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Ames, Nathaniel (22 July 1708–11 July 1764), almanac maker, physician, and innkeeper, was born in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, the son of Captain Nathaniel Ames, an astronomer and mathematician, and Susannah Howard. Probably after an apprenticeship with a country doctor, Ames became a doctor. With the likely assistance of his father, in 1725 Ames produced the first almanac to carry his name, though he was a youth of only seventeen. The almanac soon became well known and remained a staple product in New England, appearing annually for a half century....

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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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Brandreth, Benjamin (09 January 1807–19 February 1880), proprietary medicine manufacturer and eclectic physician, was born in Leeds, England, where his father was a merchant. In the mid-eighteenth century, his physician grandfather, William Brandreth of Liverpool, had concocted and sold a Vegetable Universal Pill. Inheriting the formula, Brandreth marketed the pill in 1828. In 1829 he married Harriet Matilda Smallpage; they had five children. In 1835, sensing a larger pill market in the United States, the family migrated to New York City, where his wife died the following year....

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Cesar (1682–?), South Carolina slave and medical practitioner who developed primitive pharmaceuticals, was born possibly in Africa or the Caribbean and transported to the southern colonies as a slave, or perhaps he was born into slavery in South Carolina. (His name is often spelled Caesar.) His parents are unknown; he may have been the descendant of skilled medicine men, who transferred medical knowledge from their native cultures to the colonies, sharing drug recipes and folk remedies that used herbs and roots, or of slave midwives, who had performed Caesarian sections in Africa and taught other slaves that procedure....

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Dorsette, Cornelius Nathaniel (1852–07 December 1897), pioneering black physician, was born into slavery at Eden in Davidson County, North Carolina, the son of David Dorsette and Lucinda (maiden name unknown). Two months after his birth, he was separated from his mother. When he was freed with the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, he lived with his grandmother on a small farm and attended school in Thomasville, North Carolina....

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Durham, James (01 May 1762–?), physician, was born a slave in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His surname is sometimes spelled Derham. Despite his slave status, he learned basic reading and writing skills from his first owners, whom he described as Christians. Durham also received his medical training from his masters. At that period most American physicians acquired their medical education through the apprenticeship system. Durham began a form of apprenticeship at the age of eight, when he became the slave of John A. Kearsley, Jr., a physician who taught him to compound medicines and to perform routine medical procedures. Durham later belonged to other doctors in Philadelphia, at least one of whom was a British sympathizer. This association with a Loyalist master probably explains why Durham later became the property of George West, a surgeon in the British Sixteenth Regiment....

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Hartman, Samuel Brubaker (01 April 1830–30 January 1918), physician and proprietary medicine manufacturer, was born near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the son of Christian Hartman and Nancy Brubaker, farmers and immigrants from Switzerland. His father died when Hartman was six months old, and the boy had a peripatetic youth. Speaking only German until the age of fourteen, Hartman learned woodchopping from an uncle, then carpentry while living with a brother in Medway, Ohio. At twenty he taught school for a year in Pennsylvania, then toured the countryside selling German-English Bibles....

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Koch, William Frederick (06 April 1885–09 December 1967), physician and discoverer and promoter of new medications alleged to cure cancer and other diseases, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of German immigrants Martin Koch and Christina Faulstich. Koch attended the University of Michigan, receiving an A.B. in premedical studies (1909), an M.A. (1910), and a Ph.D. in biochemistry (1916). He served from 1910 to 1913 as assistant in physiology and instructor in histology at the Michigan Medical School and from 1914 to 1919 as professor of physiology at the Detroit College of Medicine and Surgery (later part of Wayne State University), from which he received an M.D. in 1918. Koch married Luella Schmidt in 1916; the couple had four children....

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Mazzei, Philip (25 December 1730–19 March 1816), physician, merchant, and agent of Virginia during the American Revolution, was born Filippo Mazzei in Poggio-a-Caiano, Italy, the son of Domenico Mazzei, a tradesman, and Maria Elisabetta di Guissepe del Conte. He studied medicine in nearby Florence, and in 1755 he joined the practice of a Dr. Salinas in Smyrna, Turkey. By year’s end he took passage for England as a ship’s doctor. Shortly after his arrival in London in 1756, he began an import-export business that enjoyed moderate success for the next sixteen years....

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James McHenry. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B017691).

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McHenry, James (16 November 1753–03 May 1816), physician and merchant, was born in Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland (present-day Northern Ireland), the son of Daniel McHenry, a merchant, and Agnes (maiden name unknown), both Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. James McHenry emigrated to America in 1771 and lived in Philadelphia with Captain William Allison, a sugar baker. In 1772 McHenry attended or was a tutor at the Newark Academy in Delaware, an institution incorporated by “Old Light” Presbyterians that had an English school offering “Merchants Accounts,” navigation, and surveying. After the academy, McHenry studied medicine privately in Philadelphia with the prominent physician ...

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Perkins, Elisha (16 January 1741–06 September 1799), physician and patent vendor, was born in Norwich, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Perkins, a physician, and Mary Bushnell. Perkins may have briefly attended Yale and studied medicine under his father. He set up practice in Plainfield, Connecticut, and in 1762 married Sarah Douglass; they had ten children. During the Revolution, he served as a regimental surgeon. Tall and muscular, Perkins possessed great energy, self-control, self-confidence, and a good bedside manner. In spite of his thriving practice, he was not able to earn enough from medicine to support his large family. To supplement his income, he engaged in the mule trade, boarded patients, and took in students from the local academy he had helped to establish. He was an incorporator of the Connecticut Medical Society (1792) and chairman of the Windham County Medical Society....

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Smith, James McCune (18 April 1813–17 November 1865), abolitionist and physician, was born in New York City, the son of slaves. All that is known of his parents is that his mother was, in his words, “a self-emancipated bond-woman.” His own liberty came on 4 July 1827, when the Emancipation Act of the state of New York officially freed its remaining slaves. Smith was fourteen at the time, a student at the Charles C. Andrews African Free School No. 2, and he described that day as a “real full-souled, full-voiced shouting for joy” that brought him from “the gloom of midnight” into “the joyful light of day.” He graduated with honors from the African Free School but was denied admission to Columbia College and Geneva, New York, medical schools because of his race. With assistance from black minister ...

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Squibb, Edward Robinson (04 July 1819–25 October 1900), physician, chemist, and manufacturing pharmacist, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of James Robinson Squibb (occupation unknown) and Catherine Bonsall. After Squibb’s mother died in 1831, the family moved to Philadelphia. In 1837 Edward became a pharmacist’s apprentice. Five years later he entered Jefferson Medical College; he received his M.D. degree in 1845....

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Thompson, Joseph Pascal (20 December 1818–21 December 1894), clergyman and physician, was born in slavery in Winchester, Virginia. Although the scant records of his early life differ on the details, most sources indicate that while still a “youth” he ran away from his master and found refuge with a kindly family in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. This household provided the moral and religious influences that shaped his commitment to physical and spiritual healing. In the evenings and winter months he attended common school, where he proved studious and ambitious. For a time he worked with a physician at Middletown Point (later Matawan), New Jersey....

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Wright, Eliphalet Nott (03 April 1858–10 January 1932), physician, politician, and businessman, was born near Armstrong Academy, Choctaw Nation, in Indian Territory (now southeastern Oklahoma), the son of Allen Wright, a Choctaw civil and religious leader and scholar, and Harriet Mitchell, a white Presbyterian mission teacher. Wright attended school fourteen miles southwest of Atoka at Boggy Depot, Choctaw Nation, when it was a Confederate post during the Civil War. He was in Washington, D.C., briefly, when his father represented the Choctaw Nation to treat with the U.S. government. Wright attended classes for one year at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, and three years at Spencer Academy near Doaksville in Choctaw Nation. In 1878 he entered Union College in Schenectady, New York, but discontinued his classical course of study there in 1881 to enter the Albany Medical College, New York. He earned necessary money by practicing back home in the summer of 1883 and then returned to Albany, where he received an M.D. early in 1884. He went home to Boggy Depot to begin a career combining medicine, politics, and business....