Adam Kuhn


Today is the anniversary of the death of the American doctor, professor, and naturalist Adam Kuhn.
Adam was exceptionally well-trained for his time. His father had been a physician - his parents were German immigrants - and Adam grew up in Germantown, Pennsylvania. At some point, his family sent him to Sweden, where he studied at Upsala University. He's believed to be the only American student of Carl Linnaeus. Linnaeus wrote to Adam's father with rare praise, saying:

"[Adam] is unwearied in his studies and daily and faithfully studies materia medica with me. He has learned the symptomatic history of diseases in an accurate and solid manner. In natural history and botany, he's made remarkable progress."

Linnaeus clearly liked Adam, and he named the plant Kuhnia (Kuhnia Eupatorioides), commonly known as False Boneset, in Adam's honor.
Adam began teaching at the medical school of the College of Philadelphia, where he became the first professor of medicine for the 13 colonies. He's remembered for being the physician for George Washington.
He's also recalled as a somewhat rigidly formal man - some historical texts have used the word "pompous" to describe him. One doctor recalled Adam this way:

"He was by far the most highly and minutely furnished specimen of old-school [medicine] I have ever beheld. 
He wore a fashionable curled and powdered wig; his breeches were black, [he wore] a long-skirted buff or white waistcoat... 
He carried a gold-headed cane and a gold snuff-box; his knee and shoe buckles of the same metal.
His footsteps were sternly and stubbornly regular; 
He entered the sick-room at a given minute and stayed a given time and never suffered deviation from his directions. 
[Once a nurse asked] "'Doctor, if the patient should desire toast, water or lemonade he may have it?' 
[Adam] would turn and reply with oracular solemnity, 
'I have directed weak sage tea. Good morning madam.'"

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Adam Kuhn
Adam Kuhn

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