The American Medical Association came into being 126 years ago this month, through the efforts of many individuals. However, particular credit belongs to Nathan Smith Davis, who, perhaps more than any other individual, provided the vision, the energy, and the persuasion necessary to found the organization. Later, Davis became the first editor of The Journal. While he has been the subject of many historical studies, any new biographical data will enrich the picture of one of the most important figures in American medical history.
The Journal is now able to publish an autobiographical letter, hitherto unknown, that Dr. Davis wrote in response to a query. Whitfield J. Bell, Jr., PhD, librarian of the American Philosophical Society, discovered the letter in the manuscript collection of the Library of Congress while conducting research on Dr. J. M. Toner.1 It seems fitting indeed that this letter should now be published in The
Nathan Smith Davis. JAMA. 1973;224(7):1031. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03220210047012