided that a similar statue would be an appropriate monument to Dr. Smith's memory (42).  In 1880 a bronze statue was erected by Dr. Smith's widow and daughters and placed on the southeast corner of Broad and High streets in the center of downtown Columbus.  The statue rested on City of Columbus property and extended into East Broad Street.  It is said to be the third statue built to the memory of an individual of this state (35, p. 153).

Dr. Smith's statue has a drinking fountain base and bears the inscription: "Memorial Fountain, to Dr. Samuel Mitchel Smith and His Sons, 1880." Images of his deceased sons, Charles and Samuel, are designed as medallions and decorate the sides of the base.  Above the marble base is a full-size figure of Dr. Smith with his hands folded behind his back, wearing a Prince Albert coat.  The statue was forged at the Kelby Foundry of New York state.  The sculptor was Columbus-born William Walcutt (1819-1895), whose most notable work is the marble monument to Admiral Oliver H. Perry, standing now in Perrysburg, Ohio (9).

Eventually the fountain ceased to flow, vandals defaced the statue, and its extension into traffic on East Broad Street created a major traffic problem (13).  In 1915 the statue was moved to the former grounds of Starling Medical College at East State and Sixth streets, then known as St. Francis Hospital (24).  The statue remained at that location until 1957 when the hospital was razed to make room for an expansion of Grant Hospital (10). it was moved to the property of the Columbus Health Department at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Rich Street, where it stands today.  Dr. Smith appears to look leisurely over the Scioto River toward the city where he was once one of its most prominent and respected citizens.

Dr. Smith is not known to have published any professional articles.  What is known of Dr. Smith's work and his teaching is what is contained in his address to the Ohio State Medical Society and in the writings of others.  Writing after his death, Dean Starling Loving described Dr. Smith as one who "was very familiar with the Bible, and was seldom at loss for a quotation therefrom.  He knew Shakespeare equally well, and liked Scott and Longfellow and had great fondness for Isaac Walton.  His lectures were concise and very clear.  His clinical lectures with students were especially good, and no one was surprised at his popularity with students who never 'cut' his hour" (28).

In a published obituary, his friend and colleague, Thad A. Reamy, M.D., wrote: "Dr.  Smith presents, in an eminent degree, the highest qualifications for a physician, being endowed with a vigorous physical and mental organization; possessed of untiring industry and energy ... devoting himself to his duties with a sacrificing spirit which never consulted his own ease, or comfort, but always the welfare of his patient" (36).

Dr. Smith's statue is a reminder that the same ideals and attributes are necessary for graduates of today's medical programs. it is a symbol of professional excellence and dedication to medical teaching that can be remembered by succeeding generations of OSU faculty and students.