An 1879 Natural Science graduate of Lincoln University in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Nathan Francis Mossell was the first African-American graduate of the University of Pennsylvania College of Medicine in 1882. Mossell was the salutatorian of the class of 1879 and was awarded the Bradley Medal in Natural Science at Lincoln University. Furthermore, he was also awarded second honors in his medical school class.
One of six children, Nathan Francis Mossell was born to Aaron and Eliza Bowers in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on July 27, 1856 but grew up in Lockport, New York. Mossell and his siblings were the only African American children in the Lockport public schools at the time. According to Mossell's autobiography, his mother's recollection of the discrimination and hardship faced by African American families strengthened her own children's determination for success. In 1871 he enrolled in nearby Lincoln University's high school preparatory program, completing the four year curriculum in three years. Four years later, in 1879, he graduated from Lincoln University with a Bachelor of Arts degree. While at Lincoln, Mossell met his future wife, Gertrude Bustill, with whom he would eventually have four children.
Upon graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Mossell was trained first by Dr. D. Hayes Agnew in the Out-Patient Surgical Clinic of the University Hospital. Due to the prejudice in securing internships in most hospitals against African Americans who had completed medical school, Mossell traveled to England to complete an internship at the Guy's, Queens College and St. Thomas hospitals in London. After opening his office at 924 Lombard Street, young Dr. Mossell quickly began to have an impact on Philadelphia medical practice and on the position of African-Americans in the city and beyond. In August of 1895 he became the leading figure in the founding of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital and Training School - the second Black hospital in the United States, and one that would not only treat African-American patients, but also offer internships to Black doctors and nursing training to Black women. Mossell worked for over thirty-five years as the hospital's chief-of-staff and medical director, retiring in 1933. He continued his private medical practice, however, until shortly before his death in October of 1946, at the age of ninety.
Some of Dr. Nathan Francis Mossell accomplishments include:
Founder of Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital
First African-American member of the Philadelphia County Medical Society
Member of the Niagara Movement
Founder of the Philadelphia branch of the NAACP
Co-founder of the Philadelphia Academy of Medicine and Allied Sciences
Civil rights activist
Nationally prominent physician and surgeon
Mossell's influence was felt in other ways as well. He was a co-founder of the Philadelphia Academy of Medicine and Allied Sciences (an association for African-Americans in medicine) in 1900, a founder and director of the Philadelphia branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1910, and a member of the Niagara Movement organized by W.E.B. DuBois in 1905. During the 1880s and 1890s Mossell was one of the first to pressure for the hiring of Black professors at his alma mater Lincoln University; from 1891 into the 1940s, he pushed for the integration of Girard College. He also worked with state representative Arthur Faucett to pass a bill banning exclusion of Blacks from university housing at Penn.
Rayford Whittingham Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., "Nathan Francis Mossell," in The Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982);
Penn University Archives & Records Center, http://www.archives.upenn.edu/people/1800s/mossell_nathan_f.html.