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Drowne, Solomon (1753-1834)

Role: Professor of Materia Medica and Botany
Dates: 1811-1834
Portrait Location: John Hay Library 105
Artist: Ingham, Charles Cromwell (1796-1863)
Portrait Date: 1863
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 29 1/2 x 24 1/2 in. (74.93 x 62.23 cm.)
Framed Dimensions: 41 1/2 x 36 1/2 in. (105.41 x 92.71 cm.)
Brown Portrait Number: 21
Brown Historical Property Number: 1855

Solomon Drowne was born on North Main Street in Providence. He entered Rhode Island College (later Brown University) in 1770 and graduated in 1773. He studied medicine for two years at Philadelphia College but interrupted his studies to join the army in 1776. During the Revolution, Drowne served as a doctor in Rhode Island, working alongside Rochambeau and Lafayette. His last duties were as ship's surgeon aboard a privateer. Following the war, he traveled throughout Europe attending medical lectures and visiting hospitals. In 1788 he and other Revolutionary War veterans founded the town of Marietta, Ohio, where he worked as a doctor. He returned to Providence four years later, but did not remain long, traveling this time to Pennsylvania and West Virginia. In 1801, ready to settle down, Drowne built himself a large country estate in Foster, Rhode Island, which included an entrance called the "Appian Way" and a botanical garden of many exotic plants and trees, some used in the home preparation of medicines. When medical lectures were introduced at Brown University in 1811, Drowne was appointed professor. He laid out the college's first botanical garden and quickly became one of its most popular orators. He was a founding member of both the Rhode Island Medical Society and the Rhode Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry. He died in Foster in 1834, while in the process of building a "Rotundo of Worthies" in a grove south of his house, there to house his favorite works of agriculture, medicine, and history.

Charles C. Ingham was born in Dublin and immigrated to the United States in 1817. James Earle, artist of the original painting, was from London and spent many years working in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1863, John R. Bartlett and friends of the university solicited the assistance of Drowne's son Henry and four grandsons in commissioning Ingham to paint a portrait of Drowne from the original held by the family. At this time John Russell Bartlett was commissioning copies of a number of family portraits for a hall commemorating Rhode Island heroes.