Thomas Jefferson University

Historical Profiles

Thomas Dent Mutter, MD:

The Humble Narrative of a Surgeon, Teacher & Curious Collector


Third Chair (1841-1856)
Department of Surgery
Jefferson Medical College

Jordan P. Bloom, BS
Charles J. Yeo, MD
Pinckney J. Maxwell IV, MD

The American Surgeon
Volume 77, Number 5, May 2011 , pp. 662-664(3)

Early Life & Education

  • Born March 9, 1811 in Richmond, Virginia
  • Orphaned by age 8 & raised by a distant maternal relative
  • Attended Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia
  • Earned his MD from Penn in 1831
  • Studied under master surgeons of Europe for one year
  • Returned to Philadelphia to assist Dr. Thomas Harris


  • Joined Jefferson as part of the Famous Faculty of ‘41 along with:
    • Robley Dunglison
    • Joseph Pancoast
    • Charles D. Meigs
    • John K. Mitchell
    • Robert Huston
    • Franklin Bache
  • 1841-1856: Professor of Surgery
  • Forte in reconstructive surgery
  • Strong advocate of aseptic technique
  • First surgeon to use ethyl ether anesthesia in Philadelphia

Figure 2 - Mütter, Thomas Dent. Cases of deformity from burns, successfully treated by plastic operations. Philadelphia: Merrihew & Thompson, 1843.

Later Life

  • Married Miss Mary Alsop of Middletown, Connecticut (no children)
  • Resigned as chair of the Principles & Practice of Surgery in 1856 due to ill health
  • Succeeded by Samuel D. Gross
  • Elected Emeritus Professor
  • Returned to Europe for climate in 1857, but health continued to decline
  • Moved to Charlestown, SC where he died March 19, 1859 at the age of 48
  • Buried in Middletown, Connecticut


  • Immensely popular among students
  • Jefferson would have the Mütter Collection if we had a fireproof building
  • Dr. Mütter wills his collection along with a $30,000 bequest to the College of Physicians
  • Original museum completed in 1863 at 13th & Locust, later moved to 19 S. 22nd Street
  • Over 1700 items in his personal collection
  • Dr. John H. Gibbon researched and wrote on Dr. Mütter in 1925 while at Jefferson & the Mütter Museum later obtained a model of the Gibbon heart-lung machine

Images courtesy of Archives & Special Collections, TJU.