This Collection: | Timeline | Search/Browse | Contributors | Permissions | Help | HOME

Cholera Epidemics in the 19th Century

The Great Plague of London, 1665

The Boston Smallpox Epidemic, 1721

“Pestilence” and the Printed Books of the Late 15th Century

Spanish Influenza in North America, 1918–1919

Syphilis, 1494–1923

Tropical Diseases and the Construction of the Panama Canal, 1904–1914

Tuberculosis in Europe and North America, 1800–1922

The Yellow Fever Epidemic in Philadelphia, 1793

General Materials

Notable People

Related Links


Benjamin Waterhouse Papers

Benjamin Waterhouse (MD 1780, Leiden University) is known as the first person to successfully vaccinate for smallpox in the United States. He was the first professor of medicine at Harvard and the first to give a course of lectures on natural history at the College of Rhode Island (later known as Brown University) in Providence. He was the founder of a botanical garden at Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the curator of the collection of minerals at Harvard.

The rich collections of Waterhouse papers at the Countway Library contain correspondence files that include autographed letters to Waterhouse—principally related to vaccinating against smallpox—from Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Edward Jenner, Dr. Sylvanus Fansher, Justice Peter Oliver, and others. Letters from Thomas Jefferson illustrate the President’s support for vaccination against smallpox and discuss vaccine “matter” sent by Waterhouse. Jefferson also discusses his ideas on agriculture, especially the benefits of a variety of rice he introduced into America. Lecture files include those from Harvard Medical School and elsewhere on natural history, mineralogy, botany, and other medical topics. Files of writings include those on smallpox, botanical classification, and epidemics. Materials also include family papers and papers belonging to a son, John Fothergill Waterhouse (1838, Harvard; 1842, Harvard Divinity School), and to his wives, Elizabeth Oliver and Louisa Lee Waterhouse. Family papers include the inoculation and vaccination records of the Waterhouse children, as well as petitions and reports regarding inoculation for smallpox in Cambridge, Massachusetts.