March 21, 1980

Physician of the American Revolution: Jonathan Potts

Author Affiliations

The Newberry Library Chicago


by Richard L. Blanco, 276 pp, 12 illus, $17.50, New York, Garland STPM Press, 1979.

JAMA. 1980;243(11):1183. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03300370055029

This fine study delivers simultaneously both more and less than the title suggests. Jonathan Potts does not emerge as a well-delineated personality, since "little information about his private life is available" (p 204). At the same time, Potts's medical career, with stress on his service to the Continental army during the American Revolution, is placed in the historical context of 18th-century medical education, healing theory and practice, organization of the Revolutionary army medical department, and military conflicts.

Jonathan Potts served in the northern medical department for the Continental army from 1776. He was deputy-general from April 1777 until his retirement due to ill health in October 1780. During the last 2 1/2 years he was also purveyor-general, responsible for obtaining medical supplies for army hospitals. He was thus in a position to see the chronic problems besetting the army in the care of its soldiers—inadequate supplies and hospital facilities, a