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Dr. Hammer’s Dream of a European Education in St. Louis

  (1)
Dr. Adam HammerDr. Adam Hammer (1818 – 1878) was born in the town of Mingalsheim in the Grand Duchy of Baden, Germany. After completing gymnasium in Bruchsal in 1837, Hammer entered the University of Heidelberg, pursuing studies in science and mathematics. Soon turning his interest to medicine, he received a degree of Doctor of Medicine in 1842. After involving himself in a failed revolt in the summer of 1848, Hammer emigrated to St. Louis, Missouri. Upon arrival he opened a private practice and quickly joined the St. Louis Medical Society.

Hammer began to recognize certain shortcomings in the American medical education system. Determined that the most effective remedy for the situation would be the formation of a European style medical college in St. Louis, Hammer began to design a medical college that would provide a medical education on par with that found in Europe. Basing his design and curriculum off of German medical institutions, Hammer outlined four main aspects of education that would set his new college, the St. Louis College of Medical and Natural Sciences, apart from all other medical colleges in the nation. These four aspects addressed what Hammer saw as the shortcomings of the U.S. medical education system. First, the St. Louis College would have a longer term of study. This would allow students to thoroughly learn a number of specialties in the medical realm. Secondly, the curriculum would be based around graded courses. Third, matriculation would be contingent upon fulfillment of a set course of study. Finally, the school would contain designated faculties for instruction in different specialties.

Hammer petitioned the State of Missouri for a charter for his newly designed medical college, receiving it on February 28, 1855. Hammer prepared to revolutionize American medical education using his newly designed school. However, this was not to be. The school experienced a very short existence, due in part to the failure of certain faculty members to appear at the opening of the school. This shortage of faculty placed a great strain upon Hammer and the school to maintain all scheduled courses. Ultimately it proved impossible. The school closed in 1856, after only one year of operation. Humboldt Faculty

Despite the failure of the St. Louis College of Medical and Natural        (2)
Sciences, Hammer continued to dream of European inspired medical education in St. Louis. In 1859, he founded the Humboldt Institut, oder Deutsche Naturwissenschaftlich-Medicinische Schule (German Scientific Medical School). Following the same tenets previously designed for the St. Louis College, the Humboldt Institut required that students attend four courses of lectures, a total time commitment of sixteen months, and undergo a public examination in order to matriculate and receive a degree of Doctor of Medicine. However, in a style different from that of the St. Louis College, the Humboldt Institut utilized German as the main language of instruction and administration.

Located at on Ninth Street, between Market and Walnut, the Humboldt Institut concluded four full courses in the first two years following the opening of the school. Yet, despite the success of the school and its students, the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 forced the school to cease its courses for two years. During this time, Hammer began to raise money for the erection of a new, more appropriate school building across from the St. Louis City Hospital. Regular courses resumed in 1863 at the new school location at the corner of Soulard and Closey. In 1866, the Humboldt Institut faculty and administration were reorganized. The school was renamed the Humbolt Medical College and the official language of instruction was switched to English. The first course of lectures held after the reorganization came in the winter of 1866.
  (3)
Humboldt SealThe Humboldt Medical College continued to train physicians and surgeons until 1869, when, after ten years of educational instruction, the faculty resigned and the college terminated its existence. Some of the faculty went on to form the St. Louis College of Physicians and Surgeons. However, with the closing of his second medical school, Hammer was defeated. He ceased his attempts to bring European medical education to St. Louis and removed himself from the administrative side of medicine. He quietly closed his private practice and accepted a clinical professorship at the Missouri Medical College. Hammer remained in that position until 1877, when he returned to Germany to live out the remainder of his days. He died a year later at the age of sixty.
           (4)                                                                              (5)
Humboldt Medical College. Taken from Plate 25 of "Pictorial St. Louis, the great metropolis of the Mississippi valley; a topographical survey drawn in perspective." 1876.          Humboldt Medical College. Taken from Plate 25 of "Pictorial St. Louis, the great metropolis of the Mississippi valley; a topographical survey drawn in perspective." 1876.

Left: Location of Humboldt Medical College in St. Louis. (Click on thumbnail for larger image)

Right: The arrow indicates the second location of the medical college. (Click on thumbnail for larger image)

IMAGE CITATIONS
(1)  Portrait of Adam Hammer. Bernard Becker Medical Library, Washington University School of Medicine.
(2)  Ball, James Moores.  "Dr. Adam Hammer, Surgeon and Apostle of Higher Medical Education." Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association 6.3 (September 1909): p. 166.
(3)  Ball, James Moores.  "Dr. Adam Hammer, Surgeon and Apostle of Higher Medical Education." Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association 6.3 (September 1909): p. 164.
(4)  Compton, Richard and Camille Dry. "Pictorial St. Louis, the great metropolis of the Mississippi valley; a topographical survey drawn in perspective."  (St. Louis: Compton and Company): 1876.  Plate 25.   
(5)  Compton, Richard and Camille Dry. "Pictorial St. Louis, the great metropolis of the Mississippi valley; a topographical survey drawn in perspective."  (St. Louis: Compton and Company): 1876.  Plate 25.   

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