American Medical Biographies/Hamilton, Alexander

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Hamilton, Alexander (1712–1756).

Dr. Alexander Hamilton was a native of Scotland, and a graduate of medicine. He was a cousin of Dr. R. Hamilton, professor of anatomy and botany in the University of Glasgow, where it is probable he received his medical education. He "learnt pharmacy" in the "shop" of David Knox, an Edinburgh surgeon, and visited London. An elder brother also a physician, had preceded him to Annapolis, Maryland, where he was practising medicine in 1727. Hamilton was the preceptor of Dr. Thomas Bond (q. v.), of Calvert County, Maryland, who settled in Philadelphia and founded the Pennsylvania Hospital in 1752. In 1745, with Jonas Green, editor of the Maryland Gazette, he organized at Annapolis the Tuesday Club, of which he was secretary and orator, and "life and soul," during its ten years of existence. The manuscript minutes of the proceedings of this club are in possession of the Maryland Historical Society, constituting three volumes, illustrated with caricatures by the pen of Dr. Hamilton himself. He is truly depicted therein as "Loquacious Scribble, Esq'r." On May 29, 1747, he married Margaret Dulany, daughter of the Hon. Daniel Dulany, of Annapolis, "a well accomplished and agreeable young lady with a handsome fortune."

There lately appeared (1907) a remarkable diary of a journey of 1,624 miles made in 1774 by Hamilton to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and back to Annapolis. It is called the "Itinerarium."

Hamilton bore letters of introduction to several eminent physicians, but he found the profession in a very low state, many of the doctors whom he met, especially in New York, being mere "drunken roysterers." He attended several meetings of a "Physical" (Medical) "Club," at Boston, which was presided over by the celebrated Dr. William Douglass (q. v.), a Scotchman of learning, but a cynical mortal," so full of himself that he could see no merit in anyone else. At these meetings they "drank punch, smoked tobacco and talked of sundry physical matters." One subject of discussion with his medical colleagues was the microscope, in which he shows himself an adept, having "seen Leeuwenhoek," the great Dutch microscopist, "and some of the best hands upon that subject."

His literary tastes are shown by his buying and reading a "Homer" in Boston, and by his allusions to current and classical literature. He also took the Physical News, a medical journal published at Edinburgh.

Regarding the history of the manuscript, it was given by the doctor shortly after his return to an Italian gentleman who visited him at Annapolis, and was carried by the latter to Italy. In course of time it was sold and thus got into the book stores of London, where it was found and purchased by Mr. William K. Bixby, of St. Louis. Recognizing its historical value, this gentleman printed a small edition at his own expense for private distribution. Hamilton died on May 11, 1756.

From "Old Maryland," 1908, vol. iv.