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February 1974

Benjamin Waterhouse (1754-1846): The Nation's First Vaccinator

Author Affiliations

Brooklyn, NY
From the Department of Pediatrics, Downstate Medical School, Kings County Hospital Center, and Brookdale Hospital Center, Brooklyn, NY.

Am J Dis Child. 1974;127(2):226-229. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1974.02110210076010

Now that the American Academy of Pediatrics has agreed that smallpox vaccination is unnecessary, some aspects of the life of its innovator in the United States become of current historic interest. Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, neither Bostonian nor Puritan descendant but Rhode Island Quaker, was 28 years old when appointed Harvard's Professor of the Theory and Practice of Physic in 1783. He had left the colonies in 1775 to pursue medical studies in London under the guidance of the distinguished Quaker physician John Fothergill, a relative, and continued his education at Edinburgh and at Leyden where he received his degree in 1780. His teachers were some of the illustrious physicians of Europe: John Hunter, William Cullen, the second Alexander Monro, George Fordyce, John Coakley Lettsom, and John Fothergill. Among his patrons were John Haygarth, Joseph Priestley, Benjamin Franklin, and Sir Joseph Banks.1,2 Waterhouse returned in 1781 filled with knowledge of