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Benefactor and Founders of the Johns Hopkins Hospital



Johns Hopkins, the benefactor of the University, Hospital and Medical School that bear his name, was born in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, in 1795. His first name was the family name of a great-grandmother on his father's side. Young Johns showed some aptitude for business, and at the age of 17 he was sent to Baltimore to live with his uncle, a wholesale grocer. When his uncle denied him permission to marry his daughter (the Society of Friends did not permit marriages between first cousins), Johns Hopkins moved out of the house and established his own grocery business. Its success allowed him to accumulate enough capital to lend money, and he abandoned the grocery business to become a banker. He also prospered in this endeavor, and became Baltimore 's leading financier. A bachelor all his life, Johns Hopkins was able to use the whole of his wealth for philanthropic purposes. He decided to divide his $7 million fortune into two equal parts, for the founding of a Hospital and a University. The naming of two interlocking boards was concrete evidence that Hopkins wanted the corporations to work closely together. He chose the site for the hospital and bought the land, giving it to the hospital's trustees along with a letter of instruction. Written less than a year before his death in 1873 at the age of 78, this letter set forth his wishes explicitly. His vision, of course, was to come true, and The Johns Hopkins Hospital has served for the past 100 years as a model of its kind.


The intellectual architect of The Johns Hopkins Hospital was John Shaw Billings, battlefield surgeon in the Civil War, creator of the Index Medicus - the monumental bibliography of the world's medical literature, a pioneer in public hygiene and sanitation, an expert in hospital construction and management, and first director of the New York Public Library. It was this multitalented man who, virtually alone, designed the entire Hopkins Hospital and outlined the major goals of the medical school that would operate within it. Billings is also credited with the development of the Surgeon General's Library, precursor for the National Library of Medicine, which is generally regarded as the world's best. According to a former director of the latter, "He had organizing genius and a passion for doing. Vision he had, managerial adroitness and a relentless power of will."


From 1875 to 1901, Daniel Coit Gilman served as the first President of The Johns Hopkins University. He was selected by trustees impressed with his accomplishments at Yale and the University of California - and even more impressed that their three consultants, the Presidents of Harvard, Cornell, and the University of Michigan , each independently had recommended Gilman. For a few months, he also served as Hospital director until the permanent director, Henry Mills Hurd, was selected. Gilman's greatest single accomplishment may well have been the creation of the first graduate university in a research-oriented environment, the principles of which were shared by the new Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.


Francis T. King was the first President of the Board of Trustees of the Hospital, selected for the post by Johns Hopkins himself. King was the son of an English shipping merchant who had settled in Baltimore , and married into the Ellicott family - the same family that had founded Ellicott City , Maryland . He developed a strong interest in philanthropic and educational enterprises, and became a trustee of several institutions, serving as President of the Board of Trustees of Bryn Mawr College for a number of years. As friend and adviser to Johns Hopkins, King had a good working knowledge of the way the founder had envisioned the development of the hospital. He devoted much of his time to following the construction, and consistently showed himself to be a conscientious, wise and industrious trustee. It has been said that The Johns Hopkins Hospital is almost as much a monument to Francis T. King as it is to Johns Hopkins himself.

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©2005 George A. Scheele MD