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Colonial American Doctors

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  • Rev. Dr. Nathaniel Williams (1675 - 1737)
    Nathaniel Williams, M.A. (Boston Latin School 1682, Harvard 1693). This Nathaniel Williams, 3rd, was a physician. In early life he removed to the West Indies, but soon returned to Boston, where he succ...
  • Walter Hastings, M.D. (1752 - 1782)
    From History of Chelmsford By P.H. Spaulding, W. Waters. Page 246: ... married Lucretia, daughter of Rev. Ebenezer Bridge. From Register of Members of the Society of Sons of the Revolution in the ....
  • Bryan 'Bray' Rossiter (c.1610 - 1672)
    See which lists as PROBABLE passengers on the Mary and John (1630): Edward Rossiter, age 55 wife of Edward Rossiter, age 53 Nicholas Rossiter, son of Edward, 31 Ann, wife of Nicholas, age 29 ...
  • Arnold Lewis (1734 - 1825)
    Service: Arnold Lewis served seven years as surgeon in the Revolutionary War, and held a colonel's commission. Child's Gazetteer of Jeff. Co., N.Y. page 352 Remarks: Arnold Lewis served in the French...
  • Doctor Thomas Hinde (1737 - 1828)
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Doctor Thomas Hinde (July 10, 1737 – September 28, 1828) was Northern Kentucky's first physician, a member of the British Royal Navy, an American Revoluti...

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