A history of institutions, whether schools, hospitals, societies, or other organizations, should serve a dual function. It is not enough to describe events and individuals of local importance. The history should also open a window on the larger world, so that the reader can perceive the background, the events, and the problems within which the institution finds its significance. The distinguished historian Whitfield J. Bell, Jr, has written a superb example of such a presentation. His account of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia shows how a single institution reflects the events of the wider medical world.
The College has completed its second century of existence. For the first 100 years or so Philadelphia was the medical center of the country, home of the leading physicians and, of course, of the first medical school. John Redmond, Benjamin Rush, Isaac Parrish, Samuel Jackson, William Gerhard, George Bacon Wood, Alfred Stillé, and