Family Stories · Dr. Charles Alexander Warfield and the Founding of the University of Maryland Medical School
Dr. Charles Alexander Warfield and the Founding of the University of Maryland Medical School

On May 7, 2005, George A. Scheele, M.D. and Jean Warfield Keenan, BSN, both descendants of Dr. Charles Alexander Warfield, Visited the historical archives at the University of Maryland Medical School. Based on information obtained from the two books cited below, Dr. Charles Alexander Warfield's role in founding the Medical and Chirurgical Society of Maryland and the College of Medicine of Maryland, later known as the University of Maryland Medical School, was verified. As the second President of the College of Medicine of Maryland, Dr. Warfield's signature may be seen on a diploma issued to one of the graduates (see digital photo of diploma below).

The archive entitled " University of Maryland " cited below describes Dr. Warfield as follows:

Charles Alexander Warfield, President of the Board of Regents in 1812-13 was born in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, December 3, 1751, the son of Azel Warfield. He was of the same family as the present distinquished Executive of Maryland (Governor Warfield). He is said to have attended lectures at the University of Pennsylvania, but does not appear to have graduated. [His name is not in the list of alumni of that institution and he does not affix the letters indicating the possession of a medical degree in signing a diploma in 1812] He was a member of a "Whig" Club at the opening of the Revolution, at the head of which, on October 19, 1774, he proceeded to Annapolis and forced the owner of the "Peggy Stewart" to burn his vessel, which was laden with forbidden tea. Recent paintings by Mr. Mayer in the State House at Annapolis and by Mr. C. Y. Turner, in the Court House at Baltimore, represent this great historical event in the history of Maryland. Dr. Warfield was the "first" to propose a separation from the mother country and was a member of the Committee of Observation of his county in 1775. In 1776 he was First Major of the Elk Ridge Battalion and the same year engaged in the manufacture of saltpetre. In 1777 he was Judge of the Anne Arundel County court.

He resided during his entire life at his country place, called "Bushy Park". He had a wide reputation and extensive practice and taught many medical students in his office. He was one of the founders of the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland in 1799. In 1812, upon the resignation of Dr. George Brown, he was elected President of the Board of Regents of the College of Medicine of Maryland (University of Maryland) and continued in that office until his death, which occurred at Bushy Park, on January 29, 1813. Dr. Warfield married Miss Eliza Ridgely, a daughter of Major Henry Ridgely.

College of Medicine of Maryland Diploma
Signed by Dr. Charles Alexander Warfield

Left side signatures:

  • Dr. Charles Alexander Warfield
  • James Cocke (we believe this to be his signature)
  • William Donaldson
  • John Davidge
  • John Crawford
  • Samuel Baker
  • John Cromwell
  • Nathaniel Potter

Right side signatures:

  • Philip Thomas
  • Samuel Baker


A brief history of the founding of the College of Medicine of Maryland appears below:

By Eugene Fauntleroy Cordell, MD., Baltimore, 1903

The first medical teacher of any prominence in Baltimore was Dr. Charles Frederick Wiesenthal (1726-1789). Dr. Wiesenthal was a native of Prussia, who, according to legend, was a physician to Frederick the Great. He came to Baltimore in 1755, was deeply revered and beloved by his pupils, who looked upon him as the "Syndenham" of the town and organized the German Immigrant Society.

Dr. Wiesenthal organized the medical practitioners to develop a "plan for the regulation of medical practice". All physicians were to submit to examination and license. It is not surprising to learn that many objected to this proposal. The communication concluded with the statement that they were "surrounded by swarms of quacks". About the same time the body of one Cassiday, who had been executed for murder, was taken by force from the students of anatomy, to whom it had been given for dissection, by the populace of the town.

Following the death of Charles Wiesenthal in 1789, the Medical Society was reorganized under the leadership of George Brown, Andrew Wiesenthal, the son of Charles Wiesenthal and other prominent doctors. Dr. Brown became Chairman of the Board of Regents. Dr. Philip Thomas was elected as the first President of the College of Medicine of Maryland, in 1811, and Dr. Charles Alexander Warfield was elected the second President in 1812. The mission of the medical school was to regulate the practice of Medicine along both shores of the Chesapeake Bay.


Its History, influence, Equipment and Characteristics with Biographical Sketches and Portraits of its Founders, Benefactors, regents, Faculty and Alumni
By Eugene Fauntleroy Cordell, M.D.

Baltimore received its City Charter in 1796. The same year Dr. John Beale Davidge settled for practice of Medicine in Baltimore.

The University of Maryland is unique in being founded initially as a School of Medicine. The College of Medicine of Maryland, founded in 1807, was the fifth medical school founded in the United States, after the University of Pennsylvania (1765), Harvard (1782), Dartmouth (1798) and the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City (1798).

In 1807 an unexpected episode precipitated the Maryland State Legislature to Charter the School of Medicine. Earlier in the year, a small group of prominent doctors were teaching medical studies on a volunteer basis. Dr. John Davidge instructed in Anatomy, Surgery and mid-wifery. Dr. Jame Cocke instructed in physiology and Dr. John Shaw instructed in Chemistry. During an anatomical dissection on a cadaver, a crowd gathered in front of the building, which, as the numbers and noise increased, soon resorted to violence, destroying completely Davidge's Anatomical theater and its contents.

This violent episode rallied the group of medical practitioners to petition the State and, later that year, the State legislature established a Charter for the College of Medicine. This charter included twenty covenants (Acts), described in their entirety in this archive. Dr. John B. Davidge became Dean of the Medical School. Dr. George Brown became President of the Board of Regents. These two individuals also played prominent roles in founding the B&O Railroad (see the B&O Railroad Museum in Camden Yards).

With the new Charter established, the state commissioned a new Davidge Hall, modeled on the old Pantheon in Rome by R. Cary Long, the distinguished architect from Baltimore, who was known for the design of many of the beautiful landmark buildings in Baltimore and for introducing gas as a means of city illumination in Baltimore, Boston and Philadelphia, shortly after it was first introduced in London. Davidge Hall was built on the north-east corner of Lombard and Greene Streets on land bequeathed by Colonel John Eager Howard, the Revolutionary War hero, in return for a "merely nominal fee" ($10,000). The cornerstone for this impressive building, which still stands today, was laid on April 7, 1811, and the interior contained an anatomical theater (above) built for 1200 and the Chemical Hall (below) for 1,000.

In 1812 the Maryland State Legislature established the Charter for the University of Maryland, which is located today in College Park, Maryland.

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©2005 George A. Scheele MD