Nathan Smith (physician)

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Nathan Smith
Nathan Smith (physician) - color.jpg
Born(1762-08-30)August 30, 1762
DiedJanuary 26, 1829(1829-01-26) (aged 66)
Alma materHarvard Medical School
OccupationPhysician and educator
ChildrenNathan Ryno Smith

Nathan Smith (September 30, 1762 – January 26, 1829)[1] was one of New England’s best-known and respected physicians. He was a skilled surgeon, teacher, writer, and practitioner. At a time when most American physicians were poorly educated, he single-handedly founded Dartmouth Medical School, and co-founded the University of Vermont College of Medicine, the medical school at Bowdoin College, and the Yale School of Medicine.


Smith was born in Rehoboth, Massachusetts on September 30, 1762.[2] When he was young, the family moved to a farm in Chester, Vermont, where Nathan attended public school.[2] Nathan served in the Vermont militia, whose job was to defend against Indians at the border.[2]

Smith decided to study medicine at age 24, after seeing an operation performed by Dr. Josiah Goodhue. Smith spent three years with Dr. Goodhue at Putney, Vermont, then opened his own practice at Cornish, New Hampshire.[2] He later went to the Harvard College's medical department where he obtained his MB in 1790.[3] Smith was the third graduate of Harvard's medical department. He was later awarded an MD by Harvard in 1811. In 1803 Smith had gone to the University of Edinburgh where he attended medical classes for a year.

Finding a need for medical education, Smith founded the medical department at Dartmouth College.[2] Initially the only member of the Dartmouth Medical School faculty, Smith taught anatomy, chemistry, surgery, and clinical medicine. He essentially served as dean and treasurer of the medical school, also. Smith emphasized experience rather than theory, and he largely eschewed bleeding and purging, favoring support of the body's own healing powers and attentiveness to the patient's comfort. Using these principles, he was a consultant on the child Joseph Smith, the future founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, saving his leg from amputation.

At Yale Smith was the first professor of physic, surgery and obstetrics.[4]

Death and legacy[edit]

Smith died January 26, 1829[5] at New Haven, Connecticut.[2] Three of his sons became physicians,[2] the most prominent being Nathan Ryno Smith.

A collection of notes taken on his medical lectures between 1814 and 1815 are held at the National Library of Medicine.[6] The Nathan Smith Society at Dartmouth College serves students interested in the health professions.[7]

See also[edit]

Smith-Theobald Family


  1. ^ James Stuart Olson (26 June 1989). The History of Cancer: An Annotated Bibliography. ABC-CLIO. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-313-25889-3. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Tilton, George Henry (1918). A History of Rehoboth, Massachusetts: Its History for 275 Years, 1643-1918. pp. 379-180. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  3. ^ history of surgery at the University of Vermont. Retrieved on 2012-04-25.
  4. ^ Harry Friedenwald (1931). "Samuel Theobald, M. D". Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc. 29: 14–18. PMC 1316785.
  5. ^ Nathan Smith at Find a Grave
  6. ^ "Lectures on the theory and practice of physic 1814-1815". National Library of Medicine.
  7. ^ "About the Nathan Smith Society". Nathan Smith Society at Dartmouth College. Dartmouth College. Retrieved 31 January 2016.

External links[edit]