“Like the man in the parable [from the Bible], I have had many talents given to me and I feel they are in trust. I shall not bury them but give them to the lads who long for a wider education.”
In the late nineteenth century, Johns Hopkins, a businessman and philanthropist, founded Johns Hopkins Hospital and University, the premier teaching hospital and biomedical research facility. Johns Hopkins Hospital has ranked as the number one hospital in the world for the past 20 years.
Johns Hopkins Hospital laid the foundation for modern hospitals and healthcare advances generally. The whole idea of a modern research hospital, where academic research happens along with the care of patients, grew formally out of Johns Hopkins. Also, many of the hospital terms and structures that seem normal today were innovated at Johns Hopkins Hospital—like doctoral residents, house staff, and the medical staff completing rounds.
Although he never completed his formal education, Hopkins was a natural entrepreneur. He worked his way up from a grocer’s assistant as a young man to a wealthy businessman. By the end of his life, Hopkins had built a significant fortune, which he designated in his will to support an orphanage for African American children and to carry out his vision for the first-ever research hospital that would work with a university to do research in science and medicine, even as it cared for the hurting and sick.
CENTERED ON CHRIST
Johns Hopkins was a devout Christian in the Quaker faith, a popular movement of Christianity during the early years of the United States. Long before slavery was made illegal, Hopkins’s parents concluded that slavery was evil. The Hopkins family and the members of their Quaker church decided to free their slaves, based on the words of Jesus and His desire to “set the captives free.” In freeing their former slave workers, teenager Johns and his brothers had to start working in the fields instead of attending school. As a result, Hopkins never finished his education.
However, this event of freeing the slaves became a deeply meaningful turning point in Hopkins’s life. His Christian faith influenced him to join the cause for freeing all slaves. After slavery was outlawed, Hopkins opposed emerging practices of racial inequality.
Hopkins viewed his wealth as a means of helping future generations. In discussing his philosophy of wealth, he once said, “[L]ike the man in the parable [from the Bible], I have had many talents given to me and I feel they are in trust. I shall not bury them but give them to the lads who long for a wider education.”
The motto of Johns Hopkins University is: “The truth will set you free,” a quote from the words of Jesus, as recorded in the Bible. Hopkins followed Jesus’s instructions to serve the poor, sick, and hurting, rather than promoting his own legacy.
Johns Hopkins Hospital
Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, 1900s
Hopkins Hall, 1855. Original Johns Hopkins University