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Warren, John Collins, 1778-1856


Biographical Note

John Collins Warren was born in Boston to John Warren, a surgeon who helped found Harvard Medical School. John C. Warren went to Harvard College, graduating in 1797 before studying medicine. His father taught him, and he also learned from lectures across France and the U.K, including at the University of Edinburgh. He studied under Sir Astley Cooper and others in Europe, and ended up receiving honorary medical degrees in 1802 from St. Andrews and 1819 from Harvard Medical School. Warren became an adjunct at Harvard Medical School in 1806. He later succeeded his father at Harvard, taking on the role of Harvard’s Hersey Professor of Anatomy and Surgery in 1815, and then serving as the first Harvard Medical School Dean from 1816 to 1819. He became Professor Emeritus at Harvard Medical School in 1847. Warren once treated President Andrew Jackson.

Warren Co-founded Massachusetts General Hospital in 1811 and was Chief Surgeon there from 1821-1847. He was on Massachusetts General Hospital’s Board of Consultation until he died. In 1846, Warren conducted a surgery that made use of anesthesia, the first public demonstration of its kind. His surgical focuses included amputation, excision of tumors, and vascular surgeries. He co-founded the New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery and Collateral Branches of Science, and was an advocate for anatomical dissection (including of himself upon his death). He collected many anatomical specimens over time, from both humans and animals, and donated the collection to Harvard in 1847, establishing the Warren Anatomical Museum. In addition to his donation of the collection, he gave $5,000 in starting funds to the Warren Anatomical Museum. Warren also started a private Warren Museum of Natural History, also known as the Warren Museum, on Boston’s Chestnut Street. Warren married twice and had six children.

In 1846, Warren purchased an American mastodon that had been discovered in 1845 in Newburgh, New York. It became known as the Warren mastodon, which Warren mounted in 1846 for exhibition in Boston. He added it to the collection at the Warren Museum in 1849 and kept it there until 1906. In April 1906, J. Pierpont Morgan bought the mastodon, along with other fossils from Warren’s collection, and donated it to the American Museum of Natural History. The Warren mastodon is notable for being the first full skeleton of its kind to be found in the United States. Because it was preserved in a bog, its physical stance was accurate to its time of death.

Selected Bibliography

Warren, John C. Surgical Observations on Tumours, with Cases and Operations. 1837.

Warren, John C. The Mastodon Giganteus Of North America. 1852.

Warren, John C. Remarks on Some Fossil Impressions. 1854.


“History of the Warren Anatomical Museum,”

“John Collins Warren (1778-1856),”

Kelly, Howard Atwood and Walter Lincoln Burrage. American Medical Biographies. United States: Norman, Remington Company, 1912, p. 478.

Ludwig M. Deppisch. The White House Physician: A History from Washington to George W. Bush. Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland and Company, Inc., Publishers, 2007, p. 12.

“Warren Mastodon,”

“The Warren Mastodon,” The American Museum Journal ,7:6, 1907, p. 91.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Daguerrotype of J.C. Warren's bust

Identifier: PPC .W377
Scope and Contents

Daguerreotype of J.C. Warren

Dates: undated

John C. Warren papers

Identifier: VPA 116
Scope and Contents The collection consists of materials relating to the mastodon specimen bought by the museum from Dr. Warren's family in 1906. It consists of papers and illustrations. copies of correspondence between Warren and other researchers copies of pages from the Visitors' Book from the Warren Museum in Boston copy of a letter from Dr. Matthew sent to Frederic Augustus Lucas...
Dates: 1831-1963; 1968-1970; Majority of material found in 1831-1906

Additional filters:

Fossils -- Catalogs and collections 1
Mammals, Fossil -- New York (State) -- Newburg -- Pictorial works 1
Mastodons -- New York (State) -- Newburg -- Pictorial works 1
Photographic Print Collection 1
Vertebrates, Fossil 1