Waring Library Society Medical History Moment
By Robert T. Ball, Jr.
James Moultrie was born in Charleston in 1793, into a family that, by that point, had already produced three generations of physicians. As a youth he lived for a number of years near London where he received his primary education. The Moultrie family returned to Charleston in 1809, at which time young James began his pre-medical study under Drs. Alexander Baron and Robert Wilson. He soon went to Philadelphia and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1812. He returned to Charleston to practice medicine and became a member of the Medical Society of South Carolina in 1812, beginning a long association with this august group.
During the War of 1812 he served as a surgeon’s mate in charge of the hospital at Hampstead, S.C. In 1813 he took over his father’s medical responsibilities as port physician and physician for the jail and to the Magazine Guards.
His interest in the profession of medicine led him to join the Medical Society of South Carolina in which he was active for the rest of his life. He served on a society committee about regulations and licensure, was president of the society in 1820 and 1821 and was the society’s delegate to the first national pharmacopeia conference in New York in 1820. In 1847 he was a delegate from the Medical Society to the founding meeting of the American Medical Association, at which he was elected vice president. In 1850 he was elected president of the AMA. He was instrumental in establishing the South Carolina Medical Association, of which he served as president from 1848 to 1852.
Dr. Moultrie had a lifelong interest in medical education. He was an early advocate for the establishment of a medical school in S.C. and corresponded about it with Dr. Thomas Cooper of the South Carolina College, now the University of South Carolina. When the state legislature authorized the school without funding, Dr. Moultrie declined to take a position on the faculty out of a matter of principle. Ultimately he joined the faculty of the Medical College, serving as chair of the physiology department and as dean for three separate stints (1835-36, 1840-41 and 1847-50). Throughout his life he remained vitally engaged in medical education at all levels. He was ahead of his time in advocating for higher preparatory standards, a greater attention to scientific foundations in education and three or four year course of study. At this time most medical education was two years of four to five month long courses, with the second year being an exact duplication of the first year.
Dr. Moultrie’s family intermarried with Austin and Ball families as early as 1762. His grandfather Dr. John Moultrie, Jr. married Eleanor Austin, daughter of Captain George Austin and Ann Ball; thus the Moultrie-Ball lineage began. Charleston’s famous Revolutionary hero Colonel William Moultrie was a distant cousin, being the second son of this Dr. Moultrie’s great-grandfather. Dr. James Moultrie, Jr. was married to Sarah Louise Shrewsbury in 1818, though the couple had no children together. He died in Charleston in 1869 and is buried in Magnolia Cemetery.
The Waring Library Society is a “friends of the library” organization that supports the mission of the Waring Historical Library. Named for Joseph I. Waring, Jr., its first director, the Waring Historical Library preserves rare books, manuscripts and museum artifacts documenting the history of the health sciences in South Carolina and the Southeast. To learn more about the Waring’s programs and events or to become a member of the society, please visit waring.library.musc.edu.