Caldwell, Charles, 1772-1853

Alternative names
Birth 1772-05-14
Death 1853-07-09

Biographical notes:

Physician. He developed Transylvania University's medical school into one of the nation's strongest and was co-founder of the Louisville Medical Institute.

From the description of Letter, 1820 Dec. 9. (Filson Historical Society, The). WorldCat record id: 46763925

Philadelphia physician.

From the description of ALS : to James Ewell, 1816 Aug. 13. (Rosenbach Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122490275

Surgeon and professor of medicine.

From the description of Charles Caldwell letters, 1816-1838, New York. (Duke University). WorldCat record id: 31444930

Biographical note: Charles Caldwell was a noted physician and educator who joined the faculty of the Medical Department of Transylvania University in 1819. He authored over 200 books and papers. Involved in the controversy over moving the medical school from Transylvania to Louisville, he left the university in 1837 to help found the Louisville Medical Institute.

From the description of Papers, [ca. 1817-1940] (bulk 1820-1839). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 191917831

In 1791, Charles Caldwell began to study medicine in the office of Dr. Harris, of Salisbury, N.C., and the following year entered the prestigious Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania, where his colleagues included Benjamin Rush, William Dewees, and Caspar Wistar. After service with the Army during the Whiskey Rebellion, Caldwell received his medical degree (1796) and took up practice in Philadelphia. Due to strains in his relationship with Rush, Caldwell was never appointed to a professorship at the University, though he did accept a post as instructor in the physical sciences.

In 1819, having already declined to take part in the establishment of medical schools in New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia, Caldwell agreed to help found the Medical Department at Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky. Later, in 1837, he left Transylvania for Louisville, a larger city with greater opportunities, to become the first professor of the Louisville Medical Institute.

Caldwell's research included work on "pestilential" diseases, blood and the circulatory system, and, later in life, physical education and phrenology. As might be expected, his work drew on a strong knowledge of contemporary medical practice, particularly the work of William Cullen and other physicians of the Edinburgh school. He performed a significant role in American medical circles as an importer and translator of foreign medical works, most importantly Blumenbach's Elements of Physiology (1795), and Cullen's First lines of the practice of physic (1815). His own works included Medical & physical memoirs, containing, among other subjects, a particular enquiry into the origin and nature of the late pestilential epidemics of the United States (1801), An experimental inquiry respecting the vitality of the blood (1805), and Phrenology vindicated, and antiphrenology unmasked (1838). Caldwell's autobiography was published in 1855.

From the guide to the Charles Caldwell lectures, Caldwell, Charles, c. 1852, (William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan)


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  • Medicine
  • Pathology
  • Medical colleges--Faculty
  • Women--Health
  • Diet in disease
  • Medical colleges
  • Cognition
  • Fertilization (Biology)
  • Puberty
  • Senses and sensation
  • Sleep
  • Yellow fever
  • Medical care--History
  • Phrenology
  • Physicians
  • Pregnancy
  • Digestion
  • Disease
  • Diet
  • Medical care, Cost of
  • Physicians--Correspondence
  • Menstruation
  • Therapeutics
  • Putrefaction
  • Medical colleges--History--Sources
  • Smallpox
  • Good and evil
  • Excretion
  • Cold--Physiological effect


  • Physicians


  • Pennsylvania--Philadelphia (as recorded)
  • Kentucky (as recorded)
  • Pennsylvania (as recorded)
  • Kentucky--Louisville (as recorded)
  • Kentucky (as recorded)
  • Kentucky--Lexington (as recorded)