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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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"
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
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.