In the fall of 1782, Warren was charged by the Corporation of Harvard College with the formation of a plan for medical instruction and subsequently appointed to the professorship of anatomy and surgery. Dr. Warren delivered his first course of lectures during the winter of 1783-1784. This was the beginning of Harvard Medical School. Partially in the handwriting of Dr. John Warren, this volume of lecture notes, beginning on December 10, 1783, contains the earliest surviving record of teaching at Harvard Medical School. The lectures were delivered in Harvard Hall, on the campus in Cambridge.
After summarizing the history of his subject, Dr. Warren then justifies dissection as an essential component to anatomical study: “At the first view of dissections, the stomach is apt to turn, but custom wears off such impressions. It is anatomy that directs the knife in the hand of a skilful surgeon, & shews him where he may perform any necessary operation with safety to the patient. It is this which enables the physician to form an accurate knowledge of diseases & open dead bodies with grace, to discover the cause or seat of the disease, & the alteration it may have made in the several parts.”