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Colonial American Doctors

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  • Rev. Dr. John Clarke, of Newport (c.1609 - 1676)
    John Clarke Find A Grave Memorial# 53975601 John Clarke (Baptist minister) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia John Clarke (8 October 1609 – 20 April 1676) was a medical doctor, Baptist ...
  • Abram Francis Newkirk, M.D. (1821 - 1891)
    Captain / Dr. Abram Francis Newkirk, CSA (b. 1821 in Kerr, NC, d. 1891 in Wilmington, NC). Dr. Newkirk married Mary Isabella Wilkings (spelled several different ways, Willkings, Wilkins) (b. 1828, d. 1...
  • Dr. William Crawford Wilkings (1826 - 1856)
    Dr. Wilkings was the last person killed in a political duel in the South in 1856. The most famous duel in Southeastern North Carolina, and apparently the last, was between Joseph H. Flanner and Dr. W...
  • Dr Daniel Greenleaf, Jr (1732 - 1777)
    Son of Dr. Daniel and Silence (Nichols) Greenleaf.Married Mrs. Ann Burrell abt. 1763 in England."Dr. Daniel Greenleaf, Jr. studied medicine, and afterwards went to England, whereon 5 May 1763, he marri...
  • Dr. Daniel Greenleaf (1702 - 1795)
    son of Daniel Greenleaf Reverend 1679 – 1763 Elizabeth Gookin 1681 – 1762 his ancestry is said to be: Stephen Greenleaf Captain 1652 – 1743Elizabeth Gerrish 1654 – 171...

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