Otto, Bodo

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Otto, Bodo

OTTO, BODO. (1711–1787). Continental army surgeon. Pennsylvania. Born in Hanover, Germany, in 1711, Bodo Otto studied medicine for several years before setting up his practice in Luneberg in 1736. In 1755 he emigrated to Philadelphia, moving in 1773 to Reading, Pennsylvania, where he achieved great influence among the German population. At the start of the Revolution he was a leader in the Patriot cause. He held several elected offices before being appointed senior surgeon of the Middle Division in 1776, seeing action at Long Island that summer. On 17 February 1777 the Continental Congress ordered Otto to establish a smallpox hospital at Trenton, New Jersey, where he remained until September. He was then assigned to a hospital at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he served until the spring of 1778. He next took charge of the hospitals at Yellow Springs, near Valley Forge, where he remained for the duration of the war. During this period he held a commission as colonel in the New Jersey militia. When the medical department was reorganized, Otto was one of fifteen physicians selected for the hospital department. He was given the title of Hospital Physician and Surgeon on 6 October 1780. He retired from the army on 1 February 1782 and reopened his Philadelphia office, but soon moved to Baltimore, Maryland. In 1784 he moved to Reading, Pennsylvania, where he died on 12 June 1787. Three of his sons assisted him during his Revolutionary War service.

SEE ALSO Medical Practice during the Revolution.


Gibson, James Edgar. Dr. Bodo Otto and the Medical Background of the American Revolution. Springfield, Ill.: Thomas, 1937.

                           revised by Michael Bellesiles