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Bennet, Sanford Fillmore (21 June 1836–11 June 1898), physician and writer of popular verses and hymn texts, was born in Eden, New York, the son of Robert Bennet and Sally Kent. After spending his early years in New York, Bennet moved with his family to Lake County, Illinois. By the age of eighteen Bennet was teaching school in Wauconda, Illinois. In 1858 he entered the University of Michigan but did not complete a degree there, deciding instead to accept a position as the head of the Richmond, Illinois school district. After his marriage to Gertrude Crosby Johonnatt, Bennet moved to Elkhorn, Wisconsin, where he became co-owner and editor of the ...

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Church, Benjamin (24 August 1734– January 1778?), physician, poet, and traitor, was born in Newport, Rhode Island, the son of Benjamin Church, a vendue master, and Hannah Dyer. By 1740 the family had moved to Boston, and in 1750 young Benjamin entered Harvard College. It was at Harvard that Church first developed his writing skills, sharpening his talents through biting satires on his classmates and the professors. After graduating in 1754, Church studied medicine and for several months in 1757 served as surgeon aboard the Massachusetts snow-of-war, the ...

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Dale, Thomas (1700–16 September 1750), physician, jurist, and poet, was born in Hoxton, England, to a gentry family with medical interests. His parents’ names are unknown. He attended Brasenose College, Oxford University, from 1717 to 1720 and in 1721 began study at the University of Leyden, from which he received a medical degree on 23 September 1723 for ...

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Oliver Wendell Holmes. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B014846).

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Holmes, Oliver Wendell (29 August 1809–07 October 1894), physician, teacher of anatomy, and writer, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of the Reverend Abiel Holmes and Sarah Wendell, Abiel’s second wife. A quintessential Boston Brahmin, Oliver was descended on his mother’s side from the old Boston families of Jackson and Quincy and from early Dutch settlers; ...

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Hopkins, Lemuel (19 June 1750–14 April 1801), physician and poet, was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, the son of Stephen Hopkins and Dorothy Talmadge, prosperous farmers. Hopkins studied medicine, first with Jared Potter of Wallingford, then with Dr. Seth Bird of Litchfield. His own Litchfield practice, begun in 1776, was interrupted by his brief service with the American army during the revolutionary war. In 1784 he received an honorary master of arts degree from Yale and moved to Hartford, where he maintained his medical practice until his death there. He never married and had no children....

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Killpatrick, James (1692–1770), physician and poet, was born in Carrickfergus, Ireland, into a commercial family. (Later in his life he used the name “Kirkpatrick.”) He matriculated at the University of Edinburgh in 1708 but returned to Ireland before earning a degree to set up as a medical practitioner. He had scant success. To improve his fortune he immigrated in 1717 to South Carolina, where an uncle, David Killpatrick, resided. The voyage to America was troubled by pirates, who relieved Killpatrick of his small stock of valuables. He established a practice in Charleston with a clientele in the merchant and official classes. In 1727 he married Elizabeth Hepworth, the daughter of the colony’s secretary. He was hired as attending physician to the St. Philip’s Hospital, where his principal task was treating the poor. Early in the 1730s he established a pharmacy, which was the principal local source for medicines until Dr. ...

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Mercier, Alfred (03 June 1816–12 May 1894), writer and physician, was born Charles Alfred Mercier in McDonoughville, Louisiana, the son of Jean-Baptiste Mercier, a plantation owner, and Marie-Héloïse Leduc. In accordance with the practice common among upper-class French families in Louisiana of educating their Creole sons in Paris, Mercier’s parents sent him to the Collège Louis le Grand in 1830. Inspired by his reading there of classical and romantic works—especially those by Sir Walter Scott, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Chateaubriand, and Lamartine—Mercier put off his previous intention of studying law in favor of pursuing literary ambitions. In 1838 he went back to Louisiana and then visited Boston to improve his English, but when his brother-in-law ...

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Prime, Benjamin Youngs (09 December 1733–31 October 1791), physician and poet, was born in Huntington, Long Island, New York, the son of the Reverend Ebenezer Prime, a Congregationalist minister, and Experience Youngs. Later in life he removed the s from his middle name. Benjamin enrolled in July 1748 in the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), the newly chartered bastion of reformed Christianity, where he received his bachelor’s degree with the fourth graduating class in 1751. After graduation he studied medicine. In 1756 he returned to the college as a tutor until his versified compliments to poet Annis Boudinot (...

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Shaw, John (04 May 1778–10 January 1809), poet and physician, was born in Annapolis, Maryland. The names of his parents are unknown. A linguistically precocious boy, Shaw read classical literature at an age when most children were still mastering English. At age eleven he became one of the original students at St. John’s College of Annapolis, and he published poetry of his own when he was twelve. Shaw received a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s in 1796, then began two years of medical apprenticeship under John Thomas Shaaff of Annapolis....

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Smith, Elihu Hubbard (04 September 1771–19 September 1798), medical practitioner, man of letters, and founder of the first national American medical journal, was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, the son of Reuben Smith, a physician, and Abigail Hubbard. Smith entered Yale College at the age of eleven and received a B.A. in 1786. He spent an additional year in academic study under ...

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Testut, Charles (1819?–01 July 1892), Romantic literary artist, journalist, and physician, was born Charles-Hippolyte-Joseph Testut in Auxerre, France, and though he emigrated to the United States in the late 1830s when he was in his early twenties, he remained a French citizen until his death in New Orleans, Louisiana. The details of Testut’s personal life are sketchy. In his writings he alluded to a brother, Eugène, and a sister, Marie, and he cherished the memory of his father, whom he referred to as a high-ranking official in the Rosicrucian movement. He also mentioned his wife and children and spoke fondly of his dozen or so grandchildren. It appears, however, that when he settled permanently in New Orleans in 1871 his family resided elsewhere....

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Ticknor, Francis Orray (13 November 1822–18 December 1874), poet and physician, was born at Fortville, Jones County, Georgia, the son of Orray Ticknor, a physician, and Harriet Coolidge. Both parents were natives of Connecticut. Ticknor’s middle name—Orray, not Orrery—is frequently misspelled. He was only a few months old when his father died in 1823. His mother then moved to Columbus, Georgia, where she raised and educated her three children. In 1835 Ticknor was sent to a boys’ school in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, operated by the Reverend R. M. Chapman. The school’s curriculum included Greek, Latin, French, English, mathematics, drawing, and singing. Ticknor received his medical education in Philadelphia and New York. After spending 1842 in Norwich Town, Connecticut, his mother’s birthplace, he received his medical degree the following year from the Philadelphia College of Medicine....

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William Carlos Williams Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109601).

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Williams, William Carlos (17 September 1883–04 March 1963), author and physician, was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, the son of William George Williams, a New York businessman of British extraction, and Raquel Hélène Hoheb, who was from Puerto Rico. William Carlos Williams spoke Spanish and French as well as English. From 1897 to 1899 he was schooled in Switzerland, with some time in Paris. In 1902 he graduated from high school in New York and was accepted into the dental school of the University of Pennsylvania, but soon transferred to the medical school. There began his long-lived friendships with ...