January 8, 1997

Frontier Doctor: William Beaumont, America's First Great Medical Scientist

Author Affiliations

Mount Auburn Hospital Cambridge, Mass


by Reginald Horsman (Missouri Biography Series), 320 pp, with illus, $39.95, ISBN 0-8262-1052-X, Columbia, Mo, University of Missouri Press, 1996.

JAMA. 1997;277(2):175-176. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540260089047

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Frontier Doctor

Frontier Doctor is a fascinating biography of William Beaumont, a colorful early 19th-century physician whose fame is based on his pioneering experiments in gastric physiology. The book, based on careful research and abundantly annotated, describes in great detail the life of America's first physiologist.

Professor Horsman clearly portrays the evolution of Beaumont's personality and career. Born on a farm in Connecticut, Beaumont was driven to improve his status throughout his life. Travelling as a teacher to Plattsburg, NY, he then moved to a small Vermont town to serve as apprentice to a physician, his only formal medical training. After the War of 1812 and a brief medical career in Plattsburg, he became an Army surgeon. In 1812, while Beaumont was serving at lonely Fort Mackinac in the Michigan territory, a Canadian voyageur, Alexis St Martin, was accidentally shot at close range in the abdomen. The healed wound left