American Medical Biographies/Bond, Thomas

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Bond, Thomas (1712–1784)

Thomas Bond may with justice be considered one of the foremost eighteenth century medical men in America because of his influence in founding the first hospital and the first medical school (The Pennsylvania Hospital and the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania).

The son of Richard and Elizabeth Chew Bond, he was born in Calvert County, Maryland, in 1712. He studied medicine under Dr. Alexander Hamilton (q.v.), completing his education by European travel and special study at the Hôtel Dieu, Paris. He probably came to Philadelphia and began practice there in 1734. When but eighteen he married Sarah Roberts and had seven children, Elizabeth, Thomas, Sarah, Rebecca, Phoebe, Robert, and Venables; Thomas and Robert following their father's profession.

Bond's young brother Phineas came from Maryland in 1738 and the two brothers practised in partnership, being specially active in affairs of municipal health.

It must be recalled that at this time Philadelphia was but a village. When Bond was at the height of his reputation (1769) the city had a population of 28,000. The streets were unpaved and unlit at night; there were no daily papers and but few vehicles.

Dr. Bond was accustomed to visit his patients in a two-wheel sulky drawn by a black horse. This was a very unusual method of conveyance at that time and supposedly permitted only to aged and infirm doctors, and was probably enjoyed by Bond because of his delicacy. In the earlier years of his practice, Bond had a great deal of experience in disease common to immigration; he was on intimate terms with two physicians of the port—Drs. Thomas Graeme and Lloyd Zacharay. That they saw a good deal of yellow and typhus fever was probable as he refers to five epidemics of typhus in his introduction to clinical lectures. Between 1740 and 1754 Bond was constantly asked to visit suspected vessels and attend to the isolation of suspicious cases and fumigating infected houses or ships. His work would now be classed as that of a good, all-round general practitioner; but in his day surgery had not reached its present dizzy height, and his parctice must be considered both medical and surgical. He reduced and splinted fractures, incised breasts, and imposthumated livers, scarified "mortifying" feet, amputated legs, tapped not only legs but both chest and abdomen, operated for stone in the bladder, attended difficult confinements, and also saw much of measles, small-pox, typhus and the other infectious diseases.

Benjamin Rush gives Bond credit for the introduction and general use of mercury in practice in Philadelphia. It was his habit to prescribe it in all cases which resisted the common methods of practice. Bond also used the hot and cold as well as vapor and warm air baths in the treatment of disease and had baths introduced into the Pennsylvania Hospital. He also devised a splint called by his name for fracture of the lower end of the radius, which has been familiar to all graduates in medicine during the last hundred years.

It is probable that Dr. Bond from the nature of his practice daily realized the comfort and aid which a well equipped hospital would furnish to many of his patients. It is an assured fact that he constantly talked to his friends and patients about the foundation of a hospital for the care of sick and injured to say nothing of the care of the insane. During the first years of the Pennsylvania Hospital a considerable proportion of its work consisted in the care of the so-called lunatics.

It was not, however, until Bond approached Benjamin Franklin and explained to him the value of such an institution to the community, that any material progress was made.

The year 1765 marked the beginning of systematic medical instruction in the United States; that year's courses in anatomy and surgery (and midwifery) were given by William Shippen, Jr. (q.v.), and lectures on physic by John Morgan (q.v.). Dr. Bond taught clinical medicine the following year, and continued to hold clinics at the Pennsylvania Hospital till his death. According to Osler (Occasional Notes on American Medical Classics) the first lecture to be given in a hospital in America was given by Dr. Bond in the Pennsylvania Hospital, Dec. 3, 1766. As will be remembered the appointment of Morgan and Shippen was soon followed by that of Rush and Kuhn (q.v.) to the respective chairs of chemistry and materia medica and botany. Bond was, however, at this time a man of fifty-four, whereas his associate professors were all men under or a little over thirty.

It is difficult to secure much of an estimate of Dr. Bond's general appearance. Concerning him, Thacher ("American Medical Biography," p. 117) says, "Dr. Bond was of delicate constitution and disposed to pulmonary consumption for which he went a voyage when a young man to the Island of Barbadoes. By unremitted care to his health, the strictest attention to diet, and to guard against change of temperature and also by frequently losing blood when he found his lungs affected, he lived to an age which the greater part of mankind never reached."

But few articles from his pen can be discovered. He made a number of communications to the Philosophical Society and frequently read letters from physicians both in England and in some of the English Colonies. In 1779 he read a paper before the Society on the "Means of Pursuing Health and the Means of Preventing Diseases." Two years before his death he delivered the annual oration at the State House before the Philosophical Society, the title of which was "Rank and Dignity of Men in the Scale of Being." This was published subsequently in the form of a small book of thirty-four pages. The address is distinctly scholarly, but with the exception of a few references to the use of new instruments for the measurement of atmospheric pressure, temperature, etc., which he always considered of great importance, there is little reference to things medical.

In the "Medical Observations and Inquiries," vol. i, page 68, is found a short clinical article by Bond, entitled "A Worm and a Horrid One found in the Liver." This article details the symptoms of a case in his practice in Philadelphia which he supposed to be due to the presence of an intestinal worm found in the liver, with a good description of the autopsy and an engraving of the postmortem findings. A second article in vol. ii. of the Observations was on the "Use of Peruvian Bark in Scrofulous Cases." The most notable contribution that he made to literature is, however, his "Introductory Clinical Lectures."

The cause of Dr. Bond's death is unknown. While he was considered rather a delicate man, he was, however, able to continue in his medical work until within several weeks of his death. It seems probable, therefore, that he died of some acute disease, or one of the conditions common to the aged, on Friday, March 26, 1784. He was seventy-two years of age. He was buried on Sunday in the burial ground at Fifth and Arch Streets where his grave is marked by a low flat marble tablet.

A sketch of the life of Thomas Bond, Clinician and Surgeon, University of Pennsylvania Medical Bulletin, January, 1906.
Morton's History of the Pennsylvania Hospital and the result of an extensive search of records at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Co-partnership Ledger of Drs. Thomas and Phineas Bond. Six vols. in the library of the Coll, of Phys. in Phila.
Early Hist. of Med. in Phila., G. W. Norris, 1886.
Am. Med. Biog., J. Thacher, 1828.