Introduction to this Series
During the past nearly 30 years of researching Dutchess County Medicine, pre-1850, I have come upon several physicians certainly in need of special coverage. These physicians played important roles in Hudson valley, New York, and even National medical history due to the time frame in which they performed their skills or made their accomplishments: 1785 to 1815.
This period was a fragile period in American medical political and professional history. It was during this time that two medical schools initiated before the Revolutionary War were re-opened, and several more opened up in New York, Philadelphia and several other States. As part of the post-War recovery, there were a few years of post-War depression, a period when the cost of the War and its consequences impacted many if not most American families. During the first 7 to 10 years after the war (1783-1790/1792), depression certainly had an impact on medicine in general, along with a number of other industries.
The effects of the post-war depression were minimized however by changes taking place elsewhere in the world, and it is these changes that had a tremendous impact on the local economy, psychology and professions-related state of mind. The French Reformation had led to some well-learned French physicians, scientists, philosophers, professors and writers to travel to the United States. This increase in migration in turn increased the amount of diseases that could potentially be spread from one country or continent to the next. The most significant impact of this change in international travel and commerce was the yellow fever, which in turn had its own impacts of shipping ports due to their often densely populated nature. The impact of these epidemics psychologically and socially wouldn’t take their toll however until a second major series of epidemics struck in 1797. The next time around, the profession was a little bit more ready for the influx of disease at such a high rate compared to the past, involving one of the most important provisions any urban economic center had to maintain, and was in desperate need of. At this time, for these American port cities, isolation was typically not an option.
Some of the first Dutchess County and vicinity physicians to grow and benefit from this change in the ecolony and the related growth of their knowledge base and overall profession also served as important landowners, political leaders, professors, and initiators of what was then called “Modern” forms of medical and pharmacal practices. As expected, some of the most important families to Dutchess County history played important roles in this change in local medical history, as too did some new physicians trained in their profession either as apprentices, or as apprentices who also attended some sort of professional training lecture set or series. The following are examples of these physicians with a very brief recount of their reason for review:
- Samuel Mitchell, Professor, New York Medical and Surgical College, Editor of Medical Repository
- Dr. Shadrach Ricketson, Quaker MD
- The Livingstons, Medical Climatology and Medical Springs
- Dr. Bartow White, Congressman and MD
- Sherrill Hunter, Early Fever and Cholera Epidemiologist
- Thomas Lapham, Poughkeepsie Thomsonian/Reformed Physician
(More will probably be added with time.)
There are numerous other physicians important to Hudson Valley medical history who are covered along with their comrades in other writings on this topic. This is particularly the case for the following topics:
- early Medical Electricians, such as the Medical Electricity physician of Dover and the French Midwife/Medical Electrician/Mesmerist, covered separately in a different section on Medical Electricity
- early New York Medical Topographers/Climatologists, who developed their own unique form of medical regionalism in how they interpreted the healthiness of their place of residency and the surrounding county
Plese note: this section is expected to take a while due to the numbers of years of notes that have to be reviewed.