1783-1815: Science and Medicine: Chronology

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1783-1815: Science and Medicine: Chronology




  • Oliver Evans of Delaware invents the fully mechanized flour mill.
  • Harvard Medical School is established.


  • Benjamin Franklin invents bifocal eyeglasses; now, he claims, at dinner he can see both his food and the person sitting across the table.



  • The Philadelphia Dispensary, the first public clinic in America, is opened by Dr. Benjamin Rush. In its first full year 1, 647 patients are treated.
  • Revolutionary writer Thomas Paine builds a model of a single-span iron bridge that he hopes to erect over the five-hundred-foot-wide Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. Investors, however, are wary, and Paine eventually abandons his plans.


  • 22 Aug. John Fitch of Connecticut demonstrates the first steamboat in America on the Delaware River; the steam engine in this boat powers oars rather than a wheel.


  • A New York City mob, suspecting physicians and medical students of graverobbing, attacks a group of doctors who are discovered dissecting a cadaver.



  • Congress enacts the first patent law, and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson acts as administrator of patents.
  • American dentist Joseph Flagg invents the dentists chair.
  • George Washingtons dentist, John Greenwood, invents the dental drill.
  • Samuel Slater reproduces an Arkwright (British) mechanized textile mill on the Blackstone River in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
  • 31 July The first U.S. patent is awarded to Samuel Hopkins of Vermont for his method of making pearl ash (used in glass, pigment, and soap production) from wood ashes.


  • John Fitch and James Rumsey are both awarded patents on their steamboats, furthering the animosity between these two rivals.
  • Alexander Hamiltons Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures begins operations at the nations first large-scale industrial village in Paterson, New Jersey, at the falls of the Passaic River.
  • William Bartram, the first American-born botanist to gain international recognition, publishes Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws, an account of his four-year journey in quest of animal and plant specimens.
  • The College of Philadelphia and the University of the State of Pennsylvania merge to form the University of Pennsylvania Medical School.


  • Timothy Palmer builds the first modern truss bridge (with triangular upper supports) over the Merrimack River in Massachusetts.
  • John Prince builds the first microscope made in the United States.


  • A severe yellow fever epidemic strikes Philadelphia, killing five thousand people.
  • Samuel Slater, Moses Brown, and William Almy build a new factory specifically designed for spinning cotton in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
  • The first canal for purposes of navigation in the United States is constructed in South Hadley, Massachusetts.


  • The Dismal Swamp Canal, connecting Virginias Chesapeake Bay and Albemarle Sound in North Carolina, is completed.
  • A sixty-six-mile-long toll road, with a top layer of crushed stone, is completed between Philadelphia and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
  • 14 Mar. Eli Whitney of Connecticut receives a patent for his cotton gin; the gin (short for engine ) is a wooden cylinder with protruding spikes, turned by a hand crank, that extracts the seeds from picked cotton.


  • The first U.S. armory is established in Springfield, Massachusetts.
  • Plagued by insufficient capital, an inadequate labor force, and poor transportation, the Paterson, New Jersey, industrial village founded by Alexander Hamilton is forced to close.


  • James Finley of Pennsylvania builds a suspension bridge using chains.
  • The first U.S. patent for a medical device is granted to Elisha Perkins of Connecticut for his metallic tractors, which supposedly cure pain by drawing off excessive electric fluid from the body.
  • Samuel Lee Jr. of Connecticut is the first American to obtain an official patent for a medicine; he claims that his Bilious Pills cure yellow fever, dysentery, worms, and female complaints.



  • The Sault Sainte Marie Canal is built by the Northwest Fur Company to connect Lakes Huron and Superior; its lock is the first in America.
  • Robert Fulton builds a four-person submarine, called Nautilus; he tries to interest Napoleon Bonaparte in the idea but is unsuccessful.
  • John Fitch dies, in utter despair over his failure to make his steamboat invention commercially successful.



  • Eli Whitney devises a method of making muskets by manufacturing interchangeable parts, rather than crafting each musket individually.
  • Connecticut clock maker Eli Terry uses waterpower to speed up the process of making wooden parts for his clocks.


  • Robert Hare invents the hydrogen-oxygen blowpipe, the forerunner of the modern welding torch.


  • The city of Philadelphia builds a steam-powered municipal waterworks.
  • The U.S. Patent Office is founded.
  • The Massachusetts Medical Society publishes the nations first official pharmacopoeia, a list of medicinal drugs with their preparation and use.



  • John Stevens demonstrates a steamboat that uses a screw propeller, a great improvement over the paddle wheel.
  • Oliver Evans builds the first steam dredge, in Philadelphia.
  • Evans receives a patent for his high-pressure steam engine; it is smaller yet more powerful than low-pressure engines.
  • 14 May Meriwether Lewis and William Clark leave Saint Louis for their expedition to the Pacific Ocean.


  • Robert Fulton builds the first marine torpedo.
  • The first covered bridgecovered to protect the bridge structure, not people-is built over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia; it is a three-span wooden structure.
  • July Lewis and Clark find the headwaters of the Missouri River.
  • 8 Nov. The Lewis and Clark expedition reaches the Pacific Ocean.


  • Davis Bemis lights his Waltham, Massachusetts, factory with illuminating gas.
  • 23 Sept. Lewis and Clark return to Saint Louis from their twenty-eight-month expedition. They bring back great quantities of information on animals, vegetation, Native Americans, and the geography of the western United States.


  • Robert Fultons North River Steam Boat (later renamed Clermont ) makes its maiden voyage on the East River in New York.
  • Official government-sponsored mapping of the United States is begun by the Coast Survey, a federal agency that still exists today as the Coast and Geodetic Survey.
  • Eli Terry creates a mechanized system to mass-produce affordable clocks.


  • Eli Whitney finally delivers to the War Department the four thousand mass-produced muskets that he had promised to manufacture by 1801.
  • John Stevenss Phoenix makes the first seagoing voyage by a steamboat, from New York City to Philadelphia.


  • The first American suspension bridge strong enough to support vehicles is built across the Merrimack River in Massachusetts.
  • Ephraim McDowell performs an ovariotomy in Danville, Kentucky, the first such operation in the world.
  • William Maclure publishes Observations on the Geology of the United States of America, containing the first geological map of the nation.


  • Oliver Evans builds the first steam-powered flour mill in Pittsburgh.


  • Robert Fulton builds the Chancellor Livingston, a 160-foot, sixty-horsepower steamboat named for his partner, Robert Livingston, the former U.S. ambassador to France.
  • A woolen mill in Middletown, Connecticut, is the first steam-powered industrial plant in the United States; it features a twenty-four-horsepower high-pressure engine invented by Oliver Evans.
  • John Hall of Maine patents the breech-loading rifle; Hall would later supervise rifle making at the United States Armory at Harpers Ferry, where he perfected the system of manufacturing interchangeable parts.


  • Benjamin Rush publishes Medical Inquiries and Observations, upon the Diseases of the Mind, a pioneering work in mental health.
  • The first issue of the New England Medical Review and Journal is published; today it is called the New England Journal of Medicine.
  • John Stevens publishes Documents Tending to Prove the Superior Advantages of Rail-ways and Steam-carriages over Canal Navigation.


  • Kings College and University of New York medical schools merge to form Columbia University Medical School.
  • The Association for the Relief of Respectable, Aged, Indigent Females is established in New York, probably the first such agency for poor women in America.
  • New Hampshire farmer Samuel Thompson receives a patent for his herbal medicine, composed mostly of lobelia, to induce vomiting. The Thompsonian system of steam baths and purges becomes a national phenomenon.
  • Elisha Coller designs a rotating bullet chamber for a flintlock musket; Samuel Colt would later adapt this idea for his famous revolver.


  • Francis C. Lowell and Paul Moody perfect a power loom for use in their new textile mill in Waltham, Massachusetts.


  • The first steam-powered warship is built in the United States.
  • John Stevens convinces the New Jersey legislature to create a company to erect a rail road from the river Delaware near Trenton to the river Raritan at or near New Brunswick.

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1783-1815: Science and Medicine: Chronology

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1783-1815: Science and Medicine: Chronology