The Past Is a Prologue


Jefferson was born (twice, or maybe three times) from a desire to rethink the status quo.

In 1824, its founders imagined a better, more human way to train doctors. So, they rewrote the book for healthcare education, for the first time anywhere putting students in the room with patients. Later on, in 1884, our Philadelphia University forebearers saw a gap in the quality of America’s textiles. So, they established the nation’s first school of textiles and apparel sciences, galvanizing the industry in the United States.

In 2017, the two institutions came together, a fusion of health and design formed to prepare students—and alumni—for the future of work. Whether it's designing smart fabrics or decoding cancer, reconstructing spines or reimagining the runway, the raison d'etre of the new Jefferson is improving lives.

The Jefferson tradition has been transformation, and if the past is prologue, the possibilities are endless.

  • 1824: The trustees approve the request, and the Jefferson Medical College is established on January 1 in a rented theatre on Prune Street (now Locust Street). Classes officially start in March; two months later, the first free medical clinic in the country is establishedCost of admission for seven courses at the medical college was $105, with an extra $5 matriculation fee and $30 diploma fee. The price of boarding was $3 a week.
  • 1849: Cost of admission for seven courses at the medical college was $105, with an extra $5 matriculation fee and $30 diploma fee. The price of boarding was $3 a week. 
  • 1865: Dr. Jacob DaCosta, class of 1852, is the first to describe “soldier’s heart” during the Civil War. It is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • 1876: Theodore Search, a Philadelphia woolen manufacturer, compares the European textiles at the fair to America’s and decides his country’s products are inferior. He posits the reason—a lack of textile schools in the United States—and decides to establish one himself. The newly founded Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art (PMSI), which would become the Philadelphia Art Museum in 1938, offers him classroom space in its Spring Garden Street building.
  • 1877: Thomas Jefferson University Hospital is established; Jefferson Medical College becomes the second medical school in the country with a separate teaching hospital.
  • 1884: Search establishes the Philadelphia Textile School, and as its first and only professor, begins teaching business courses there three nights a week. The beginnings are humble—only five students in a cramped gas-lit room.
  • 1886: Emily Uhlinger becomes the first woman to graduate from Philadelphia Textile School.
  • 1946: The Philadelphia Textile Institute begins looking for a new place to call home; it finds a 12.5 acre estate in an area called “East Falls,” and separates from PMSI (now the Philadelphia Art Museum).
  • 1950: Sonia Schorr makes history when she stands among 152 men to become the first female graduate of Jefferson Medical College, receiving a master’s degree in bacteriology.
  • 1953: In a harbinger of things to come, Jefferson Medical College orthopaedic surgeon Dr. James Hunter turns to the Philadelphia Textile Institute for help in developing artificial tendons.
  • 1960: The Philadelphia Textile Institute changes its name to the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science.
  • 1961: Jefferson Medical College opens its doors to female students seeking an MD for the first time; eight women will graduate in the class of 1965.
  • 1969: Jefferson Medical College receives university status, becoming Thomas Jefferson University, establishing the College of Graduate Studies and the College of Allied Health Sciences to join the existing Jefferson Medical College.
  • 1970: Computers are introduced into the classroom.
  • 1999: Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science is granted university status by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and changes its name to Philadelphia University on July 13.
  • 1992: Jefferson Medical College establishes JeffHOPE (Health Opportunities, Prevention, and Education), one of the largest student-run clinics in the country. With a staff of 60 medical student volunteers, it operates five weekly clinics at more than six locations throughout Philadelphia.
  • 2012: Kanbar College of Design Engineering and Commerce is founded and named for Philadelphia University alumnus and donor Maurice Kanbar.
  • 2014: The Sidney Kimmel Foundation bestows a $110 million gift to Jefferson Medical College; the school changes its name to Sidney Kimmel Medical College (SKMC).
  • 2017: On July 1, the new Thomas Jefferson University is established as the result of the merger of the two universities.
  • 2020: Jefferson is comprised of 10 colleges and four schools, with 160 undergraduate and graduate programs in healthcare, business, and industry. U.S. News & World Report ranks the university among the top national doctoral universities in the country and places the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at No. 55 in the nation for physician education, and Fashonista ranked Jefferson’s fashion program as No. 3 in the U.S. and No. 7 worldwide.