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Book and Media Reviews
September 20, 2006

Early American Physician

JAMA. 2006;296(11):1407-1412. doi:10.1001/jama.296.11.1409

This fascinating and remarkably erudite biography recounts the life of the early American physician Benjamin Waterhouse (1754-1846). The author, Philip Cash, PhD, is professor of history emeritus at Emmanuel College in Boston, Mass.

After studying medicine in his native Rhode Island, Waterhouse left the colonies in 1775 to obtain further training in London, England; Edinburgh, Scotland; and the Dutch city of Leiden. In 1782 he returned to what had, in his absence, become the United States. In 1783, with letters of support from John Adams and Benjamin Franklin (whom he had met in France) but opposed by the eminent patriots John Hancock (who wished to embarrass a political rival) and Samuel Adams (who wanted the position for his son), Waterhouse was appointed the first professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School a year after its formation.

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