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Celebrating 200 Years

Our History

Jefferson’s 200-year history includes intrigue and innovation that started with $550 and a bold idea that would forever change medical education around the world. From medical pioneers and many medical firsts to productive mergers, Jefferson Medical College — now Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University — continues to build on that history, boldly shaping the future of medicine and education.

2/11 1820s - 1830s

Starting a new medical college is no small feat, especially at a time when there are only a few in the nation and market forces are out to stop anyone who tries. But four determined visionaries band together in 1824 with a plan to overcome these obstacles.

1824 The Past is a Prologue

Discover how Drs. George McClellan, John Eberle, and Joseph Klapp and Jacob Green broke the mold to establish Jefferson Medical College.

 Old lightbulb (Credit: Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash)

Did You Know? Only four medical schools existed

when in 1824, JMC becomes the fifth medical school in the U.S.

1825

Think about what you can do with $550 today. That is what it costs to rent the Tivoli Theater for a full year and open the “Hall of the Jefferson Medical College”—aka Jefferson’s first Medical Hall. Located at 518-520 Prune St. (now Locust Walk, just east of Washington Square), the building is renovated for $100. An infirmary offered free medical and surgical care for outpatients, making it the first clinic established in any college in the country.

Original Wills Eye Hospital located on the corner of 18th and Race Streets in Philadelphia. (Credit: willseye.org)

1834 - Wills Eye Hospital Opens

The first hospital in the Western Hemisphere devoted entirely to the eye opens. The 70-bed facility is designed by Thomas Ustick Walter, who later designs the U.S. Capitol dome. As a specialty hospital, it becomes a pioneer in preventing and treating eye disease and plays a vital role in establishing ophthalmology as a separate branch of medicine in the U.S.

 Old lightbulb (Credit: Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash)

Did You Know? Franklin Bache

served as a faculty member at Jefferson in the 1800s and was the grandson of Benjamin Franklin.

Did You Know During This Era?

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1824

Beethoven’s 9th Symphony premieres in Vienna. Beethoven conducted the symphony even though he was deaf. At the end of the piece, the crowd burst into applause but Beethoven, who had been a few measures behind the symphony, continued to conduct. A singer walked over to Beethoven and turned him around so he could accept the rousing applause.

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1825

The world's first public railway to use steam locomotives opens in the United Kingdom. Its first line connected coal mines near Shildon with Darlington and Stockton in County Durham.

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1836

To honor those who fought and died for France during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon ordered the Arc de Triomphe to be built in 1806. It is finally inaugurated in 1836. The monument is 50 meters high, 45 meters wide and 22 meters deep, the largest triumphal arch in the world at the time.

3/11 1840s - 1870s

Being the first to accomplish new feats becomes a hallmark of Jefferson Medical College during this era. From surgical firsts, pioneering new fields of medicine, ambulatory care and more, great progress is made to improve lives.

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Did You Know? 630 Matriculates

in 1859, making the Jefferson Medical College the most well-attended medical school in the world.

 Old lightbulb (Credit: Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash)

Did You Know? 1866

The Jewish Hospital for the Aged, Infirmed and Destitute opens. In 1952, the hospital merges with Northern Liberties Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital to form the Albert Einstein Medical Center. 

Did You Know During This Era?

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Surgical First

Joseph Pancoast, MD 1860, an anatomy professor, performs the first abdominal tourniquet for below-the-hip amputation.

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Discovery First

John N. Farrar, MD 1874, creates the first embossing typewriter for the blind.

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First Alumni Association

In 1870, the Jefferson Alumni Association is organized, making it the first of its kind. Samuel D. Gross, MD 1828, becomes its founding president. 

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Did You Know? 1878

The world's first moving pictures are caught on camera. Twelve cameras are used, each taking one picture with the goal of seeing if all four of a horse’s hooves leave the ground.

4/11 1880s - 1890s

In starting one of the most prestigious medical associations in the country, performing groundbreaking surgeries, making significant discoveries or expanding training beyond doctors and medicine, this era at Jefferson has long-lasting impact.

 Old lightbulb (Credit: Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash)

Did You Know? 1880

Samuel D. Gross, MD 1828, establishes the American Surgical Association, the nation's oldest and most prestigious surgical organization.

 Old lightbulb (Credit: Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash)

DISCOVERY FIRST William M. L. Coplin, MD 1886

invents a grooved glass jar known as the Coplin jar. This jar allows microscopic slides to stand separated in a staining solution. He also realizes the need to have hospital-based laboratories and is instrumental in establishing them in Philadelphia.

Did You Know? Jefferson had a football team

in 1896. Over the next decade, rivals included Princeton, Maryland Medical College, Fordham and local teams: University of Pennsylvania, Haverford, Swarthmore, Ursinus and Philadelphia Dental College.

5/11 1900s - 1920s

Throughout the beginning of the 20th century, Jefferson continues to make advancements at the forefront of medicine. We innovate with surgical firsts, create new inventions and take the first steps toward offering graduate studies programs. 

Portrait of Algernon Brashear Jackson, Jefferson Medical College graduate from 1901.

Algernon Brashear Jackson, MD ’01

Becomes the first African American graduate of Jefferson Medical College. He goes on to co-found the first African American fraternity, Sigma Pi Phi, also known as The Boulé. It creates opportunities for other Black physicians and continues to do so today.

More about Dr. Jackson

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Did You Know? Royal Alumni

Jefferson alumni include two royals: Prince Nasib Janblatte of Syria (1906) and his son, Albert Faud Jumblatt (1924).

1909 The Women’s Auxiliary

The Women's Auxiliary of the Jefferson Hospital group is started. Today, the Auxiliaries are an active and strong support group for the Women’s Board and hospital. With 200+ members of all ages, backgrounds and interests, they make vital contributions to fundraising, volunteering and public relations, raising over $60,000 each year to benefit Jefferson Abington Hospital, including targeted giving programs. 

 Old lightbulb (Credit: Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash)

Did You Know? 1916

The boards of the Medical School of the University of Pennsylvania and the Jefferson Medical College vote to merge. Later that summer, the institutions decide against the merger.

Did You Know During This Era?

5.9.1

1903

The Wright brothers make the first sustained motorized aircraft flight, piloted by Orville Wright at Kitty Hawk, N.C.

5.9.2

1909

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) forms, and the first National Woman’s Day is celebrated in the U.S.

5.9.3

1921

Toronto's Dr. Frederick Banting and Dr. Charles Best announce the discovery of insulin.

6/11 1930s - 1950s

In an era that includes World War II, the polio vaccine and the discovery of the double helix structure in DNA, Jefferson makes its own marks on the world in cardiothoracic surgery, obstetrics, plastic surgery and more. 

A Jefferson physician discusses a patient case by referring to three chest x-rays displayed on a light panel.

X-Ray Technician Program

In 1935, Jefferson's x-ray technician program, one of the first founded in the U.S., receives accreditation from the American College of Radiology's first roster of approved schools.

A woman utlizes a piece of textile equipment.

Did You Know? 1941

Philadelphia Textile School undergoes a name change to Philadelphia Textile Institute and is licensed to award bachelor’s degrees. The 1948 Analysis shows that approximately 70% of graduates that year were pursuing degrees or diplomas in “Textiles,” the rest in “Chemistry, Dyeing & Printing.”

 Old lightbulb (Credit: Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash)

Did You Know? 1949

a graduate program in various basic medical sciences is organized. This later leads to the formation of the College of Graduate Studies. Today, Thomas Jefferson University has over 200 graduate programs in fields such as architecture, business, design, engineering, fashion and textiles, health medicine, nursing, science and social science.

Exterior view of Jefferson Lansdale Hospital, which was originally North Penn Hospital.

1939 North Penn Hospital Opens

Now the Jefferson Lansdale Hospital – a 140-bed, acute care general hospital providing a comprehensive range of inpatient and outpatient healthcare services. The facility includes a 24-hour emergency department, an 18-bed Orthopedic and Spine Institute, a Pain Center, Sleep Center and Wound Care Center.

Did You Know During This Era?

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1932

After flying for 17 hours from Newfoundland, Amelia Earhart lands near Londonderry, Northern Ireland, becoming the first transatlantic solo flight by a woman.

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1953

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey, London, England. This was the first coronation to be fully televised.

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1957

Soviet Union launches Sputnik I, the first artificial Earth satellite, into elliptical low Earth orbit.

7/11 1960s - 1970s

In an era associated with social progress, women earn a place in the academic halls of Jefferson. Meanwhile, Jefferson’s campus expands with new buildings, and great progress is made in the renal field.

Dr. Nancy Szwec Czarnecki was both the first woman to matriculate to and the first woman to graduate from Jefferson Medical College.

Women at Jefferson

In 1960, the Board of Trustees votes to admit women to Jefferson Medical College. The first woman accepted is 21-year-old Nancy Szwec Czarnecki, who also wins a scholarship. In 1961, women are admitted and nine matriculate.

1965

John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital is established. Opening as a single, 99-bed facility, it would become the multi-hospital Kennedy Health System, now part of Jefferson Health.

 Old lightbulb (Credit: Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash)

Did You Know? 1966

Jefferson introduces a training program in clinical pharmacology and clinical research. The program includes hands-on experience in clinical research and human clinical trials.

1960s & 1970s Growing Jefferson

A time of great growth, Jefferson opens Jefferson Alumni Hall in 1968, the Scott Administration Building and Library in 1970, the first helicopter airlift program in the Delaware Valley in 1971 and the Gibbon Building in 1978.

Along with a new college comes a new name. In 1967, the College of Allied Health Sciences, now the Jefferson College of Health Professions, is established. In 1969, Jefferson is granted university status and becomes Thomas Jefferson University.

Coach Herb Magee stands with the basketball team.

National Champions

In Coach Herb Magee’s third season as the Rams’ head basketball coach in 1970, Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science wins the school’s first NCAA College Division National Championship. In all, the team has reached the NCAA Tournament 37 times.

Did You Know During This Era?

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1964

The Beatles appear on "The Ed Sullivan Show" for the first time.

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1967

Thurgood Marshall is nominated as the first African American Supreme Court justice.

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1969

Apollo 11 lunar module carrying Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin lands on the surface of the Moon.

8/11 1980s - 1990s

From the Sony Walkman to CD players, to the first PCs and the internet, this era sees giant leaps from an analog world to a digital one. Jefferson also takes giant leaps with a wealth of discoveries and expansion.

Michael Donahue, Jefferson’s first liver transplant recipient, and Jefferson faculty at the 25th commemoration of Jefferson’s first liver transplant

First Liver Transplant

In 1984, the first successful liver transplant in the Delaware Valley is performed at Jefferson. Between 1984 and 2016, 1,000 liver transplants are performed.

 Old lightbulb (Credit: Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash)

Did You Know? 1991

After Philadelphia Textile had added a School of Architecture, the school receives university status and changes its name to Philadelphia University.

1991 & 1996 Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center

In 1991, the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center is established thanks to a groundbreaking gift from the Sidney Kimmel Foundation. By 1996, the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center receives National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation.

Did You Know During This Era?

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1984

Apple Computer Inc. unveils its revolutionary Macintosh personal computer.

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1990

East and West Germany reunify. West German flag is raised above the Brandenburg Gate on the stroke of midnight.

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1997

Scientists in Scotland announce they have cloned an adult mammal, producing a lamb named "Dolly."

9/11 2000 - 2023

A period of dazzling technological growth, where the world in some ways becomes more connected than ever. Jefferson grows quickly through several strategic mergers, offering many new areas of study and reimagining education. During a years-long global pandemic, Jefferson leads the way while remaining resilient and at the forefront of innovative care.

 Old lightbulb (Credit: Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash)

Did You Know? 31,000 Degrees

have been awarded by Jefferson Medical College, now Sidney Kimmel Medical College, which has more living graduates than any other medical college in the U.S.

The “Winningest Coach”

Coach Magee, who became the “winningest coach” in NCAA men’s basketball history in 2010, is inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011. His induction class includes former St. John’s men’s basketball head coach and former NBA player Chris Mullin, Stanford women’s basketball head coach Tara VanDerveer, former Kansas State head coach Tex Winter and former NBA players Dennis Rodman and Arvydas Sabonis.

My heart has always been in Philadelphia and Jefferson is the soul of this city.

Sidney Kimmel, Philadelphia native & philanthropist 2014 - Jefferson Medical College is renamed Sidney Kimmel Medical College after a $110 million gift is made by the Sidney Kimmel Foundation. It is the largest gift in Jefferson's history.

Did You Know During This Era?

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2003

The Human Genome Project is completed with 99% of the human genome sequenced to an accuracy of 99.99%.

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2005

YouTube is launched in the United States.

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2008

Barack Obama becomes the first African-American to be elected President of the United States.

2024 200 Years + Honickman Center

In addition to celebrating Jefferson’s Bicentennial, the state-of-the-art, patient-focused Honickman Center will open. Designed for and by patients, it is an innovative, multi-specialty outpatient care center that makes the most of each patient’s healthcare experience. It will offer greater accessibility for patients who need additional support, on-site valet parking and care services like a retail pharmacy, lab services, radiology and more to support over a dozen medical specialties—all in one convenient location.

10/11 Creating Tomorrow

Jefferson’s rich history, visionary alumni and growing reach in the community have not only transformed the city of Philadelphia, but also impacted the entire world. Today, Jefferson has garnered national and international recognition, and we stand as a window into what education, health care and research will look like in the future. Our underpinning of a Nexus Learning curriculum means just the right blend of theory and hands-on learning to improve the future for all of our students—tomorrow’s national and international leaders in architecture, business, design, engineering, fashion and textiles, health, medicine, nursing, science and social science.

This approach provides students with a proven competitive advantage in a rapidly changing world—as demonstrated by an important fact: 96% of our undergraduates are employed, enrolled in a graduate program or are completing military service. They join more than 76,000 alumni committed to changing the world.