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Colonial American Doctors

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  • Dr. John Bartlett (1730 - 1796)
    BARTLETT, JOHN , DAR Ancestor #: A006991 Service: RHODE ISLAND Rank: PHYSICIAN OR SURGEON Birth: 8-15-1730 LEBANON CONNECTICUT Death: 10-10-1795 NANTUCKET MASSACHUSETTS Service Description: 1) ...
  • Capt. Josiah Bartlett, "Signer of the Declaration of Independence" (1701 - 1782)
    Josiah Bartlett Signer of the Declaration of Independence JOSIAH BARTLETT was born November 21, 1729 in Amesbury, Massachusetts. He received the rudiments of a classical education and when he was onl...
  • Dr Laban Hazeltine (1789 - 1852)
    "Jamestown Past and Present" 1913Laban Hazeltine was descended from the earliest settlers of Massachusetts, his ancestors being among the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Harbor with Governor Winthrop. ...
  • Edward Augustus Holyoke (1728 - 1829)
    Edward Augustus Holyoke (August 1, 1728 – March 31, 1829) was an American educator and physician. Biography Born in Marblehead, Massachusetts, son of the Reverend Edward Holyoke, a former ...
  • William Eustis, Governor, 6th U.S. Secretary of War (1753 - 1825)
    REF.: William Eustis' (June 10, 1753 – February 6, 1825) was an early American physician, politician, and statesman from Massachusetts. Trained in medicine, he served as a military surgeon dur...

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