On Saturday, Sept. 22, the University of Cincinnati’s Winkler Center for the History of the Health Professions added an 1843 diploma from the Botanico Medical College of Ohio to its collection of more than 42,000 books, photographs and medical artifacts.
The school was one of 23 medical schools in 19th-century Cincinnati. It was founded in Columbus in 1836 by Alva Curtis before moving to Cincinnati in 1841. Its name was changed in 1850 to Physio Medical College and it closed in 1880. For a time in the late 1840s the college conducted classes at the Cincinnati College, the forerunner of the University of Cincinnati.
The Botanico Medical College of Ohio was part of the botanical movement that began during the early part of the 19th century. Otto Juettner, MD, in his 1909 book Daniel Drake and His Followers, described botanical practitioners as "‘steam doctors’ because they practiced diaphoretic therapy under any and all circumstances. Their principal remedies were sweat-baths, lobelia and capsicum. Coupled with these fundamental principles of their therapeutic faith was an intense hatred of regular medicine.”
The diploma was awarded to Henry Randolph Higgins, a 20-year-old student from Rockingham County, Va., on May 24, 1843. Higgins returned to Virginia following his graduation. He practiced medicine there and in North Carolina until his death in 1891.
The diploma was signed by Curtis and reads, in part: "To the Friends and Patrons of Science, of the Arts and of Medical Reform, The Botanico Medical College of Ohio send Greetings. Dr. H.R. Higgins having furnished to me satisfactory evidence that by a thorough education in the Institution … has acquired a competent knowledge of Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, Theory & Practice of Medicine, Materia Medica & Pharmacy, Surgery & Obstetrics, to render him a safe and successful Practitioner of Medicine and Surgery.”
Higgins’ great great great granddaughter Allison Higgins, MD, of Denver donated the diploma to the Winkler Center. Higgins is working temporarily at the Chillicothe Veterans Affairs Medical Center and visited the Winkler Center on Sept. 22 with her parents, Jerry and Becky Higgins, of Clayton, N.C.
"This is the first diploma from the Botanico Medical College that we’ve been able to add to our collection,” says Stephen Marine, assistant dean of special collections at the University of Cincinnati Libraries. "We very much appreciate the generosity of the Higgins family for donating such a unique item as this. They could have kept this as a much-loved family treasure. We’ll enjoy keeping it safe and preserving it in perpetuity for others to enjoy and serve as a resource for medical historians.”
The diploma will be treated by the UC Libraries’ conservation specialists to ensure its optimal preservation before being displayed.
The Winkler Center’s main entrance is near the Kresge Auditorium in the Medical Sciences Building.