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About the Department

Willoughby Medical College


The Willoughby University of Lake Erie, the forerunner of the Willoughby Medical College of Columbus, was chartered on March 3, 1834. It was located nineteen miles east of Cleveland near the Chagrin River in what is now Willoughby. The college trustees decided to move the University to Columbus in 1847. This decision followed several years of competition for students with another medical school in northeastern Ohio--the Medical Department of Western Reserve College, founded in 1843. Another factor in the decision to move was a poor relationship that developed with the townspeople of Willoughby following the school's alleged involvement in an 1843 grave-robbing incident (43).

On Jan. 14, 1847, the state legislature passed an amendment to the 1834 charter of the Willoughby University of Lake Erie, authorizing its transfer to Columbus as the "Willoughby Medical College of Columbus." Noah H. Swayne, one of Ohio's most famous jurists and a future U.S. Supreme Court justice under President Lincoln, was named President of the College. John H. Butterfield, M.D., who had been with the school in Willoughby, was made Dean. Besides Mr. Swayne, the members of the Board of Trustees of the relocated college included many prominent citizens of Columbus--John W. Andrews, William Armstrong, William Dennison, Jr., John Field, Samuel Medary, Robert Neil, Aaron F. Perry, S. D. Preston, Dr. C. F. Schenck, Alfred P. Stone, Joseph Sullivant, William S. Sullivant, Joseph R. Swan and Charles H. Wing (35, p. 45). To these farsighted individuals goes the credit for establishing the country's first department of psychiatry.

The Willoughby Medical College begins its classes

The Ohio State Journal of Aug. 13, 1847, announced the opening series of lectures for the Willoughby Medical College of Columbus. Classes were to begin on November 3rd and to continue for sixteen weeks (17). To accommodate students, the Willoughby trustees purchased the Clay Club Room, a large wooden building used by the supporters of Henry Clay during his unsuccessful 1844 Whig presidential campaign. They arranged for the building to be moved from East State Street, opposite the State Capitol Building, to the northwest corner of Gay and High streets (35, p. 143).

Lyne Starling, one of the founding-fathers of Columbus, contemplated the bestowal of a large gift to a charitable institution. He was persuaded by his friends, including Dr. Smith, to donate $30,000 (later adding an additional $5,000) to the Willoughby Medical College of Columbus. The gift was used for the construction of a new hospital and teaching facility (35, pp. 142-43).

The following year on Jan. 28, 1848, Willoughby Medical College became known as Starling Medical College in honor of its benefactor. Classes continued in the same building and laboratories--with the same equipment, students, faculty and dean. However, the school that began classes as the Willoughby Medical College of Columbus graduated its first students under its charter as Starling Medical College. William S. Sullivant was made President of Starling Medical College. A new Board of Trustees was chosen that included three former trustees of the Willoughby Medical College of Columbus--Mr. Sullivant, Joseph R. Swan and John W Andrews. Four new members of the Board--Dean Butterfield, Robert W. McCoy, Dr. Francis Carter and Dr. Smith were appointed (35, p. 94).

Dr. Smith was given the title of Professor of Materia Medica Therapeutics and Medical Jurisprudence at the reorganized college. Upon the death of Dean Butterfield in 1849, the Starling trustees chose Dr. Smith to become the second dean of Starling Medical College. He held this title from 1849 to 1858 and from 1860 to 1863. He also held the title of "Professor of Theory and Practice of Medicine" from 1850 until his death in 1874 (35, p. 106). He remained a trustee of Starling Medical College throughout his life (36).

Following a merger in 1907 with the Ohio Medical University, a rival college, the school became known as Starling-Ohio Medical College. In 1914 Starling-Ohio Medical College transferred its assets to The Ohio State University and it became The Ohio State University College of Medicine.


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