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Nathan Allen. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B01026).

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Allen, Nathan (25 April 1813–01 January 1889), physician, social reformer, and public health advocate, was born in Princeton, Massachusetts, the son of Moses Allen and Mehitable Oliver, farmers. He spent his first seventeen years on the family farm, learning to work hard and to follow the Christian principles of his parents. He could not afford a higher education, but a friend in Leicester helped pay his tuition at Amherst Academy and then at Amherst College, where he matriculated in 1832, graduating in 1836....

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Arnold, Richard Dennis (19 August 1808–10 July 1876), physician, was born in Savannah, Georgia, the son of Joseph Arnold and Eliza Dennis, occupations unknown. Despite hardships accompanying the deaths of both parents during childhood, Arnold, who had been an only child, received an excellent preliminary education and graduated with distinction from Princeton in 1826. He immediately began a medical apprenticeship under William R. Waring, a distinguished preceptor and member of an illustrious Charleston and Savannah family of physicians. After receiving his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1830, Arnold served for two years as a resident house officer in Philadelphia’s old Blockley Hospital before returning to Savannah where in 1833 he married Margaret Baugh Stirk. Their only child, Eleanor, born the next year, became the lifelong object of her father’s loving solicitude following her mother’s untimely death from pulmonary tuberculosis in 1850....

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Austin, Harriet N. (1825–1891), hydropathic physician and health and dress reformer, was born in Connecticut but raised in Moravia, New York. Little is known about her parentage or early life. At age twenty-six she enrolled in the first class of the coeducational American Hydropathic Institute operated by ...

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Bacon, Georgeanna Muirson Woolsey (05 November 1833–27 January 1906), Civil War nurse and philanthropist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Charles William Woolsey, a merchant, and Jane Eliza Newton. Raised on fashionable Sheafe Street in Boston, “Georgy” attended Misses Murdock’s School. After her father’s death on a river steamer, the ...

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Bagley, Sarah George (29 April 1806–?), millworker, reformer, and physician, was born in Candia, New Hampshire, the daughter of Nathan Bagley and Rhoda Witham, farmers.

Bagley grew up in a family whose economic situation became increasingly precarious during the course of the nineteenth century. Nathan Bagley originally farmed land in Candia, which he had inherited from his father, but he later moved on to farming land in Gilford, New Hampshire. After losing litigation in 1822, he sold his land in Gilford and eventually moved to Meredith Bridge, New Hampshire (now Laconia), where he became an incorporator of the Strafford Cotton Mill Company in 1833. However, Nathan Bagley did not own a home after 1824; it was Sarah Bagley who made the down payment on a house for her family in Meredith Bridge in the 1840s. She probably used money she had saved during her stints as a factory worker in Lowell, Massachusetts....

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Barber, Jesse Max (05 July 1878–23 September 1949), African-American journalist, dentist, and civil rights activist, was born in Blackstock, South Carolina, the son of Jesse Max Barber and Susan Crawford, former slaves. Barber studied in public schools for African-American students and at Friendship Institute in Rock Hill, South Carolina, where he graduated as valedictorian. In 1901 he completed the normal school course for teachers at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, and afterward entered Virginia Union University in Richmond. There Barber was president of the literary society and edited the ...

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Barrows, Isabel (17 April 1845–25 October 1913), ophthalmologist, stenographer, and reformer, was born Katharine Isabel Hayes in Irasburg, Vermont, the daughter of Scottish immigrants Henry Hayes, a physician, and Anna Gibb, a schoolteacher. The family moved to Hartland and then Derry, New Hampshire, where Isabel Hayes graduated from Adams Academy. In 1863 she married William Wilberforce Chapin, a Congregational minister. The following year the couple traveled to India for a missionary assignment. Less than a year after arriving in India, William Chapin died of diphtheria. Six months later Isabel Chapin returned to the United States. She moved to Dansville, New York, where she worked as a bath assistant at a water-cure sanatorium....

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Bayne, Thomas (1824–1889), dentist and politician, was born into slavery in North Carolina and was known as Samuel Nixon before his escape from bondage in 1855. He was sold several times before being purchased by C. F. Martin, a dentist in Norfolk, Virginia. As the slave of Martin, Bayne learned sufficient dentistry to serve as the doctor’s assistant and to make dental house calls. Bayne also developed bookkeeping skills and monitored the doctor’s accounts....

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Harry Benjamin. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B02717).

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Benjamin, Harry (12 January 1885–24 August 1986), physician, endocrinologist, and sex researcher, was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of Julius Benjamin, a banker, and Bertha Hoffman. He became interested in human sexuality at the age of twenty, when he read August Forel’s ...

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Biggs, Hermann Michael (29 September 1859–28 June 1923), pathologist, bacteriologist, physician, and public health official, was born in Trumansburg, New York, the son of Joseph Hunt Biggs and Melissa Pratt. Dr. Biggs married Frances M. Richardson, of Hornellsville, New York, in 1898; they had two children. Biggs received his primary education in Ithaca, New York, and matriculated into Cornell University, where he received the bachelor of arts degree in 1882. From Cornell Biggs went on to medical school at the Bellevue Hospital Medical College, where he received his M.D. the following year. He spent the next eighteen months (1882–1883) in the postgraduate course at Bellevue, where he served as a rotating intern and resident physician. Upon completion of this course, Biggs traveled to Europe and spent the next two years (1883–1885) studying bacteriology in Berlin and Griefswald. When he returned to New York City in 1886, Biggs was made director of the newly opened Carnegie Bacteriology Laboratory of the Bellevue Hospital. His rise in academic rank was meteoric; appointed a lecturer in pathology in 1886, Biggs was made a full professor of pathology in 1889, professor of materia medica (pharmacology) in 1892, professor of therapeutics in 1898, and professor of medicine in 1912....

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John Shaw Billings. Courtesy of the Clendening History of Medicine Library and Museum, University of Kansas Medical Center.

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Billings, John Shaw (12 April 1838–11 March 1913), army medical officer, library organizer, and public health activist, was born near Allensville, Indiana, the son of James Billings, a farmer and storekeeper, and Abby Shaw. Despite spotty secondary schooling, he ultimately went to Miami College (Ohio), where he earned his B.A. in 1857. He was awarded the M.D. by the Medical College of Ohio in 1860. Billings remained with the latter institution for a year as an anatomical demonstrator, but after the outbreak of the Civil War he joined the U.S. Army as a contract surgeon. In 1862 he was commissioned first lieutenant and assistant surgeon and went on to make army service his career. Also in 1862 he married Katharine Mary Stevens; they had five children....

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Blackwell, Elizabeth (03 February 1821–31 May 1910), physician, reformer, and medical educator, was born in Bristol, England, daughter of Samuel Blackwell, a prosperous sugar refiner, and Hannah Lane. Her father’s interest in abolitionism and in “perfectionist reform,” the belief that through education and spiritual regeneration human beings could achieve a just society on earth, coupled with a series of financial reversals, prompted a move to the United States in 1832 when Elizabeth was eleven....

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Bowditch, Henry Ingersoll (09 August 1808–14 January 1892), physician, public hygienist, and abolitionist, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Bowditch, a mathematician and astronomer, and Mary Ingersoll. Raised in a patrician family, Bowditch, who received his early education at the Salem Private Grammar School and Boston Public Latin School, graduated from Harvard College in 1828. He then studied at the Harvard Medical School and supplemented its didactic lectures by serving in 1831–1832 as house officer at the Massachusetts General Hospital....

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Brooke, Abraham (1806–08 March 1867), physician and radical reformer, was born at Sandy Spring, Maryland, the son of Samuel Brooke and Sarah Garrigues, farmers. The Brooke family had been leading Quakers in Maryland for several generations, and Abraham attended Quaker schools at Sandy Spring before entering medical college in Baltimore. In 1829 he married Elizabeth Lukens, a fellow Quaker from Sandy Spring; they had three children. When the Hicksite-Orthodox schism took place among Quakers, the Brookes, like most Maryland Friends, sided with the Hicksite group....

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Buckel, C. Annette (25 August 1833–17 August 1912), physician, Civil War nurse, and mental health activist, was born Cloe Annette Buckel in Warsaw, New York, the daughter of Thomas Buckel and his wife (given name unknown), whose surname was Bartlett. Both parents died when Buckel, an only child, was three months old. Until the age of four she lived with her grandparents, and after they died she lived with two young aunts, neither of whom exhibited much warmth toward her. By age four Buckel had learned to read and write. Quickly outgrowing the local district school, she moved on to a more advanced one in a neighboring town. At age fourteen she started teaching school, boarding with her students’ parents, both in New York State and in Canada. While a youth she decided to become a physician. Financially unable to immediately begin formal medical school, she worked in a burnishing factory in Connecticut, living with her employer’s family, and studied Latin as she worked. By living simply and borrowing on a life insurance policy she had purchased, Buckel was able to enter the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1856. She later demonstrated the high regard she felt for the school by leaving it a bequest in her will....

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Herman N. Bundesen. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B03896).

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Bundesen, Herman Niels (27 April 1882–15 August 1960), physician, author, and politician, was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of a Danish father and a German mother whose identities are unknown. Brought to Chicago at an early age by his impoverished, widowed mother, he graduated from Northwestern University Medical School in 1909. Also in 1909 he married Rega Russell; they had six children....