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Our History *

Samuel M. Smith, M.D., and the Beginning of Psychiatry

Book cover of A History of Psychiatry at The Ohio State UniversityThe 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.


* Taken from Pinta, E.R. (1994). A History of Psychiatry at The Ohio State University, 1847-1993, pp. 3-12