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Moments in Surgical History
August 2001

Philip Syng Physick (1768-1837)

Arch Surg. 2001;136(8):968. doi:10.1001/archsurg.136.8.968

PHILIP SYNG PHYSICK was a complicated and controversial personality. Born in Philadelphia, he received his undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania (1785). He also apprenticed in the office of Adam Kuhn (1741-1817), a respected local practitioner, for 3 years. In 1789, Physick traveled to London where he became a pupil of John Hunter (1728-1793) and a house surgeon at St George's Hospital. Three years later, after attending a year-long course of instruction at the university in Edinburgh, Scotland, Physick received his medical degree (1792). Returning to his native city, Physick was soon appointed surgeon to the Pennsylvania Hospital (1794), and a decade later he was named to the newly established chair of surgery at his undergraduate alma mater. In 1819, Physick transferred to the professorship of anatomy, where he remained for 12 years until his retirement.