English Speaking Students of Medicine at Continental Universities
Introduction And Explanatory Notes
R W Innes-Smith was born in 1872 and spent his working life in medical practice in Sheffield1. During that time he pursued his interest in medical biography, ultimately publishing an important reference book English Speaking Students of Medicine at the University of Leyden (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd 1932). This work is alphabetically arranged and deals with about 2000 English-speaking medical students, being those inscribed at Leyden University during its first 300 years. His book was well received at the time and still remains the most important and useful reference work in its field. Each entry provides a student's name together with his date of inscription and, if he ever graduated, the university, the date and the thesis title. The entries also provide a considerable amount of other information, concisely given, such as academic distinctions, when known, and biographical information, if interesting.
Innes-Smith was suffering pain from a terminal malignancy even while he was seeing his Leyden book through the press and by 1933, only one year later he had died. This personal story is at the heart of the present work. No one knew what he had proposed to do with his work papers if indeed he had yet planned to do anything, and they were deposited almost in their entirety with the Royal College of Physicians of London. The papers have recently been re-examined.
Innes-Smith's final drafts for the Leyden book had been easy to identify at the time of his death but in his search for the names and dates relating to students of medicine who had gone to the Continent he had become involved in much correspondance with librarians and archivists who were elsewhere than in Leyden, involving at least 29 other universities which granted medical degrees -- not to speak of correspondance with an additional 15 universities from which he learned that they had no surviving record of having provided medical degrees, at least to English speaking students. His notes do not distinguish sufficiently those continental archives he visited in person from those which provided him with a list of names without a personal visit. With continued study a first impression becomes hardened that his papers should not be regarded as mere feeder papers for the Leyden book, as they might have been, but are likely to have become part of his plan for some different purpose once the Leyden book was out of the way. This is particularly so for the Padua papers where the entries for about 290 English-speaking students of medicine who had gone there were laid out in the style of the Leyden book and it is the existence of the Padua list in that form and other observations which point today towards the need for a fresh publication if Innes-Smith's specialised research is not to be wasted. The present work is endeavouring to be such a publication and takes the form of a collation of all the manuscript material he left about English-speaking students who went to Continent during the period of his inquiry, dating from the start of record keeping to the early part of the 19th century. For the sake of completeness the names of students who were inscribed at Leyden university have also been included but have been restricted to the index where their presence refers to a book which has already been published.
The quality of Innes-Smith's work has never been questioned. E Ashworth Underwood in his Boerhaave's Men at Leyden and After (Edinburgh University Press, 1977; p13) wrote that Innes-Smith's errors such as he had discovered them in his Leyden book had been "very few and minimal in nature". He also gave an opinion which is particularly relevant to the present work that Innes-smith had "probably examined all the extant archival material relating to the subject". There are indeed occasional very small inconsistencies in the Leyden book and the Librarian of the Royal College of Physicians of London has identifed a sibling error concerning J. Windebank in the Padua manuscript notes but errors of any type seem to be remarkably rare. The continuing authority and rcliability of the 1932 Leyden book for over 60 years after its publication justifies confidence that other information recorded at the same time by the same man, though not hitherto published, will be similarly reliable, at least as it concerns the transcription. In the absence of Innes-Smith himself to corelate and edit his own notes the aggregated work being presented here would probably have been impossible were it not that computers are able to do part of the work by centralizing ragged information from an unsorted archive, pooling it and then marshalling thc collected information so that what at first appear as disjointed pieces of student information can take shape and become available to anyone researching a particular medical man or an individual university. The present work cannot compete with the Leyden volume by way of smooth reading and this difference is made more obvious by the practical difficulties and printing crudities which result from the presentation of information from a rigid data-base without the aid of a more powerful computer than was available and one which could then have given greater tlexibility to the printing.
Before going on to explain the conventions used in this work it seems advisable to offer advice on the confidence limits of the data being provided in order that the information can be evaluated correctly, by users, in terms of reliability and completeness. This calls for an awareness of the way Innes-Smith worked and some understanding of the constraints imposed upon him by his source material.
Had Innes-Smith intended the MS work now being presented to focus only towards the Leyden book, then in preparation, he would still have had to apply to all his note-keeping the same exacting standards of precision he was employing for the main Leyden text because he could not have told, at the time of the original handwritten transcriptions, which of the student names would subsequently prove important. Therefore the care he used is likely to have been uniform throughout his work even though he did not live long enough to edit any of the manuscripts other than for Leyden and perhaps Padua.
The recognition of Englishness in the old registers of a continental university is not straightforward. Some of the universities linked student names with their nationality by entering words such as Anglus, Scotus or Hybernus or Americanus but many of the universities which provided only a few entries gave no such label. If the student's country of origin was not known it then became imperative that the surname itself should be understandable but Innes-Smith was often defeated and wrote that "the spelling of our names by the scribe of the day is sometimes heartbreaking, some of the names being corrupt beyond recall and identification therefore impossible". Even a name which is recorded as having come from an English-speaking country may never be correctly identified, even by future searchers, because of hopelessly corrupt spelling. Innes-Smith himself must sometimes have been forced to copy an undecipherablc squiggle in the middle of a surname because the same squiggle can be recognised again in his later transcriptions.
Another serious uncertainty exists about the nature of some of the lists themselves because a minority of them are not identified clearly as either inscriptions or graduations or, sometimes,
as even being medical. In view of the reliability of his recording work in general it appears probable that lnnes-Smith himself did not know whether certain of the smaller lists were of inscriptions or graduations, or even medical, and that the source of the problem lay with his correspond ant, perhaps a librarian in a Continental university which may, perhaps, have been housing the records of another university which had been disolved some 150 years previously. The records of Cahors, for example, were removed to Toulouse and the records of Angers were completely lost at the time of the Revolution and the records of Caen were described as scrappy. Even the great teaching school in Paris has lost most of its medical registers up to the beginning of the 19th century and this presumably explains why Innes-Smith's Paris list is so small.
For these and doubtless other reasons it would seem to be an unattainable aim, however desirable, to provide a complete and perfect list of all the English-speaking students of medicine who recorded their attendance at continental universities during the period of the study. If this misfortune is accepted it becomes important to publish Innes-Smith's lists despite the knowledge that they are imperfect, because the same difficulties will be inherent in any future attempt to do significantly better. Various continental universities may yet improve their own available records but in terms of Europe as whole the end result is likely to remain patchy and incomplete.
There is a different problem concerning the large number of students who appear from Innes-Smith's lists to have been inscribed as law students, or less often, of a discipline other than law or medicine. Perhaps the names of such students ought to have been deleted entirely from the current work, as Innes-Smith succeeded in doing when he was using the superior records of Leyden, but instead they have been retained and given an independent identification as NEM, an acronym which is explained below. It has seemed unwise in this work to delete all apparently non-medical entries if only because of the frequency with which a man, particularly in the 16th and 17th centuries might bridge different faculties, if, for example, he practised physic in addition to having a church preferment. Munk's Roll of the Royal College of Physicians provides several instances of this and Thomas Linacre is one example. The law students in Padua who attended the anatomy lectures of Antonio Molinetti in the mid 17th century provide other examples even though they may have attended only out of intellectual inquisitiveness. John Evelyn, the diarist, who was inscribed for medicine in Padua had earlier been inscribed for Mathematics and History at Leyden. Alexander Forbes was inscribed as juris when at Leyden but, if the same man, as of medicine at Franeker. Rather than lose useful biographical information about an important few students who spanned two faculties the decison was made here to include all the names provided in Innes-Smith's student lists but make the apparently non-medical entries identifiable for what they arc. Certain universities like Heidelberg, Frankfurt-an-der-Oder, Louvain and Wittenberg provide a disproportionate excess of students inscribed as jurists.
The names of the 15 other universities with whose librarians Innes-Smith corresponded but who did not provide him with names of English-speaking students of medicine are now listed. This is probably an incomplete list but it helps to illustrate his attempt to retrieve every student name he could. Avignon (MS 546/142); Aix en Provence (546/142-3); Bonn (543/43); Bordeaux (546/144) where there are two names 'comme aggreges' at the College of Medicine - de -O'Sullivan, Irlandais 1760 & de Fitzgibbon 1768; Bourgcs (Cher) (546/143); Dijon (546/144); Erfurt (543/41); Giessen (543/41); Gottingen (543/43); Valence for Grenoble (546/143); Halle (543/41) where promotions to Doctor are available from 1780 and some theses; Helmstadt (543/43); Nantes (5461144) where registers were destroyed during the Revolution but there had certainly been English Irish and Scots students who became Doctors of Medicine; Orleans (546/143); Poitiers (546/144).
HTS Edinburgh 1996
1. "R. W. Innes-Smith: A Man to Study.", FitzPatrick Lecture, 1991, Proc. R. ColI. Physicians Edinb., 1992; 22: 224-37