Solomon Drowne (1753-1834), professor in the early Brown University Medical School, was born on North Main Street in Providence on March 11, 1753. He began his studies in 1769 with Charles Thompson 1769, and according to his diary was examined for entrance to Rhode Island College on June 30, 1770. He graduated in 1773. A year after his graduation, in September 1774, Drowne began the study of medicine at the College of Philadelphia. He was in the army from 1776 to 1780, and had a narrow escape on July 3, 1776, when he remained to gather medical supplies until moments before the arrival of the British in New York City. During the war he was associated with Lafayette and Rochambeau while he served as a doctor in Rhode Island. In 1780 he took part in a cruise on the private sloop of war “Hope,” which was owned by Joseph Nightingale and John Innis Clarke, and kept a detailed diary of this adventure. After the war he traveled in England, Holland and Belgium, attending medical lectures and visiting hospitals. On his return to Providence in 1785 he began his practice of medicine. In 1788 he traveled to Ohio to join other veterans of the Revolution in the settling of Marietta. Among the inhabitants was James Mitchell Varnum 1769, who died during the first year there. Drowne attended Varnum in his last illness and delivered a eulogy at his funeral. Several months later he delivered, on April 7, 1789, the address at the first anniversary of the settlement of Marietta. He came back to Providence in 1792, but soon moved on to Union, Pennsylvania, and Morgantown, West Virginia. In 1801 he returned once more to Rhode Island, ready to settle down. His old friend Theodore Foster 1770 had returned from two terms in the Senate and retired to the town of Foster, which had been named for him when it was separated from Scituate in 1781. Solomon Drowne acquired an estate next to Foster’s and had built for himself a house, which he ordered to be “a house I can swing a cat in.” He named his place Mount Hygeia after the Greek goddess of health. The approach to his home was called Appian Way. He had a botanical garden with many exotic trees and plants, some of which he used in preparation of his own medicines. He also planted mulberry trees and may have engaged in the production of silk.
When medical lectures were introduced to Brown University in 1811, Drowne was appointed professor of materia medica and botany. He laid out the first botanical garden at the college. He was in demand as an orator, his best known addresses being a eulogy on the death of George Washington and his “Oration in Aid of the Cause of the Greeks” delivered by invitation of the people of Providence in the First Baptist Church on February 23, 1824. He was one of the original members of the Rhode Island Medical Society and one of the founders of the Rhode Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry. In collaboration with his son William he wrote The Compendium of Agriculture or the Farmer’s Guide, which was published in 1824. At Mount Hygeia Drowne continued to pursue his interests in agriculture, botany and reading. A circular stone foundation in a hemlock grove south of his house was the beginning of his “Rotundo of Worthies,” a retreat which he planned to furnish with his favorite books and portraits of admired persons. Before this could be accomplished, he died in Foster on February 5, 1834.