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1754-1783: Science, and Medicine: Chronology

1754-1783: Science, and Medicine: Chronology





  • 18 Nov. . An earthquake strikes the Boston area of Massachusetts. Afterwards the Reverend Thomas Prince reprints his 1727 sermon Earthquakes, the Works of God and Tokens of His Displeasure. Meanwhile Harvard College astronomer and mathematician John Winthrop publishes his scientific observations in Lectures on Earthquakes.


  • Yale College president Thomas Clap advances the theory of three terrestrial comets in orbit around the earth.
  • Benjamin Franklin is elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London.


  • John Winthrop publishes Two Lectures on Comets.
  • 3 Apr. Halleys Comet reappears as predicted.


  • In an effort to regulate the medical profession, New York requires all doctors and surgeons to obtain a license by first passing a test.
  • Jared Eliot, Connecticut clergyman and physician, publishes Essays Upon Field Husbandry in New England.


  • Inspired by new agricultural practices in Britain, Virginia planter George Washington starts to try crop rotation and soil fertilization at his estate Mount Vernon.
  • 6 June John Winthrop and a small group of Americans in Newfoundland observe the transit of Venus.


  • Flora Virginica (Virginia Plant Life) goes into a second edition using the new classification system of Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus.
  • Ethan Allen establishes an ironworks in Connecticut.


  • The first American medical society is founded in New London, Connecticut.


  • A smallpox epidemic in the Boston area prompts the establishment of two new inoculation hospitals.
  • 24 Jan. A fire on the campus of Harvard College destroys Harvard Hall along with all of the scientific equipment housed there.


  • Philadelphia physician John Morgan establishes the first American medical school at the College of Philadelphia.
  • 23 May Benjamin Gale, a Connecticut physician, writes a paper titled Historical Memoirs relating to . . . Inoculation for the Small Pox, in the British American Provinces, which advocates using mercury in preventing the disease.
  • 8 Dec. Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin, is born in Westboro, Massachusetts.


  • John Morgan establishes the Philadelphia Medical Society.


  • David Rittenhouse, a Philadelphia astronomer, builds a sophisticated and accurate orrery, a model of the solar system.
  • Kings College, New York, opens the second medical school in America.


  • South Carolina naturalist Alexander Garden discovers the Congo snake, a previously unknown American species.
  • The medical school at the College of Philadelphia graduates its first class of doctors.


  • Abel Buell, a silversmith from Connecticut, develops the first type fonts for printing made in America. Previously, all type was imported from Britain.
  • 2 Jan. The American Philosophical Society is revitalized in Philadelphia. Benjamin Franklin is elected its president, a position he holds until his death in 1790.
  • June The last transit of Venus observable from earth for 105 years is witnessed by American scientists.


  • Benjamin Rush, a Philadelphia physician, publishes the first American chemistry textbook: A Syllabus of a Course of Lectures on Chemistry.



  • Judge Andrew Oliver of Salem, Massachusetts, publishes An Essay on Comets, in Two Parts.
  • William DeBrahm, a Dutch emigrant to Georgia and surveyor general for the southern district, publishes The Atlantic Pilot, a guide for seafarers.


  • The first mental hospital in America opens in Williamsburg, Virginia.
  • Delaware inventor Oliver Evans proposes a steam-powered wagon.
  • Benjamin Franklin is elected an associate of the Academie Royale des Sciences in France.
  • 3 May. The Virginia Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge is founded. It awards its first gold medal to John Hobday for his threshing machine.


  • Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush writes an essay describing Native American healing practices and rituals.
  • Abraham Chovet, a surgeon and recent immigrant from Jamaica, establishes an anatomical wax museum in Philadelphia as a teaching tool for medical students.


  • David Bushnell, Connecticut inventor, designs and builds a workable submarine, the American Turtle, for use by the American military.
  • Alexander Garden writes a treatise on electric eels for the Royal Society of London.
  • 17 Oct. John Morgan becomes director-general of hospitals and physician-in-chief for the Continental Army.


  • Dr. Lionel Chalmers publishers An Account of the Weather and Diseases in South-Caralina.
  • 7 Sept. David Bushnells American Turtle makes the first submarine attack in history by attempting to attach a torpedo to a British warship in New York harbor.
  • 15 Sept. British troops capture New York and loot the library and scientific laboratories of Kings College.


  • George Washington orders the Continental Army to be inoculated against smallpox.
  • 9 Jan. Amid political intrigue, Congress dismisses John Morgan as director-general of hospitals and physician-in-chief of the Continental Army.


  • Lutheran clergyman Gotthilf H. Muhlenberg begins a lifelong, systematic study of American plants.
  • Dr. William Brown of Virginia publishes his Pharmacopoeia.


  • The College of William & Mary in Virginia establishes a school of medicine.


  • The American Academy of Sciences is instituted in Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Philadelphia physicians establish the Philadelphia Humane Society to teach first aid, primarily for drowning victims.


  • Dartmouth College Medical School is founded.
  • Rhode Island farmer and inventor Jeremiah Wilkinson devises a machine for making nails cut from iron plate.
  • 1 Nov. Massachusetts physician Cotton Tufts helps create the Massachusetts Medical Society.


  • Dr. William Shippen offers private lectures on birthing practices, signaling a shift from the use of midwives to doctors in childbirth.
  • Hugh Martin, a Continental Army surgeon, concocts a secret cure for cancer.


  • Abel Buell prints the first map of the new United States.
  • Josiah Flagg opens the first American dentistry practice in Boston, Massachusetts.
  • May Harvard Medical School opens.

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