Start My Family Tree Welcome to Geni, home of the world's largest family tree.
Join Geni to explore your genealogy and family history in the World's Largest Family Tree.

Colonial American Doctors

« Back to Projects Dashboard

view all


  • Agnes Pember (1660 - 1732)
    BIOGRAPHY: John Pember The History of the Pember Family in America Copyright 1939 by Celeste Pember Hazen Page 12 "Concerning Agnes, the g in her name was not commonly pronounced; tradition calls h...
  • Dr. Gerardus Clarkson (1737 - 1790)
    From Penn Biographies: Gerardus Clarkson (1737-1790) University Affiliation: Academy student 1751-1753 Trustee 1780-1790 Biographical Summary: Physician Gerardus Clarkson was ...
  • Dr. Seth Hastings (1745 - 1830)
    Son of Hopestill Hastings and Lydia Frary. DAR Ancestor #: A052679 CONNECTICUT Rank: PHYSICIAN OR SURGEON Service Description: 1) SURGEON, REV ARMY Married Eunice Parmele/Parmalee/Parmele on Nov ...
  • Bodo Otto (1711 - 1782)
    Bodo Otto came to this country from Germany in 1752, settled in Philadelphia, where he engaged in the practice of medicine, and during the winter of 1778 had charge of the hospital of the Continental A...
  • Bodo Otto, Jr. (1748 - 1782)
    Bodo Otto was a physician, and warmly attached to the patriot cause during the American Revolutionary War. He sat in the senate of New Jersey, and served during the war as an officer in the Continental...

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