First U.S. Medical Journal...The Medical Repository

The Medical Repository was the first U.S. medical journal. It was founded in 1797.

One of the founders, Elihu Hubbard Smith, a young New York physician still in his 20s, wrote in his diary that "this is no other than an endeavor to obtain an accurate & annual account of those general diseases which reign each season, over every part of the United States." Ironically, Elihu Hubbard Smith died in 1798, a year after the debut of the Medical Repository he created.

His cofounders of the journal were Samuel Latham Mitchell and Edward Miller. Dr. Mitchell received his M.D. from the University of Edinburgh and returned to the U.S. to be Professor of Chemistry and Natural History at Columbia and later Professor at the College of Physicians and Surgeons (P & S), now Columbia's medical school. Dr. Miller got his M.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and became a professor at P &S and a physician at New York Hospital.

The first volume of the Medical Repository in 1797-98 had 266 subscribers. Most (73%), but not all, were doctors. Eleven percent of the subscribers were merchants, 10% lawyers, 3% ministers, and 2% booksellers.

The Medical Repository appeared quarterly until 1824. Lest that seem a short time, it was long (27 years) compared to the average life span (5.4 years) of medical journals founded in the first third of the 1800s. (One journal started in that era was The New England Journal of Medicine, founded in 1812, and still alive and kicking as an eminent weekly medical journal today).

The Medical Repository was "the first serious attempt in this country to present the relation between science and practice in a serial format that allowed response and communication." The journal "introduced new theory, such as the chemistry of Lavoisier (in France) and Priestly (in England) as it related to medicine...." It was "a publication in which physicians and others could find the latest thoughts on subjects as diverse as manure, meteorology, and medical practice...."

Source: Kahn RJ, Kahn, PG, The Medical Repository - The first U.S. medical journal (1797-1824): New Engl J Med 1997; 337: 1926-1930.


Last Editorial Review: 10/28/2002




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