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Colonial American Doctors

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  • Dr. Daniel Weld (1642 - 1690)
    Degree, 1661, Harvard College Chief surgeon in the Narraganset campaign, King Philip's War. Citations Perley, Sidney. The History of Salem, Massachusetts. (Salem, Massachusetts: Sidney Perley, 1...
  • Oke Hendrickson (1734 - 1830)
    DAR Ancestor A055004 His first name may also have been spelled "Auke" in some sources. Prior to the Revolutionary War, Oke was an innholder at Hightstown, NJ.  At various times, he lived in ...
  • Dr. John Bemis (1773 - 1851)
    The subject of this sketch, who was the third of four sons, was born on the 16th day of February, 1773. In consequence of his father's continued ill health and limited means, he was, at a very early ...
  • Dr. Jonathan Skeel (1721 - 1756)
    Jonathan Skeels Parents: John Skeels, Sarah Blakeslee Wife: Abigail Skeels (born Slosson) Children include: Elizabeth Skeel, Mary Skeel, Jonathan Skeel, Abigail Skeels, William Skeel Sourc...
  • Dr. Thomas Eyre (c.1615 - 1657)
    Specified to be both a Quaker and a chirurgeon (medical doctor). There is no hard evidence that he was ever known as "Mowrey" or "Mowery". He most certainly did not use that name after arrival in Vir...

Please add the profiles of the chirugeons, physicans, midwives, apothecaries and bonesetters who were our earliest doctors. Collaborators, feel free to update the page and add resource materials.

Please note:

40% of the physicians in the early colonies were women. Midwives at this time were considered doctors.

18th Century American Medicine


In 18th Century England, there were three main classes of medical men: physicians, surgeons and apothecaries. Physicians were considered the elite among the three groups, holding medical degrees from universities and serving mainly the upper classes. In contrast, English surgeons and apothecaries rarely held medical degrees and often gained their training through apprenticeship. By and large the doctors of early colonial America were not English physicians but “ship’s surgeons”. They had learned their trade through apprenticeship or hospitals and often took on their own apprentices in America, which became the chief means of medical education at the time. While referred to as physicians or doctors, most colonists practicing medicine did not qualify as such back in England.

Colonial “physicians” practiced medicine, surgery and apothecary together as needed. As the colonies grew and prospered, some could afford to be trained at the universities abroad and earn their medical degree. Upon their return, however, colonists expected even European trained physicians to open the same general practices as their untrained countrymen. As might be expected, colonial physicians with formal degrees were often more prosperous and enjoyed greater prestige, but these were few and far between.

On the eve of the Revolutionary War it has been estimated that the colonies contained 3,500 physicians, only 400 of whom had undergone some sort of training, and about 200 of these actually held medical degrees.


doctors of interest