Hutchinson, James, 1752-1793

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James Hutchinson was a Philadelphia physician.

From the description of Papers, 1771-1928. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122489504

From the description of Diary, 1777 Feb. 26-March 16. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122624377

James Hutchinson (1752-1793, APS 1779). Physician and a surgeon, Surgeon General of Pennsylvania, 1778-1784, born in Makefield Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Hutchinson was the son of Quaker farmer and stonemason Randall Hutchinson and his wife Katherine Milnor. In 1771 at the age of fifteen, Hutchinson was apprenticed to the apothecaries Moses Bartram (1732-1809, APS 1766) and Isaac Bartram (1725-1801, APS 1759). He became the pupil of Philadelphia physician Cadwalader Evans. He served as apothecary of the Pennsylvania Hospital (1773-1775) and earned a bachelor’s degree in Medicine from the College of Philadelphia. In 1776 he completed a twelve-month residency in London under John Fothergill at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, preparing for a surgical career. After the outbreak of the American War of Independence, Hutchinson returned home in early 1777 via France, carrying dispatches from Benjamin Franklin to the Continental Congress. He was elected a physician at the Pennsylvania Hospital in May 1777. Hutchinson tended the wounded soldiers from the battle of Germantown and inoculated more than 3,000 soldiers at Valley Forge against smallpox. He was an original member of the Philadelphia Medical Society and a trustee of the University of the State of Pennsylvania after 1779. Hutchinson founded the Philadelphia College of Physicians in 1787. He was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1779, and served as Secretary from 1782-1793.

Although a member of the Society of Friends, the American War of Independence caused Hutchinson to question Quaker pacifist convictions. The twenty-three year old medical student wrote in December 1775, “I have too great an affection for my Country not to feel its distresses.” For his efforts caring for Continental troops, Hutchinson was named senior surgeon of the Flying Camp of the Middle Department of the Continental Army on December 1, 1777 and appointed surgeon of the Pennsylania State Navy in 1778. He was also disowned by the Society of Friends on February 26, 1779 for quasi-military service.

Hutchinson’s sense of civic duty advanced in tandem with his professional stature. In 1779 he was reappointed to the staff of the Pennsylvania Hospital, where he specialized in surgery and obstetrics. He was also appointed one of the Port of Philadelphia’s quarantine physicians. After establishing the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1787, he served first as secretary, then as censor, responsible for maintaining ethical standards and professional conduct among the city’s doctors. As a trustee of the University of the State of Pennsylvania, he worked to revive medical education, and taught chemistry and material medica there after 1789. Later he became professor of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, created by the union of the old College of Philadelphia and the University of the State of Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, Hutchinson, motivated by a sense of civic responsibility and revolutionary fervor became increasing active in politics. In 1780, he served briefly in the Pennsylvania Assembly, although he soon decided that he was not interested in being an elected official. An anti-Federalist, Hutchinson was a strong supporter of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1825, APS 1780) and the founder of the Pennsylvania Democratic Society in 1793. He wrote lampoons and letters for the press, corresponded with other Democrats and kept abreast of Federalist schemes. He also served on a committee that received the French ambassador Edmond Charles Genet, who sought to galvanize American opinion in support of the French revolutionary government and against Great Britain.

Ultimately, Hutchinson’s sense for responsibility for his fellow citizens was manifest as Hutchinson moved among his patients during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793. He caught the contagion on August 30, and died one week later. His death focused public debate, led by Benjamin Rush on the cause and treatment of Yellow fever.

Hutchinson was twice married, first to Lydia Biddle in 1779 and then to Sydney Howell in 1786. He and Howell had two sons, and a daughter, who died in infancy.

From the guide to the James Hutchinson diary, February 26, 1777 - March 16, 1777, February 26-March 16, (American Philosophical Society)

James Hutchinson (1752-1793, APS 1779), physician and surgeon, Surgeon General of Pennsylvania, 1778-1784, was born in Makefield Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Hutchinson was the son of Quaker farmer and stonemason Randall Hutchinson and his wife Katherine Milnor. In 1771 at the age of fifteen, Hutchinson was apprenticed to the apothecaries Moses Bartram (1732-1809, APS 1766) and Isaac Bartram (1725-1801, APS 1759). He became the pupil of Philadelphia physician Cadwalader Evans. He served as apothecary of the Pennsylvania Hospital (1773-1775) and earned a bachelor’s degree in Medicine from the College of Philadelphia. In 1776 he completed a twelve-month residency in London under John Fothergill at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, preparing for a surgical career. After the outbreak of the American War of Independence, Hutchinson returned home in early 1777 via France, carrying dispatches from Benjamin Franklin to the Continental Congress. He was elected a physician at the Pennsylvania Hospital in May 1777. Hutchinson tended the wounded soldiers from the battle of Germantown and inoculated more than 3,000 soldiers at Valley Forge against smallpox. He was an original member of the Philadelphia Medical Society and a trustee of the University of the State of Pennsylvania after 1779. Hutchinson was a founder the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1787. He was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1779, and served as Secretary from 1782-1793.

Although a member of the Society of Friends, the American War of Independence caused Hutchinson to question Quaker pacifist convictions. The twenty-three year old medical student wrote in December 1775, “I have too great an affection for my Country not to feel its distresses.” For his efforts caring for Continental troops, Hutchinson was named senior surgeon of the Flying Camp of the Middle Department of the Continental Army on December 1, 1777 and appointed surgeon of the Pennsylania State Navy in 1778. He was disowned by the Society of Friends on February 26, 1779 for quasi-military service.

Hutchinson’s sense of civic duty advanced in tandem with his professional stature. In 1779 he was reappointed to the staff of the Pennsylvania Hospital, where he specialized in surgery and obstetrics. He was also appointed one of the Port of Philadelphia’s quarantine physicians. After establishing the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1787, he served first as secretary, then as censor, responsible for maintaining ethical standards and professional conduct among the city’s doctors. As a trustee of the University of the State of Pennsylvania, he worked to revive medical education, and taught chemistry and materia medica there after 1789. Later he became professor of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, created by the union of the old College of Philadelphia and the University of the State of Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, Hutchinson, motivated by a sense of civic responsibility and revolutionary fervor, became increasing active in politics. In 1780, he served briefly in the Pennsylvania Assembly, although he soon decided that he was not interested in being an elected official. An anti-Federalist, Hutchinson was a strong supporter of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1825, APS 1780) and the founder of the Pennsylvania Democratic Society in 1793. He wrote lampoons and letters for the press, corresponded with other Democrats and kept abreast of Federalist schemes. He also served on a committee that received the French ambassador Edmond Charles Genet, who sought to galvanize American opinion in support of the French revolutionary government and against Great Britain.

Ultimately, Hutchinson’s sense for responsibility for his fellow citizens was manifest as Hutchinson moved among his patients during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793. He caught the contagion on August 30, and died one week later. His death focused public debate, led by Benjamin Rush, on the cause and treatment of Yellow fever.

Hutchinson was twice married, first to Lydia Biddle in 1779 and then to Sydney Howell in 1786. He and Howell had two sons, and a daughter, who died in infancy.

From the guide to the James Hutchinson papers, 1771-1928, 1771-1928, (American Philosophical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Hutchinson, James, 1752-1793. Diary, 1777 Feb. 26-March 16. American Philosophical Society Library
creatorOf James Hutchinson papers, 1771-1928, 1771-1928 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Hutchinson, James, 1752-1793. Papers, 1771-1928. American Philosophical Society Library
creatorOf American Philosophical Society. Membership certificate, 1786 Jan. 20, of John Jay. Rosenbach Museum & Library
creatorOf James Hutchinson diary, February 26, 1777 - March 16, 1777, February 26-March 16 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn United States. Continental Army. General orders, 1779 October 27. American Periodical Series I
creatorOf [James Hutchinson, biographical materials] University of Wisconsin - Madison, General Library System
referencedIn Logan family. Papers, 1664-1871. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection, 1668-1983, Bulk, 1750-1850, 1668-1983 American Philosophical Society
Role Title Holding Repository
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associatedWith Hutchinson, S. Pemberton (Sydney Pemberton), 1861-1929 person
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Place Name Admin Code Country
Pennsylvania--Philadelphia
England--London
Subject
Voyages and travels
Philadelphia History
Medicine
Americans Abroad
Medicine--Study and teaching--18th century
Medicine--Study and teaching--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia--18th century
Medicine--Study and teaching--England--London--18th century
Marriage and Family Life
Education
International travel
Religion
American Revolution
Occupation
Function

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Birth 1752-01-29

Death 1793-09-05

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