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Colonial American Doctors

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  • Jennat Gray (c.1714 - 1809)
    Said to possess "doctoring skills" from The Gray Family of Hancock County, Maine: What little information is available about Mrs. Gray is in the nature of tradition. According to tradition she was ...
  • Dr. Jacobus (James) van Beuren (1754 - 1802)
    James van Beuren of Flatbush (aka Dr. Jacobus, son of Johannes, II; grandson of the immigrant) PROBATE: Index to Testators, Volume 1 (1787-1805); Kings Co., New York submitted by W. David Samuelsen...
  • Dr. Abraham van Beuren (1736 - 1813)
    "Born on Long Island, probably at New Utrecht, in June 1736 (family record) Died at Millstone, Somerset County, NJ, March 7th 1813 "For Abraham and Eva Ouke so far I have the following: New Brunswick...
  • Dr. Beekman van Beuren (1732 - 1812)
    +16. 15th Child of Dr. Johannes. Beekman vB was probably named for a MD & one-time temporary Governor of the Colony when his father Dr. Johannes arrived in 1700. Dr. Gerardus Beekman . see: Hendric...
  • Dr. James van Beuren (1729 - 1797)
    The 13th of 15 children (a twin with Christina), Jacobus was born in Flatbush & married into two New Jersey (Pavonia) families of great land holdings: The Earl(e)s and the Ryersons 1729 Aug 03; Jan V...

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