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Born on the Island of St. Thomas in the West Indies, Jacob Mendez Da Costa (1833-1900) took his pre-medical education in Dresden, Germany (1849-1952). An 1852 graduate of Jefferson Medical College, Da Costa spent 18 months in Europe for postgraduate training. His career included appointments as physician for the Moyamensing Dispensary (1853-1861), Acting Assistant Surgeon, U.S. Army and physician at Turner's Lane Hospital (Philadelphia) (1861-1865), and visiting physician at Pennsylvania Hospital (1865-1900). Da Costa began his tenure at Jefferson as Lecturer on Clinical Medicine (1866-1872), became the Seventh Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Jefferson Medical College (1872-1891), and finally Professor Emeritus (1891-1900).

Through his research and writing, Da Costa influenced the emergence of internal medicine as a specialty. One of his most enduring contributions was his Civil War research on the irritable heart (neurocirculatory asthenia) in solders. His monograph Medical Diagnosis (1864) was the first work of its kind; it went through nine editions during Da Costa's lifetime. In 1860, Da Costa married Sarah Frederica Brinton (d.1889), the sister of John Hill Brinton, Da Costa’s classmate and faculty colleague at Jefferson Medical College. Da Costa died on 11 September 1900 in Villanova, Pennsylvania.

[from the Finding Aid for J.M. Da Costa papers]


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