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Published: July 5, 2011

Johns Hopkins University

A privately endowed, coeducational university founded in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1876 as the first university in the United States offering only graduate studies and research. Often called the first true university in the Americas, it was planned as an American imitation of the German universities of the time—recognized as the world’s finest—that would draw the world’s top scholars as instructors and students.
The university was founded with a bequest from Quaker merchant Johns Hopkins (1795– 1873), who willed $7 million to found a university and hospital. Influenced by Harvard University president CHARLES W. ELIOT, himself a great educational reformer, the university’s first board selected University of California president DANIEL COIT GILMAN as president of their new enterprise. After traveling to Europe and across the United States, Gilman borrowed the German concept of the university and decided to establish a school devoted solely to graduate studies. He recruited a small but eminent group of scholars and teachers to constitute the first faculty and a group of 20 brilliant college graduates to whom he offered America’s first university-financed, graduate research FELLOWSHIPS.
What raised the university to national and international prominence, however, was the work of pathology professor William Henry Welch, who revolutionized the study of medicine in the United States. At the time, medical education consisted of one to three years of lecture and study at proprietary medical schools organized and staffed by local practitioners. Welch developed a new, four-year medical curriculum— the first in the United States. It consisted of two years of laboratory study of preclinical subjects, such as anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and pathology, followed by two years of in-hospital study of the clinical subjects of medicine, surgery and obstetrics. Welch helped found both the Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1889 and the Medical School in 1893, of which he was the first dean and which he linked inextricably to the hospital by recruiting such distinguished physician/researchers as Sir William Osler (1849–1919) and the renowned surgeon William S. Halsted (1852– 1922) to staff both institutions.
He thus made the hospital’s first great physician/ teachers central to the life of the medical school, but made the medical school’s laboratory and library facilities equally central to the research needs of the hospital and its physicians. Welch strengthened those ties by creating an appointment system that made professors in the medical school serve as heads of their departments in the hospital. The appointments thus made them responsible for delivery of medical services as well as for medical instruction, and the arrangement created the first so-called teaching hospital in the United States. Their combined duties led to their integrating advanced medical education with practical hospital routine, as they led their students on daily rounds of hospital wards, translating student textbook and laboratory knowledge into actuality. The teaching standards and methods—and the four-year medical degree—established at Johns Hopkins made it a model for the many teaching hospitals that would spring up in major cities across the United States.
The undergraduate college and the evening college were founded almost as afterthoughts, to help supply the university’s graduate schools with a pool of worthy scholars. The evening college is one of the nation’s oldest part-time adult education enterprises. Johns Hopkins has never ceased pioneering educational innovations. In 1971, psychology professor Julian C. Stanley created a program for mathematics geniuses as young as 14 to enroll on campus and complete their education at their own pace. Some skipped high school entirely and completed their doctorates by the time they were 20. One of the first programs for the GIFTED, it served as a model for dozens of other American colleges that established programs for gifted students in cooperation with nearby high schools. Johns Hopkins today has five undergraduate schools for the arts, sciences and engineering, with more than 4,000 students. Its eight graduate schools, including its schools for the study of medicine, nursing, public health, international studies and music (the Peabody Institute), have more than 1,500 students.
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