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Correspondence of William J. Taylor regarding the visit of Marie Curie to The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Identifier: CPP 2/004-01

Scope and Contents

This collection, spanning 1920 to 1923, consists of letters sent to William J. Taylor and carbon copies of his replies. The correspondence documents Marie Curie's visit to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia on 23 May 1921. Much of the correspondence in the collection is between Taylor and Robert Abbe (1851-1928). Abbe, who lived in New York City, was an Associate Fellow of the College of Physicians and was largely responsible for arranging Marie Curie's visit. The letters between Abbe and Taylor fully document the event, from the initial planning stages to the actual visit. Included in the correspondence are descriptions of Curie's itinerary, which Taylor thought far too demanding, and reports about the success of her visit. Abbe's letters also discuss the display case he purchased for the College. The "Abbe Cabinet" was designed to hold 'the items that Abbe had donated, including Benjamin Rush's watch, and items belonging to Lister and Pasteur, The letters also document Abbe's attempt to obtain an electrometer used by Pierre and Marie Curie during their early experimentation with radium; Abbe provides a sketch of the instrument in his letter of 25 April 1921, The electrometer was presented by Marie Curie during her visit to the College and was placed in the Abbe Cabinet in the Ashhurst Room. (Today, the Abbe Cabinet stands in the Hutchinson Alcove.) The honor bestowed on the College by this donation is expressed by Abbe in his letter to Taylor of 22 March 1921: My belief is that in getting this instrument, you will have the only thing of its kind representing that initial radium discovery in our country, and, I doubt whether any other property, so real or so valued will be possible to obtain.

Also present in Series 1 is correspondence between Taylor and officers of the Franklin Institute, including secretary R. B, Owens and President Walton Clark, concerning the invitation list for the special College meeting held in honor of Marie Curie. Series 1 also includes correspondence pertaining to the Marie Curie Radium Fund, a group organized to raise funds for the purchase of radium for Marie Curie, who was in need of radium to continue her research. Robert Abbe and William J. Taylor were both on the Committee of Scientists for this group. Included are letters announcing upcoming meetings, and two letters from Marie M. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Marie Curie Radium Fund, who served as Curie's guide during her visit to Philadelphia.

Included among the miscellaneous correspondence is a draft of Taylor's letter to Marie Curie, thanking her for donating the electrometer to the College; a letter from John S, Muckle, a wealthy Philadelphian, offering the use of his guest rooms for Marie Curie during her visit; and a letter from Taylor to M. Carey Thomas, President of Bryn Mawr College, asking her to speak at the special College meeting held in honor of Curie, Series 2 contains clippings pertaining to Curie's visit to Philadelphia and the activities of the Marie Curie Radium Fund.


  • 1920 - 1923


Office of the President history

The Office of the President of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia is first described in the 1787 constitution. The constitution states that the President "shall have power to call extraordinary Meetings whenever important, or unexpected Business shall require, of which he shall be the Judge", The constitution also states that the president was authorized to call a special session when requested by at least six Fellows. According to the 1834 by-laws, the president was responsible for presiding at College meetings and signing orders from the treasurer, but he could not discuss any questions while in the chair except when necessary to coae to a decision. This latter regulation was dropped from the 1863 by-laws, and new responsibilities were added in 1882, when the president was given "general supervision of the affairs of the College" and was required to present an annual address.

In 1886, due to the influence of president S, Weir Mitchell, the by-laws were again amended. Mitchell secured the right to be informed of all committee meetings and to attend them if he wished, Another of Mitchell's requests, for a five year presidential term, was never approved. The responsibilities of the president re•ained •uch the saae until 1914. In the by-laws of this year, the president's duty of "sign[ing] all warrants on the Treasurer" was omitted. 1925 marked a major change in the Office of the President; in this year, he was granted ex-officio membership in all standing committees and had the power to elect most committee members. The first regulation concerning the president's term was instituted in the 1935 by-laws, which state that no president aay serve more than three years in a row. Additional changes in the Office of the President did not occur until 1972. The by-laws of this year state that the president must publish his annual address, subait a yearly summary of ·the activities of the College, and "appoint all standing committees and designate the Chairmen", with the exception of the Noainating committee, The president's term was again restricted in the 1984 bylaws, which state that the president is liaited to one two year term. As of 1991, the president presides at meetings, appoints coaaittees and defines their duties, serves as an ex-officio meaber of all coaaittees, and has "all other duties and powers usually pertaining to the office".

William J. Taylor biography

William Johnson Taylor was born in Worcester County, Maryland, on 13 October 1861. He attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania and received his degree in 1882. After his residency at Pennsylvania Hospital, he established a private practice in Philadelphia. Taylor's interest in surgery brought him to the attention of William W. Keen, who hired Taylor as his assistant at the Philadelphia Orthopaedic Hospital and Infirmary for Nervous Diseases. Later, Taylor became Attending Surgeon at the hospital.

Taylor became a Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1889 and was always an active member. He served as a Censor, a member of Council, and Chairman of the Library Committee. Taylor was a key member of the College's Building Committee (1904-1914), the body largely responsible for the erection of the College building on 22nd Street. Taylor was also a Fellow of the Philadelphia Academy of Surgery and served as its president from 1908 to 1909.

During World War I, Taylor went overseas with a Pennsylvania Hospital Unit stationed in France. Upon his return from the war, Taylor was elected President of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia; he served in this capacity for three years, from 1919 to 1922, It was during Taylor's presidency that Marie Curie visited the College and donated her electrometer to its collections.

In addition to his skill as a physician, William J, Taylor had a sincere interest in books and libraries. He served on the Board of the Library Company of Philadelphia for over twenty years; he was Director of the Library Company in 1909 and its president from 1933 to 1935, until illness forced him to retire. William J, Taylor died less than a year later, on 22 January 1936.


.2 Linear feet

Language of Materials


Custodial History

This collection of correspondence was donated to the Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia as part of a larger gift of William J, Taylor's papers by Francis R, Packard, 304 South 19th Street, Philadelphia, Pa., on 7 April 1936.

The collection was processed and cataloged in 1991.
Correspondence of William J. Taylor regarding the visit of Marie Curie to The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Repository

19 S. 22nd Street
Philadelphia PA 19103 United States