David Porter Smythe, surgeon, professor, and botanist, was born in Sumpterville, Alabama, on March 26, 1824. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in 1848 and came to Texas about 1850. He lived at Centerville and married Mary Young on October 6, 1852. The same year Smythe made a trip from Centerville to Palo Pinto and identified much of the flora along the way. He also logged such prominent landmarks as Ham’s Hole in Johnson County and Gifford’s Peak in Hood County. His journal of the trip was published in the Leon Pioneer in 1852. Smythe served as a surgeon for the Seventeenth Texas Volunteers during the Civil War.qv Between 1876 and 1878 he was a professor at Galveston Medical College (later Texas Medical College) and Hospital. He moved to Bryan in 1870 and returned to the University of Pennsylvania in 1873 and 1874 to continue his medical education. Smythe became the college physician at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University) in 1876. His salary was provided for by a five-dollar assessment upon each student at the college. The school year 1882-83 brought much sickness to the students and faculty of A&M. Smythe believed that this was caused by the lack of bathing facilities at the school. During his tenure at A&M he helped establish both the botany and veterinary medicine programs. He served as professor of anatomy during the 1879-80 academic year. He resigned from the college in 1883 and died in Bryan on October 19, 1889.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Donald Day and Samuel Wood Geiser, “D. Porter Smythe’s Journey across Early Texas,” Texas Geographic Magazine, Fall 1942. Henry C. Dethloff, A Centennial History of Texas A&M University, 1876-1976 (2 vols., College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1975). S. W. Geiser, “Dr. David Porter Smythe, an Early Texas Botanist,” Field and Laboratory 12 (January 1944).
Clinton P. Hartmann