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Sept 30, 1968


JAMA. 1968;206(1):126. doi:10.1001/jama.1968.03150010074023

The professional career of William Thornton is a tale of a physician with many talents who chose not to practice medicine. He was born of English Quaker parents on Jost van Dyke island in the British West Indies, and at the age of five was sent to Lancaster, England, to be with his grandparents.1 At the age of 16, Thornton began an apprenticeship in medicine, followed by three years at the University of Edinburgh. Lacking credit for graduation at Edinburgh, he qualified successfully for the MD degree at the University of Aberdeen in 1784. Although he had intended to pursue medicine in the West Indies, after postgraduate training in London at St. Bartholomew's Hospital and an extended tour of the Continent, he was attracted to America. Here, in 1788, he obtained citizenship in the state of Delaware. Thornton then proceeded to Philadelphia, established residence, and made social contacts with