Skip to main content

1815-1850: Science and Medicine: Chronology

1815-1850: Science and Medicine: Chronology




  • Thomas Eddy publishes his Hints for Introducing an Improved Mode of Treating the Insane in Asylums.


  • Parker Cleaveland publishes An Elementary Treatise on Mineralogy and Geology.


  • Publication of Thomas Says American Entomology; or Descriptions of the Insects of North America begins in Philadelphia, in four parts, to be completed in 1828. It includes illustrations by Titian Ramsey Peale.
  • Philadelphia Quakers, Mowing the model of Samuel Tukes York Retreat in England, establish the Frankford Retreat to treat the mentally ill.
  • Amos Eaton publishes his Manual of Botanyfor the Northern States, which sees eight editions in the next twenty-five years.
  • The Lyceum of Natural History of New York is founded; it becomes the New York Academy of Sciences in 1876.
  • The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia begins publishing its Journal.


  • Benjamin Siliman Sr. helps to found the American Journal of Science and the Arts, which he subsequently edits for twenty-eight years, and the Yale Medical School.
  • Thomas Nuttall publishes The Genera of North American Plants, and Catalogue of the Species to the Year 1817.


  • John Gorham publishes his Elements of Chemical Science, the earliest chemistry textbook by an American.
  • Benjamin Silliman Sr. and George Gibbs establish the American Geological Society, which survives until 1828.


  • The American Antiquarian Society is established to promote the study of archaeology.
  • Nathaniel Chapman begins the Philadelphia Journal of the Medical and Physical Sciences.


  • The architect Ithiel Town writes an article advocating a form of truss bridge with a diamond pattern of closely spaced diagonals.


  • John C. Warren becomes the first American to publish a work on comparative anatomy, Comparative View of the Sensorial and Nervous Systems in Men and Animals.


  • Denison Olmsted conducts the first state-sponsored geological survey in North Carolina.


  • The Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts is established in Philadelphia.
  • At the behest of Amos Eaton, who serves as its senior professor, Stephen Van Rensselaer establishes the Rensselaer School in Troy, New York, to promote the study of science and engineering. The school becomes Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1851.


  • Amasa Holcomb of Southwick, Massachusetts, begins manufacturing reflecting and achromatic telescopes.
  • Dr. Hans Burch Gram, a German immigrant, brings Samuel Hahnemans philosophy of homeopathic medicine to the United States.



  • John James Audubon begins publishing his Birds of America, documenting 1, 065 birds in 435 aquatints, in Great Britain, with the last volume appearing in 1838. The accompanying volumes of text, Ornithological Biography, appear between 1831 and 1839.
  • The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is established.


  • The Yak Report promotes the idea of a natural-science curriculum.


  • James Smithson bequeaths $550, 000 to the government of the United States to establish a scientific institution.
  • Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps publishes her Familiar Lectures on Botany, one of the most popular botanical works of the nineteenth century. It has twenty-nine editions and sells 375, 000 copies.



  • Joseph Henry discovers electromagnetic induction, independent of Michael Faradays work in England. The discovery makes possible Samuel F. B. Morses telegraph.


  • Johann Kaspar Spurzheim of Vienna introduces phrenology to the United States.
  • The first major cholera epidemic occurs in the United States.
  • Congress reauthorizes the dormant United States Coast Survey.


  • Worcester State Lunatic Hospital opens in Massachusetts.
  • William Beaumont publishes his Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice and the Physiology of Digestion, one of the few major contributions by an American to science and medicine in the antebellum period.


  • The United States government employs its first geologist, George William Featherstonhaugh.


  • The Western Academy of Natural Sciences is established in Cincinnati.


  • Asa Gray publishes his The Elements of Botany, the first American botanical text to abandon the traditional Linnaean classification system.


  • William W. Gerard develops clinical tests to distinguish typhus and typhoid fever in diagnosis.
  • Indiana and Massachusetts each authorize state geological surveys.
  • Samuel F. B. Morse demonstrates the telegraph.


  • Asa Gray and John Torrey begin publishing their Flora of North America using a modern classification system; the project is completed in 1843.
  • Albert Hopkins establishes the first permanent astronomical observatory in the United States at Williams College in Massachusetts.


  • Chapin Aaron Harris founds the American Journal of Dental Science.
  • The Boston Lunatic Hospital is established.


  • J. Marion Sims begins to develop experimental surgical techniques for repairing vesico-vaginal fistulas, using slave women as subjects.
  • Publication of an American edition of John James Audubons Birds of America begins and is completed in 1844.
  • Chapin Aaron Harris establishes the first dental school in the world, the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, and also organizes the American Society of Dental Surgeons in New York City.
  • John W. Draper, physicist and astronomer, is the first person to photograph the moon.
  • Edward Hitchcock, Benjamin Silliman Sr., and Henry Darwin Rogers organize the Association of American Geologists and Naturalists, predecessor to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


  • Dr. Crawford W. Long of Georgia begins experimenting with the use of ether during surgery.
  • James Espy becomes the first official meteorologist to the United States government.
  • Funds to construct the United States Naval Observatory are appropriated.
  • The American Ethnological Society is established.
  • The Cincinnati Astronomical Society is established.


  • Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes publishes a treatise titled The Contagiousness of Puerperal [Childbed] Fever in The New England Quarterly Journal of Medicine.
  • Dorothea Dix submits her Memorial to the Legislature of Massachusetts protesting the incarceration of the mentally ill in prisons.
  • William Cranch Bond successfully raises a private subscription to establish the Harvard Astronomical Observatory.


  • The Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane (later renamed the American Psychiatric Association) is established.
  • John H. Griscom, M.D., delivers a lecture, Sanitary Conditions of the Laboring Population of New York, an important catalyst to the early public-health movement.
  • Connecticut dentist Horace Wells uses nitrous oxide as an anesthetic while extracting teeth.
  • Samuel Tyler publishes his Discourse on the Baconian Philosophy to defend and promote Baconianism as the foundation of American science.
  • Josiah Nott of Alabama argues that the different races of humans were separately created.


  • Scientific American is founded.


  • The 1829 bequest of James Smithson is finally put to use. The United States Congress establishes the Smithsonian Institution for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.
  • Benjamin Silliman Jr. and John Pitkin Norton establish the School of Applied Chemistry in New Haven, which later becomes Yales Sheffield School of Science.
  • Oct . Louis Agassiz arrives in the United States to lecture at the Lowell Institute in Boston.
  • 6 Oct . Dr. William T. G. Morton demonstrates the use of ether as an anesthetic for group of Boston physicians.




  • Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in the United States to receive a medical degree, graduates from Geneva Medical College in New York.
  • The Smithsonian Institution initiates an international exchange program for scientific periodicals.


  • The Womens Medical College of Pennsylvania is founded.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"1815-1850: Science and Medicine: Chronology." American Eras. . 14 Jan. 2019 <>.

"1815-1850: Science and Medicine: Chronology." American Eras. . (January 14, 2019).

"1815-1850: Science and Medicine: Chronology." American Eras. . Retrieved January 14, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.