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The history of medical education at William & Mary begins with the founding of the Chair of Anatomy and Medicine on 4 December 1779 as a part of Thomas Jefferson's reforms of the College. While that chair was left vacant in 1783 there have been numerous attempts to restore medical education to William & Mary.

Chair of Anatomy and Medicine

The Chair of Anatomy and Medicine was created at the December 4, 1779 meeting of the Board of Visitors of the College of William & Mary as a part of Thomas Jefferson's reforms of the College. The purpose of Jefferson's reforms, as he recalled late in life, was to "amend the constitution of Wm & Mary College, to enlarge it's sphere of science, and to make it in fact a University." In order to acheive this goal, Jefferson and the Board of Visitors abolished the two chairs of divinity and the Grammar School, and in place established chairs in law and police, modern languages, and anatomy and medicine. Dr. James McClurg served as the chair from 1779 until 1783, when he left the College to go into private practice. The vacancy of the chair was never filled.

19th Century

In 1824, John Augustine Smith proposed moving the College of William & Mary from Williamsburg to Richmond and, in doing so, to create a school of medicine and a school of theology. His testimony before the General Assembly reads "A medical school would be organized and attached to the College, and the theological school might be reunited to us-this would give utility, dignity and importance to the institution-and by increasing the reputation of the College, thus augment indirectly our fortunes." However, this plan never came to be.

During the 1836-1837 session, the Board of Visitors wanted the Virginia General Assembly to provide funding for a medical school in Richmond, Virginia. The General Assembly, however, could not agree on either an affiliation with a school or the medical school's location, so they postponed the legislation indefinitely.

Beginning with the 1840-1841 session, the College offered medical instruction for those students who wished to pursue graduate work in medicine. The catalog for that year described the instruction, taught by John Millington, thus: "As nearly all the Medical Colleges of the union require that a student shall have studied medicine with some practitioner for two years before he offers himself for their instruction and for graduation, Professor Millington undertakes a class in this department of science, for which he possesses ample means of illustration." These preparatory classes ended when Millington left Williamsburg in 1848.

20th Century

In the early 1960s there was federal money available for the founding of new medical schools, following a report from the Surgeon General's office. In 1964, the General Assembly created the Norfolk Area Medical Center Authority, which was authorized to establish a medical school. Several alums, including Thomas Moore, lobbied the Authority to have the medical school founded under the authority of the College of William & Mary; however, Eastern Virginia Medical School was founded in 1973 as an independent institution in Norfolk.

21st Century

On 25 July 2012, Taylor Reveley announced a joint statement between William & Mary and the Eastern Virginia Medical School which said that both schools would "exclusively explore the feasibility of having EVMS become the William & Mary School of Medicine."

Material in the SCRC


  • Godson, Susan H, et. al., The College of William & Mary: A History, King and Queen Press, 1993. pg. 132, 133, 169, 173, 264.
  • Moore, Thomas, and James A. Shields, Medical education at America's first university, Association of American Medical Colleges, 1969.
  • Catalogue of the Officers and Students of William & Mary College, 1840-1841
  • Shields, James A. "Jefferson's School of Medicine at the College of William & Mary in Virginia," Virginia Medical Monthly, Vol. 95, pp. 88-93, February 1968.


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A note about the contents of this site

This website contains the best available information from known sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information in this website is not complete, and it changes as we continue to research and uncover new sources.