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The Aesculapian Club

History

Mission: “To take an active interest in the welfare of the Harvard Medical School and to foster a spirit of good fellowship among its members.”

The Aesculapian Club of Boston was founded in the year 1902, by Townsend W. Thorndike, Henry I. Bowditch, Francis W. Palfrey, William C. Quinby, and Samuel Robinson when they were in their fourth year at the Harvard Medical School. The object of the Club as formulated in the original Constitution was that of any medical club with the added object of promoting an interest in the affairs of the Harvard Medical School. In the early period of the Aesculapian Club there existed a strong sentiment in favor of its serving a purely social purpose, and quickly the members decided that life was too short to be wasted entirely on the art of medicine and the club added a number of purely social pursuits to its endeavors, most notably the Second Year Show, which began in 1907. Since that time the Aesculapian Club has devoted itself whole-heartedly to improving life at HMS for students while continuing to promote student and faculty interaction. Election into the Aesculapian Club remains among the highest honors attainable at Harvard Medical School.

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Name

Aesculapius, The Greek and later Roman Good of Medicine was called by Homer the “blameless physician.” He was the son of Apollo and Cronis. Cronis however angered Apollo by falling in love with another man and was burned at the stake. Before her execution, Apollo removed his unborn son from his mother’s womb and named him Aesculapius. Apollo gave him the ability to treat people and he became a great physician. However, Aesculapius, despite being human, believed he was a God and attempted to raise people from the dead. Zeus was angered by … and killed Aesculapius with a thunder bolt, reminding us that no physician is a God.

There is speculation that Aesculapius was a real Greek physician who restored function to a deformed hand by stroking it. Aesculapius is chosen as the patron saint of healing because one of his talents was treatment through touch.

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Motto

“We dress the wound; God heals it.” Ascribed to the club by one of the founders of the organization, Townsend W. Thorndike, the motto comes from the works of Ambroise Paré. In Paré’s descriptions of his operations, which were legion, almost invariably he ended his account with, “I dressed him (patient) and God healed him.” There may be seen today over the entrance of the ancient Hotel Dieu in Paris, found about the year 660, this very saying of Paré.

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Medal

The medal was introduced into the ceremonies of the Club in 1918 as a means of identifying new members. It consists of a reproduction in facsimile of the reverse of a Roman coin in the time of Emperor Caracalla. It bears a standing figure of Aesculapius, with some of his attributes, notably Telesphorus and the Staff entwined by a serpent on which is engraved “Aesculapian Club.” Outside of this, and at the top of the medal, is inscribed the motto of the Club.

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Traditions

The Aesculapian Club historically hosts two major events each year, a Club gathering during the Midwinter and a Club dinner in the Spring when new members are initiated. The Club also attends the Second Year Show annually.

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Colors

The Aesculapian Club colors are red and yellow, the former to represent red corpuscles and health, the later serum and energy. In ancient times, red universally represented health and blood. Yellow is the color of the rays of the sun from whence all energy comes. Finally, the Yellow Flag, in port, is familiar as the emblem of the port quarantine officer.

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Song

Tune: We’ll All Go A Hunting Today
Now you dignified graybeards come gather around
And recall the lost days of your youth,
When long art and short life was the text that was preached
And we thought they were preaching the truth.
Aesculapians gather around-
Let the roster be long and renowned-
Here’s a toast to the throng that has followed along
And the lost days of youth that are found.
When as students we met in those classical halls,
That presented a goal to be won,
We were taken to heart by the best in the art
And the friendships of life were begun.
Aesculapians, rally around-
May the draught be both choice and profound-
Trials and troubles forget when old friends are well met,
For together we’re standing our ground.
Here’s to Mixter and Shattuck and all of the host
Who have guided our steps to the truth-
Who have shown by example and precept the way,
And remained the best friends of our youth.
Aesculapians gather around-
Let the roster be long and renowned-
Here’s a toast to the throng that has followed along
And the lost days of youth that are found.

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