Sunday, December 13, 2009

Nathaniel Appleton

Years Served: 1787 to 1789

Dr Nathaniel Appleton was one of the first port physicians in Boston, serving in that position from 1788 to 1789. Dr Appleton like most boys with aspirations to attend Harvard went to the town’s Latin school which he entered in 1762. He graduated from Harvard in 1772 and two years later he went to work for Dr. Edward Augustus Holyoke, a cousin to his father who had his practice in Salem. With the exception of brief service as a surgeon’s mate at the siege of Boston, spent the next three years working for Holyoke. The Revolutionary War had a profound impact on medical practices in Boston. Prior to the war there were 21 physicians in Boston but after the British evacuation in the spring of 1776 only nine physicians had a practice there. Physicians were an unregulated profession prior to the war and he was mindful of the dangers such a situation posed to apprentice physicians like himself. Under the guidance of Holyoke, he played a central role in the creation of the Massachusetts Medical Society as its recording secretary. In that capacity he played a key role on various committees dealing with the qualifications for medical licensing and establishing the seal of the organization. He was never considered one of the most prominent physicians in Boston but was still a leader and he managed to build a devoted following including amongst the town’s selectmen who chose him to inspect vessels for contagious disease. He was a member of the First Church of Boston from 1786to 1787and again from 1789 to 1794. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences n 1789.

After a series of illnesses he finally moved to Marietta, Ohio in 1794 and then eventually moved to Washington DC where he caught malaria. He returned to Boston, where he died on April 15, 1795. His obituary exalted him as a “Christian from inquiry and a Patriot from Principle.” His service to Boston’s quarantine program reflected his commitment to public service and this work brought him in touch with a wide range of public officials who came to appreciate his dedication, gentleness of manners and firmness of character.

To learn about other Port Physicians that worked on Boston's maritime quarantine program, go to the Port Physician blog:

Source: Wright, C. E., & Hanson, E. W. (1999). Biographical sketches of graduates of Harvard University, in the Classes of 1772-1774. Boston, MA: Massachusetts Historical Society.

No comments:

Post a Comment