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Colonial American Doctors

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  • John Penington, MD (1768 - 1793)
    ~• a graduate of the Univ. of Penna.Born on xx, Died on Aged xx years, xx months, xx days.1793, 20 SeptemberWe have this evening been informed of ye deaths of Doct. John Penington, another son of Jacob...
  • Dr. Thomas Little (1701 - 1744)
    Biography Thomas Little was born on 20 September 1701 in Marshfield, Plymouth, Province of Massachusetts Bay, the son of Thomas and Mary Mayhew.[1] He died in 1744 on Martha's Vineyard.[1] Jedidiah ...
  • Dr. Solomon Bacon (1701 - 1732)
    Biography Sarah Lothrop married Solomon Bacon June 5 1719 in Edgartown. Children: Sarah (1719), possibly others (there were some Bacons living in Martha's Vineyard in the 1770's). Solomon was bo...
  • Dr. Thomas Mayhew (1710 - 1759)
    Biography Lydia Lothrop, daughter of Thomas Lothrop and Mehitable Sarson, was born about 1710 at Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard. She married 27 Jul 1732 in Chilmark, Dukes, Massachusetts Bay Colony ...
  • Source:
    Dr George Slough (1759 - 1840)
    According to cemetery records, George Slough died on October 25, 1840. This record was taken from his gravestone sometime during the first half of the 20th century when the stone was more legible.* Ref...

Please add the profiles of the chirurgeons, 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