Early Works on Legal Medicine

Medical jurisprudence; or, A code of ethics and institutes, adapted to the professions of physic and surgery.





Thomas Percival (1740-1804)
Medical Jurisprudence; or, a Code of Ethics and Institutes, 
adapted to the Professions of Physic and Surgery
[Manchester, 1794]

Purchased for the Boston Medical Library through the Edwin Howard Brigham Book Fund, 1929

Thomas Percival’s Medical Ethics, published in 1803, is considered the first fundamental treatise on the conduct of physicians in hospital and private practice.  Medical Ethics was an expanded version of this earlier pamphlet, Medical Jurisprudence.  Over half of the original text is devoted to the knowledge physicians and surgeons should have of the law, including sections on wills, homicide, infanticide, dueling, rape, and poisonings.

This copy of the text bears a presentation inscription from Percival to renowned Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush (1746-1813).

Sixteen introductory lectures to courses of lectures upon the institutes and practice of medicine, with a syllabus of the latter (Philadelphia : Bradford and Innskeep, 1811)<br />



Benjamin Rush (1746-1813)
Sixteen Introductory Lectures to Courses of Lectures upon the Institutes and Practice of Medicine, with a Syllabus of the Latter
(Philadelphia : Bradford and Innskeep, 1811)

Gift of Dr. Paul Dudley White to the Library of Harvard Medical School, 1963

This printed version of Rush’s medical lectures at the University of Pennsylvania includes an 1810 lecture on the study of medical jurisprudence—thought to be the first American treatise published on the subject.  Rush opens his lecture stating,

They entertain very limited views of medicine, who suppose its objects and duties are confined exclusively to the knowledge and cure of diseases.  Our science was intended to render other services to society.  It was designed to extend its benefits to the protection of property and life, and to detect fraud and guilt in many of their forms.  This honour has been conferred upon it by the bench and the bar, in all civilized countries both in ancient and modern times.  That part of our science, which qualifies us to discharge these important civil duties, has been called medical jurisprudence…. The lectures you are about to attend upon … contain the rudiments of all that is necessary for you to know in order to render you competent witnesses in a court of justice.

Early Works on Legal Medicine