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Collection of lecture notes from courses taught by Benjamin Smith Barton


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Benjamin Barton was an American naturalist and botanist. He was born on February 10, 1766, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the son of the Rev. Thomas Barton, an Episcopal minister. He was eight years old when his mother died and fourteen at the death of his father. He became a student at the College of Philadelphia, beginning his study of medicine under Dr. William Shippen, Jr. While still Shippen's pupil, he journeyed with his maternal uncle, David Rittenhouse and the other commissioners appointed to survey the western boundary of Pennsylvania, including observation of Indian tribes, a subject which remained an interest throughout his life. In 1786, he went abroad to pursue his medical and scientific studies, first in Edinburgh and London, and finally in Gottingen, where he received the M. D. degree in 1789. Dr. Barton returned to Philadelphia and practiced medicine in 1789; this same year he was appointed professor of natural history and botany in the College of Philadelphia, a position held after the union of the college of Philadelphia with the University of the State of Pennsylvania in 1791. He was also appointed chair of materia medica at Pennsylvania University, When Benjamin Rush died he also became professor of the theory and practice of medicine, continuing to hold the chair of natural history.

His published works include: "The Elements of Zoology and Botany," "Elements of Botany, or Outlines of the Natural History of Vegetables "Collections for an Essay towards the Materia Medica of the United States;" "Fragments of the Natural History of Pennsylvania;" "Essay on the Fascinating Power Ascribed to Serpents, etc.," "Views of the Origin of the Tribes and Nations of America." In 1805, he started publishing the Medical and Physical Journal and also wrote many short articles on topics connected with medicine, history and archaeology, much of his work appearing in the "Transactions of the American Philosophical Society."

He was a member of the Imperial Society of Naturalists of Moscow; the Danish Royal Society of Sciences; the Linnaean Society of London; and of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland. Barton married, in 1797, a daughter of Edward Pennington of Philadelphia, and named his eldest son after Pennant, the English naturalist. He had given only two courses as the successor of Rush when he had to seek relief for poor health through a trip to France in 1815. He returned to New York afflicted with hydrothorax. Finally reaching home, very ill, he became rapidly worse and was found dead in bed on the morning of December 19, 1815.

Works consulted:

Packard, Francis R., "Baron, Benjamin Smith," American Medical Biographies, The Norman Remington Company, 1920, Accessed May 22, 2020,

This collection consists of lecture notes taken by four different University of Pennsylvania medical students in Benjamin Smith Barton's materia medica course. Volume 1 consists of notes taken by an unnamed student from Windsor, Connecticut from November 12, 1810 to January 8, 1811. Volume 2 encompasses the years 1811-1812 and also includes notes from Barton's course on Botany taken by an unknown student. Thomas Hamilton is the author of the lecture notes found in Volume 3. These notes, recorded in 1814, include a table of contents located on page 304 v. Volume 4 consists of notes attributed to Barton, which were copied by Matthew Anderson in 1823.

Volume 1, sold by Argosy Bookshop (New York), 1958; volume 2, gift of Clement R. Jones, Jr., 1952; volume 3, gift of University of Georgia Library, 1958; and volume 4 sold by Argosy Bookshop (New York), 1957.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Sam Allingham (processed before 2013)
Finding Aid Date
2020 June 19
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This collection is open for research use.

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Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

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Notes by unnamed student from Windsor, Connecticut (volume 1), 1810 November 12-1811 January 8.
Box 1
Notes by unnamed student from Barton's course on Botany (volume 2), 1811-1812.
Box 2
Notes by Thomas Hamilton (include a table of contents located on page 304 v) (volume 3), 1814.
Box 3
Notes copied by Matthew Anderson, attributed to Barton (volume 4), 1823.
Box 4

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