Boston's First Medical Society *


The cobblestones of Hanover and Brattle Streets and of Cornhill, Boston, had an attraction at the turn of the last century for the suburban lad, who, wending his way through those historic paths of the former center of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, often sought the street to avoid the uneven sidewalks with their helter-skelter curbings. Even the round cobblestones between the rails of the trolley tracks brought back anew visions of the plodding horses pulling the cars of the late nineteenth century uptown from the railroad terminal on Causeway Street, or around by the wharves on Atlantic Avenue. It is not difficult to picture these same thoroughfares almost two hundred years earlier at the time inoculation against smallpox was introduced by Zabdiel Boylston and as bitterly opposed for several years by William Douglass. We know that this same Dr. Douglass lived on Hanover Street, for there appears in the Report of the Record Commissioners of the City of Boston for 1736-1742 the following: Liberty is hereby granted to Doctor William Douglass to Dig up the Pavement and Open the Ground in Hanover Street, in order to Clear the Drain from his Cellar, into the, Common Shore in said Street. Upon Condition that he forthwith make good the Ground and Pavement again, and keep the same in repair from time to time to the Satisfaction of the Selectmen. But why this interest in William Douglass and the historic streets of old Boston? Varying dates have been furnished for the first medical society in Massachusetts. Dr. Gardner, in the "History of Middlesex North District Medical Society" which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, tells us that the first medical association in Middlesex County was formed in 1829. Thacher's American Medical Biography states that the Honorable Oliver Prescott, M. D., M.M.S.S., and A.A.S., was "president of the Middlesex Medical Society during the whole period of its existence." Dr. Prescott lived from 1731 to 1804. His "Middlesex Medical Society" must have dated after 1750 and before 1805 to claim his honorable personage as president. Middlesex County may have organized a medical society in the late eighteenth or early

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@article{Weld1947BostonsFM, title={Boston's First Medical Society *}, author={Stanley B. Weld}, journal={The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine}, year={1947}, volume={19}, pages={923 - 935} }