Waterhouse, Benjamin, 1754–1846, American physician, b. Newport, R.I. He studied at the universities of Edinburgh and Leiden. In 1783 he became professor on the first faculty of the Harvard medical school. In 1800 he inoculated members of his household with vaccine obtained from England, thus introducing the method of Edward Jenner into America. Inoculation had been used by Zahdiel Boylston and others, but Waterhouse was the first American physician to establish it as a general practice.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
Waterhouse, Benjamin(1754–1846) physician; born in Newport, R.I. One of the best educated American physicians of his time, he studied in Europe for seven years before joining the new Harvard Medical Department in 1783. Following the latest claims by Edward Jenner, he imported cowpox vaccine for his son and a servant boy (1799); the servant boy was then inoculated with smallpox and survived. Waterhouse continued vaccinating with success, but in the rush to follow him, others administered impure vaccine and some people died; there was a backlash against him but he was cleared by a committee of physicians (1802). Stressing the necessity of pure vaccine, he continued to promote vaccination and was instrumental in its success in America. After differences with colleagues at the Harvard Medical School turned bitter, he was forced to resign (1812) and he spent several years (1813–20) as superintendent of army posts in New England. In later years he traced the cause of moral decline in youth to intemperance.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.