Publisher Information: Edinburgh & London: C. Elliot & G. Robinson, 1785.
Stevens, Edward (1754-1834). (1) Dissertatio physiologica inauguralis, de alimentorum concoctione . . . In: Thesaurus medicus edinburgensis novus: Sive, dissertationum in academia edinensi, ad rem medicam pertinentium, ab anno 1759 ad annum 1785 . . . Tomus I (Edinburgh & London: C. Elliot & G. Robinson, 1785): 471-495. Whole volume. -538pp. 211 x 131 mm. Modern cloth. Title-leaf and last leaf repaired, outer leaves dampstained and with some tears, toned throughout, embossed library stamp on the title-leaf. Good to very good. From the library of early American physician and botanist Benjamin Smith Barton (1766-1815), with his signature on the title. (2) Edward Stevens: Gastric physiologist, physician and American statesman. With a complete translation of his inaugural dissertation De alimentorum concoctione . . . Edited by Stacey B. Day. 179pp. Montreal: Cultural and Educational Publications, 1969. 224 x 145 mm. Original cloth, dust-jacket (slightly worn). Very good. Presentation Copy, inscribed by the editor to collector and medical historian Samuel X. Radbill (1901-87) on the front free endpaper: “With very best wishes, Stacey B. Day.” Autograph letter signed and autograph postcard signed from Day to Radbill laid in; Radbill’s bookplate on the front pastedown.
(1) Second edition, originally published in 1777. Both editions are extremely rare on the market; this is the first copy of either edition that has appeared on the market in 50 years.
Stevens’s medical thesis on the gastric juice records the first significant contribution to medicine made by an American physician. Stevens was the first to successfully perform in vivo digestion experiments on a human subject—a Hungarian living in Edinburgh who earned a meager living by swallowing stones and regurgitating them for public entertainment. Stevens had the man swallow hollow perforated spheres filled with various types of food and bring them back up later so that Stevens could analyze the contents. Stevens also performed similar experiments on dogs, sheep and oxen, killing several of his animal subjects and extracting their gastric juices in order to observe the action of these juices in vitro. His researches, published three years before those of Spallanzani and over fifty years before those of Beaumont, demonstrated that the gastric juice itself contained the active principle necessary for the assimilation of food, and that digestion was a process distinct from heating, fermentation, putrefaction or trituration (grinding).
“Stevens was born in Antigua on February 21, 1754. Stevens’s father, a Scottish merchant named Thomas Stevens who was the landlord of Rachel Fawcette, Hamilton’s mother, would later become the adoptive father of the orphaned Alexander Hamilton. Stevens was one of five children. He quickly became good friends with his adopted brother Hamilton, displaying many similar mannerisms. Both were interested in classics, spoke French fluently, opposed slavery, were interested in medicine, and were considered clever.
“Contemporaries would often remark that Edward Stevens and Hamilton looked very much alike. Secretary of State Timothy Pickering, who knew both men in adulthood, noted that the men were strikingly similar in appearance and concluded that they must be biological brothers. Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow says many aspects of Hamilton’s biography make more sense given Stevens’s paternity. It would explain why Hamilton was adopted into the Stevens family while his older brother, James, apparently was not. It may have also been a factor in Hamilton’s acknowledged father abandoning his family. However, this speculation, mostly based on Pickering’s comments on the resemblance between the two men, has always been vague and unsupported” (Wikipedia article on Edward Stevens (diplomat).
Stevens received his medical degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1777, and afterwards practiced medicine in the Caribbean and the United States. In 1799, during the Haitian Revolution, he was appointed the U.S. consul-general to Saint-Domingue, where he helped negotiate a three-way armistice between America, Britain and Toussaint Louverture’s government.
This copy was once owned by Benjamin Smith Barton, author of Elements of Botany, or the Outlines of the Natural History of Vegetables (1803)—the first American textbook on botany. Garrison-Morton.com 980. Kousoulis et al., “From the ‘hungry acid’ to pepsinogen: A journey through time in quest for the stomach’s secretion,” Annals of Gastroentereology 25 (2012): 119-122.
(2) First Edition, containing the First Complete English Translation of Stevens’s thesis, as well as biographical information, correspondence, etc.Book Id: 51390