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Without the scientific method, modern medical knowledge and technology would not be the same. The Johns Hopkins refers to an institute of higher learning that had a breakthrough into the medical field and the way its students are educated. The Johns Hopkins University and Hospital lead the way with scientific research. In Baltimore, the University was built in 1876 and the Hospital built one year later in 1877. The School in named after the late Johns Hopkins. The Johns Hopkins had a significant effect on the development of scientific medicine.

Johns Hopkins was born in 1795 to Samuel Hopkins and Hannah Janney. Johns Hopkins was destined to reach great heights and accomplishments. The family of six boys and eleven girls had many faithful slaves in addition to the abundant amount of children. In 1807, the Society of Friends resolved the issue that slaves must be freed without compensation. The loss of slaves led to a decline in the living quality and class of the Hopkins Family. “As a result, the Hopkins family plunged from comparative affluence to semipoverty[sic] and a scale of living requiring constant self-denial” (Flexner, Abraham 29). Through the effect of the semi-poverty, Hannah Hopkins would read to the children at night in hopes of satisfying some mental and spiritual needs of the maturing family. Johns Hopkins learned many lessons through these stressed times, which he never forgot about: thrift, industry, and the importance of education. This was the foundation of ideals built in Johns Hopkins that would later lead to the desire for a new education system.

At the age of seventeen, Johns was employed by his uncle, Gerard Hopkins. Gerard was a wholesale grocer that gave Johns a job and later, full control of the business. This occurred while Gerard and his wife went on a two year trip. Through Johns’ experiences with in the business industry, he became a successful businessman. Continuing to excel with his fortune, Johns began to work on a span of three hundred acres of land that he would later claim to be the future site of a great university. “’This estate, Fowler,’ he is reported as saying, ‘is to be the site of a great university, a place where the young men of coming generations will have opportunity which I have always longed for. Young men will study great things under these trees that thee and I have planted, and yonder, nearer to the Patapsco, will be a great hospital’”(Flexner, Abraham 33). This was the idea behind the birth of The Johns Hopkins University.

The Johns Hopkins University took hold of the scientific method and applied it to the medical field. Daniel Coit Gilman was the first president of the Johns Hopkins University. Gilman was a realist that had the viewpoint that research is the most important thing to a university and to the medical field. “They soon perceived that there was no obvious call for another ‘college’…. There was no call for another technological or scientific school…. On the other hand, there seemed to be a demand for scientific laboratories and professorships, the directors of which should be free to pursue their own researches, stimulating their students to prosecute study with a truly scientific spirit and aim” (Flexner, Abraham 54). This statement illustrates the realization that the scientific method must be used to learn in a truly dynamic way.

This was a breakthrough for all the universities in America. Breaking away from a scholastic education system was the best thing that could have occurred at that time. According to Abraham Flexner, Johns Hopkins University was “the starting point of higher education in the modern sense in the United States” and Abraham devoted his career to extending the revolutionary ideas of the Hopkins University (Flexner, James 124). Along with a new thought of how to teach the students, there came the question as to how many people should be taught. The Johns Hopkins had to decide to be a university that gives a higher education to its students than ever before or be a university that gives education to a larger number of students.

To answer this question, the trustees asked three of the most known college presidents: Charles W. Elliot of Harvard, James Burrill Angell of Yale, and Andrew D. White of Cornell. Through the advising of these three distinguished men, the trustees of the Johns Hopkins came to a conclusion that the more youth they educate the better. “…[B]ut we could not deliberately undertake to gibe only a high degree of education for a few…. We get a very considerable bulk of moderately well trained youth. We teach them for a year all together. Then they begin to branch out into separate subjects. As the four years go by we carry those who have special ability in certain subjects far above the line of average attainment” (Flexner, James 126). This continued as the basis of the university for some time. By 1879, pressure from the community became so great that an undergraduate college was added to the Johns Hopkins. Along with the undergraduate college becoming well-known, the Johns Hopkins medical school and hospital were iconic symbols during this time period. The research that came from these institutes was revolutionary.

Johns Hopkins’ endowment of seven million dollars that was to be split between a university and hospital was the largest donation for such a purpose in American history. Although there was an overlap of trustees, both of these great foundations had a different board of trustees, which were appointed by Hopkins himself (Flexner, James 124). It is sometimes hard to understand such a large gift for a university with no limitations or definition. The freedom the trustees had to determine their own course of action is part of this difficult understanding. Along with the university, Johns was just as wise in his founding of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. It was his vision that the hospital would serve as part of the Medical School for the Johns Hopkins University. Though the two institutes had separate trustees, arrangements had to be made so that the University and Hospital had overlapping work so that they functioned together. The arrangements were made without precedent, but were adopted immediately. (Flexner, Abraham 111)

The Johns Hopkins Hospital was built in 1877. Through its work, the Hospital started a new era in hospital construction and management as well as in medical education. Both the Hospital and University trustees selected Dr. John Shaw Billings to advise them. Dr. Billings was a librarian of the Surgeon General’s Library in Washington. The trustees acted as they were advised by Dr. Billings. As a result of Dr. Billings’ Surgeon General Catalogue, he realized that there were over 100,000 printed volumes of books and journals that should be examined. No medical library had any considerable number of these books and “they were without indexes or poorly indexed” (Flexner, Abraham 118). The trustees of the Johns Hopkins Hospital had sent a letter to five experts of hospital construction asking for preparation of plans of construction and formulations of ideas. Dr. Billings responded to this letter and his idea was quickly adopted. “Billings recommended the combination of the pavilion plan with the more recent idea of one story units” (Flexner, Abraham 118).

Along with his building plans, Billings urged the addition of “first-class physiological and pathological laboratories;… further, the clinical instruction should be mostly given in the wards and outpatient department… He laid great stress on the necessity of a medical school of much higher status than hitherto existed in this country;… he also recommended the publication of annual volumes of reports like those of Guy’s or St. Bartholomew’s Hospitals” (Flexner, Abraham 119). Billings advising in the construction of the Hospital was a major point in what made the Johns Hopkins Hospital the icon it became. Billings believed the Hospital should advance knowledge in causes, symptoms, and pathology of disease, and also the methods of treatment. He wanted the work of the Hospital to reach farther than the confines of Baltimore or even the state of Maryland.

The idea of a university was changed through the work done by these men and the Johns Hopkins University. The change in the university led to the use of the scientific method and the breakthroughs in the development of scientific medicine. Scientific medicine has been a predominant force in the world today and continues to make changes to the medical field so that lives can be saved or loss of lives can be prevented.



The Johns Hopkins


Page Author: Logan R. Dearinger

Sunday, 18-Mar-2012 1:20


Flexner, Abraham. Daniel Coit Gilman, Creator of the American Type of University,. New York: Harcourt, Brace and, 1946. Print.

Flexner, James Thomas. An American Saga: The Story of Helen Thomas and Simon Flexner. New York: Fordham UP, 1993. Print.

Jackson, S.  (2009, 16 September). The Johns Hopkins and the Rise of Dynamic Models of Higher Education. The Thin Tweed Line.  Presentation.  Central Washington University.

Ryan, W. Carson. Studies in Early Graduate Education: The Johns Hopkins, Clark University, The University of Chicago. New York: Carnegie Foundation, 1939. Print.

Smith, Neil. American Empire: Roosevelt's Geographer and the Prelude to Globalization. Berkeley: University of California, 2003. Print.


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