Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse: A Life in Medicine and Public Service (1754–1846)

Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse: A Life in Medicine and Public Service (1754–1846)

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Cash, Philip, 2006, xi + 516pp., cloth bound and jacketed

Born in Rhode Island in 1754, hailed in Great Britain and much of the United States, yet scorned by the medical and Brahmin establishments in Boston, Benjamin Waterhouse is one of the most important, controversial, and colorful figures in American medical history.

Best known for introducing vaccination to the United States and joining with Thomas Jefferson in promoting this procedure throughout the country and beyond, he served as the first professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and was a feared penman for the Jeffersonian cause and the co-author of an early best-seller recounting the experiences of a young Massachusetts doctor taken prisoner during the war of 1812.

In addition, Waterhouse pioneered the popularization of the study of natural history (biology, geology and mineralogy) in New England.

This work is the first major biography of this fascinating, many faceted personality.

“ . . . The drama of Waterhouse’s life and the struggle to spread knowledge of vaccination will make the book attractive to a wide range of readers, while scholars will appreciate that it generates questions about important issues such as the operation of patronage networks, the relationship between popular and elite medical ideas, the cultivation of public opinion, and the interplay between medicine and politics in the early national period.” —Isis

“ . . . Anyone interested in early American history, any physician who wishes a perspective on American medicine, vaccinologists, and those interested in the issues of smallpox past and present. ” —Mayo Clin Proc

“This fascinating and remarkably erudite biography recounts the life of the early American physician Benjamin Waterhouse (1754–1846) . . . One of the most engaging and illuminating aspects of this well-written biography is the substantial background material that Cash provides about many pertinent topics, such as the nature of medical education in Great Britain and Europe, the political issues and conflicts of the time, and the personalities and careers of the major figures in this story. When they finish this work, readers will have learned much more than just the details of Benjamin Waterhouse’s 92 years of life.” —JAMA (9/20/06)

“ . . . an elegant volume that I predict will stir interest amongst a wide audience of susceptible people for a long time to come. Perusing an account of his stormy career will elicit feelings of sympathy from present day laborers in the 'vineyard of medicine,' and many will use it as a source for historic information that will continue to sustain its appeal.” —Paul S. Russell, M.D., John Homans Distinguished Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School, Senior Surgeon, Massachusetts General Hospital