History of Maryland Medicine

MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society, was founded in January of 1799 as the Medical & Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland to prevent “quackery and pretenders to the medical arts.” One hundred representatives, four from each county in Maryland, gathered in Annapolis to petition the Maryland General Assembly to place some restrictions on who could practice medicine in Maryland.

In 1807, the Medical & Chirurgical Faculty established a medical school, now the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine, and its members became the first faculty members. Prior to that, physicians had learned their profession by becoming apprentices to established physicians who trained at established medical schools in Europe. The Legislature granted the Faculty permission to award a Licentiate of Medicine to physicians who practiced, but hadn’t attended medical schools. These awards continued until the 1830’s.

Throughout the first half of the 1800’s, the Faculty continued to recruit members, codify legislation promoting the medical profession, establish specialty medical schools, including the College of Dental Surgery and College of Pharmacy, both in Baltimore. Additionally, the Faculty began to publish a medical journal in 1878, and founded a medical library which would eventually number more than 65,000 volumes.

After buying a property on Hamilton Terrace in Baltimore in 1890, the Faculty finally thought they had found their forever home. Dr. William Osler became President of the Faculty in 1896 and made the fortuitous decision to hire a permanent librarian, Miss Marcia C. Noyes. Osler, a book aficionado, began the process of expanding and cataloging the library and hosting Book & Journal Club Meetings. Dr. Osler’s charisma and intense charm, helped the membership rolls increase dramatically, and after a decade-and-a-half, the realization that they’d outgrown their home became clear to everyone.

In 1909, a purpose-built headquarters building, with space for large and small meetings, a reading room, and most significantly, a four-story stacks library, was dedicated. Dr. Osler, who was now living in England, returned to Baltimore to dedicate the building, and give a significant lecture, entitled “The Old and New.” Miss Noyes became the Secretary of the Faculty, and continued to grow the membership, and expand the library until it was one of the foremost medical libraries in the country and a model for American medical societies. She eventually worked (and lived!) at the Faculty for 50 years.

In the 1970s, MedChi, as it was now known, purchased the former school building adjacent to the headquarters, along with the gymnasium behind it, for the grand sum of one dollar! After fundraising for several years, the two buildings were connected and renovated for use as offices and meeting space. The gymnasium became the MedChi Insurance Agency, and an additional adjacent property is used for the Physician Health Program.

With the advent of digitization, our library is no longer used by members, but it’s still mostly intact. Much of our archive collection remains available for research either here on-site, or at the nearby Maryland Historical Society. Our MedChi Archives blog explores topics as diverse as things that we find in the stacks, to the architectural details on our buildings. Additionally, there are lists of the portraits in our collection, along with details of each sitter; all of our Presidents through the decades; speakers at the Hunt History of Medicine lectures over the years, and a history of our building which was home to School #49.

As Dr. Albert Chatard, a long-time member of the Faculty, wrote, “Since 1799, we have worked to create an atmosphere both effective and genial, so that members who come to the building feel that interesting and important things are going on under its roof.”

The Center for a Healthy Maryland and MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society still work to make sure our members know that interesting and important things happen here.

Marcia Crocker Noyes was the librarian at MedChi.

She arrived here for a short visit in 1896, after graduating from Hunter College in New York, and on a visit to her sister who worked at the Pratt Library.

Thomas E. Hunt

THE THOMAS E. HUNT, JR., M.D. HISTORY OF MARYLAND MEDICINE LECTURE

The Thomas E. Hunt, Jr., M.D. History of Maryland Medicine Lectureship was established in 2008 to honor Dr. Thomas E. Hunt, Jr.

Dr. Hunt had a keen interest in Maryland medical history and served as the informal MedChi historian. Learn more.

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Our MedChi Archives blog explores architectural details on our buildings, the portraits in our collection, along with details of each sitter; all of our Presidents through the decades; the Hunt History of Medicine lectures over the years, and a history of our building which was home to School #49.