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Penn History

In 1852, Penn’s Board of Trustees oversaw an institution made up of a Charity School, Academy, and the University’s four departments. The Charity Schools provided education to 160 students; the Academy enrolled 74 boys. The University at this time consisted of four “faculties” (also known as “departments” and later as “schools” of the University) charged with the education of approximately 565 students. The College accounted for only 81 of those enrolled in the University; the bulk of the University’s students were in the professional schools. The fledgling Department of Chemistry as applied to the Arts had no more than 10 students, but the two-year Law program had boasted 66 students in 1851 and the Medical Department had 410 students during the 1851-1852 academic year, the highest enrollment by far of any Penn department at the time.

The University administration was headed by Provost Rev. John Ludlow, professor of moral philosophy, and Vice-Provost Henry Vethake, professor of mathematics. Two brothers, Francis and Frederick Dick, followed in their father’s footsteps to hold the position of “janitor” of both the College and the Medical Department during the 1840s and 1850s; at this time the janitor’s job description involved not only maintenance and utilities, but also the collection of tuition money from students, the management of the records related to tuition payments, and some aspects of student discipline.


    The faculty consisted of six full professors plus five other professors. One professor had emeritus status. George Allen served as secretary of the faculty as well as professor of Greek and Latin. According to the University Catalogue, 1851-1852, undergraduate curriculum covered the subjects of intellectual, moral and natural philosophy; Greek, Latin, French and Italian language and literature; rhetoric and English literature; chemistry; mathematics; geography, law, American and European history.


    The teaching staff consisted of ten professors (including two emeritus), two lecturers and one demonstrator in the subjects of anatomy, chemistry, materia medica, obstetrics, pharmacy, surgery, the theory and practice of medicine, and clinical medicine and clinical surgery.


    Although law had been taught at Penn since 1790, the field was not established as a separate school by the University Trustees until 1850. The faculty of this new school consisted of one professor, George Sharswood. The two-year course was made up of two six-month terms, each beginning on the first Monday in November. According to the description of the curriculum in the University Catalogue, 1851-1852, students read Blackstone’s and Kent’s Commentaries as texts, while the professor based his one-hour lectures (two evenings a week for each class) on the Institutes of the Laws of Pennsylvania. Oral examinations and moot courts were also part of the curriculum.


    This department also had only recently (1850) been established by the University Trustees; James Curtis Booth was engaged as its first professor in 1851. Enrollment was limited to no more than ten students for the September through June term. As the curriculum was described in the University Catalogue, 1851-1852, Professor Booth lectured on mineralogy, geology, theoretic and applied chemistry, but students also were supplied with chemicals and apparatus to conduct their own experiments under the direction of the professor. This short-lived department is considered the earliest date for the teaching of engineering at the University of Pennsylvania; it was followed by the establishing of the School of Mines, Arts and Manufactures in 1852 and by the first appointment of a professor of engineering in 1855.