Parker, Peter, 1804-1888

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Peter Parker, medical missionary and diplomat to China, was born in Framingham, Massachusetts in 1804. His parents were farmers and devout followers of the orthodox Congregational faith. After graduation from Yale College in 1831, Parker studied both theology and medicine and was awarded an M.D. from Yale in 1834. In January of the same year he was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry in Philadelphia and departed a month after for Canton as the first Protestant medical missionary to China. With assistance from American and British benefactors, he opened in 1835 the Ophthalmic Hospital at Canton. Parker specialized in treating diseases of the eyes, especially cataracts, but also performed general surgery including the removal of large tumors. He is probably best known for the introduction of anesthesia to China, employing sulphuric ether. With the onset of the Opium War (1840-1842), Parker returned to America, where he sought financial support for his hospital and married Harriet Colby Webster in 1841. In 1842, Parker resumed his medical practice at Canton and became involved in diplomatic relations between America and China. In 1844 he served under Caleb Cushing, U.S. Attorney General, and assisted in negotiating the first treaty between the two countries. Due to a prolonged illness, Parker returned to the United States in 1855 only to sail back to China later that year as the American Commissioner and Minister to China. Parker settled in Washington D.C. in 1857, where he became active in organizations such as the Evangelical Alliance for the United States of America and the Smithsonian Institution, as well as in the medical community. He died in January 1888.

From the description of Peter Parker collection, 1823-1947 (inclusive), 1823-1884 (bulk). (Yale University). WorldCat record id: 702171624

From the description of Peter Parker collection, 1823-1947 (inclusive), 1823-1884 (bulk). (Yale University). WorldCat record id: 703648735

Peter Parker, medical missionary and diplomat to China, was born in Framingham, Massachusetts on June 18, 1804. His parents were farmers and devout followers of the orthodox Congregational faith. He attended Amherst College and then transferred to Yale College in 1830. After graduation in 1831, Parker studied both theology and medicine and was awarded an M.D. from Yale in 1834. In January 1834 he was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry in Philadelphia and, under the auspices of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, he departed a month later for Canton as the first Protestant medical missionary to China. With assistance from American and British benefactors, he opened in 1835 the Ophthalmic Hospital at Canton. Parker specialized in treating diseases of the eyes, especially cataracts, but also performed general surgery including the removal of large tumors, and lithotomies. In 1847, he became the first physician to introduce anesthesia to China. With the onset of the Opium War (1840-1842), Parker returned to America in 1840, where he sought financial support for his hospital in the United States and Europe. In Washington, D.C., he met with goverment officials and urged the sending of an envoy to China. He met and married Harriet Colby Webster in 1841. In 1842, Parker resumed his medical missionary practice at Canton and became involved in diplomatic relations between America and China. In 1844 he served as translator and assistant under Caleb Cushing, U.S. Attorney General, and participtated in negotiating the first treaty between the two countries, the Treaty of Wanghia. Dismissed by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1847 because the Board doubted the utility of medical missionaries, Parker continued his hospital until 1855 while acting as a part-time member of the American Legation. Due to a prolonged illness, Parker returned to the United States in 1855 only to sail back to China later that year as American Commissioner to China. Recalled by the U.S. government in 1857, Parker and his wife settled inWashington, D.C., where he was active in organizations such as the Evangelical Alliance for the United States of America, the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, and the medical community. He died on January 10, 1888.

From the guide to the Peter Parker collection, 1823-1947, 1823-1884, (Historical Library, Harvey Cushing / John Hay Whitney Medical Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Parkes, Harry, Sir, 1828-1885. Papers, 1853-1872. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
creatorOf Sigourney, L. H. (Lydia Howard), 1791-1865. Letter, 1865 January 24, Hartford, Conn., to Peter Parker, Washington, D.C. Connecticut Historical Society
referencedIn College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Office of the Secretary. Letters acknowledging associate fellowship, 1839-1850. College of Physicians of Philadelphia
creatorOf Peter Parker collection, 1823-1947, 1823-1884 Historical Library, Harvey Cushing / John Hay Whitney Medical Library
creatorOf Adams, Charles Francis, 1807-1886. Everett-Peabody family papers, 1778-1908. Library of Congress
creatorOf Parker, Peter, 1804-1888. Peter Parker collection, 1823-1947 (inclusive), 1823-1884 (bulk). Yale University, Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library
creatorOf Parker, Peter, 1804-1888. Peter Parker collection, 1823-1947 (inclusive), 1823-1884 (bulk). Yale University, Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library
referencedIn Williams, S. Wells (Samuel Wells), 1812-1884. Samuel Wells Williams family papers, 1824-1936 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Williams, S. Wells (Samuel Wells), 1812-1884. Samuel Wells Williams family papers, 1809-1983 (inclusive), 1809-1941 (bulk). Yale University Library
referencedIn Armstrong, James, 1794-1868. James Armstrong papers, 1814-1868; bulk: 1852-1866. Peabody Essex Museum
referencedIn Samuel Wells Williams family papers, 1809-1983, 1809-1941 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. corporateBody
associatedWith Amherst College corporateBody
associatedWith Armstrong, James, 1794-1868. person
associatedWith Bowring, John, Sir, 1792-1872. person
associatedWith Buchanan, James, 1791-1868. person
associatedWith Cadbury, William Warder, 1877-1959 person
associatedWith Canton Hospital (Guangzhou, China) corporateBody
associatedWith College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Office of the Secretary. corporateBody
associatedWith Congressional Temperance Society (Washington, D.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith Cushing, Caleb, 1800-1879 person
associatedWith Evangelical Alliance for the United States of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Lam Qua. person
associatedWith Lam Qua. person
associatedWith Medical Missionary Society in China. corporateBody
associatedWith Parker, Harriet Colby Webster person
associatedWith Parker, Harriet Colby Webster. person
associatedWith Parkes, Harry, Sir, 1828-1885. person
associatedWith Sigourney, L. H. (Lydia Howard), 1791-1865. person
associatedWith United States. Dept. of State corporateBody
associatedWith White, Moses Clark, 1819-1900 person
associatedWith Williams, S. Wells (Samuel Wells), 1812-1884. person
associatedWith Yale College (1718-1887) corporateBody
associatedWith Yale College, 1718-1887. Class of 1831 corporateBody
associatedWith Yale College, 1718-1887. Medical Institution. Class of 1834 corporateBody
associatedWith Yale University. School of Medicine. Class of 1834 corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
China
China
Subject
Ophthalmology
Hospitals--China
Missionaries, Medical
Hospitals
Surgery
Missionaries, Medical--China
Anesthesia--China
Urinary organs--calculi
Occupation
Surgeons
Diplomats
Missionaries, Medical
Physicians
Function

Person

Birth 1804-06-18

Death 1888-01-10

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