Richard Bayley

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Richard Bayley
DiedAugust 17, 1801(1801-08-17) (aged 55–56)
Cause of deathYellow fever
Resting placeSt. Andrew's Church (Staten Island, New York)
40°34′22.3″N 74°8′50.5″W / 40.572861°N 74.147361°W / 40.572861; -74.147361
Known forFirst NYC Health Officer
ChildrenElizabeth Ann Bayley Seton
RelativesJames Roosevelt Bayley, grandson

Richard Bayley (1745 – August 17, 1801) was a prominent New York City physician and the first chief health officer of the city.[1]


Bayley was born in 1745 in Fairfield, then in the Colony of Connecticut, to a family of French Hugenot and English descent, based in New Rochelle, New York.[2] In 1766 he was apprenticed to New York City physician John Charlton. Bayley married John's sister, Catherine Charlton, at St. John's Episcopal Church (Elizabeth, New Jersey); her father was the rector of St. Andrew's Church (Staten Island, New York). The couple had three children, including Elizabeth Ann Bayley and Guy Carlton Bayley. Later known as Mother Seton, Elizabeth became the foundress of the first group of Catholic Religious Sisters in the nation, and was the first native-born citizen of the United States to be declared a saint.[1] Guy's son James Roosevelt Bayley became a Roman Catholic Bishop and Archbishop.

Richard Bayley traveled to London in 1769, where he studied anatomy with William Hunter. Bayley returned to the United States in 1772, where he opened a practice with Charlton, his father-in-law and former instructor.[2] He returned to England in 1775 to continue his work with Hunter.[3]

A Loyalist, Bayley returned to America and enlisted in the British army as a surgeon at the start of the American Revolution and was stationed in Newport, Rhode Island. In 1777, however, the illness of his wife caused him to return to New York, where she soon died. He took no further part in the conflict. The following year he married Charlotte Barclay, and they eventually had four children.[1] They later separated.

Bayley's chief focus in his medical practice was the poor of the city.[4] He helped to found the New York Dispensary, which operated in the Greenwich Village neighborhood well into the 20th century. He was the first American surgeon to successfully amputate an arm at the shoulder.[3] By 1783, Bayley had begun performing cataract surgery.[5] His laboratory was attacked in the 1788 Doctors' Riot.[6] His anatomical collection was destroyed, but he escaped without injury. In 1792 he began to teach anatomy and surgery at Kings College of New York.[3]

He began studies of yellow fever when the disease broke out in New York in 1795. His work helped discover its epidemiology. As a result, around 1796, he was appointed as the first health officer of the Port of New York, in charge of a quarantine station in what is now Tompkinsville, Staten Island.[7]

In 1797 the newly created Board of Health Commissioners was given the authority to make ordinances for cleaning the city. Efforts to address standing water and sewage in the streets where the soap and candle makers worked, prompted the soap boilers and tallow chandlers talk of petitioning the Legislature for a removal of the Health Officer.[8] He authored the Quarantine Act of 1799.[9]

Bayley contracted yellow fever while checking a ship that had just arrived from Ireland and died from it on August 17, 1801. He was buried in the cemetery of the church served by his father-in-law.[1][4]


Bayley Seton Hospital, once located in the Clifton section of Staten Island, was named for both Bayley and his daughter, Elizabeth. It was founded and run by the Sisters of Charity of New York, until 2006.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d "Mother Seton". Catholic Online. Archived from the original on October 4, 2012. Retrieved January 10, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  2. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Kelly, Howard A.; Burrage, Walter L., eds. (1920). "Bayley, Richard" . American Medical Biographies. Baltimore: The Norman, Remington Company.
  3. ^ a b c "Richard Bayley Biography (1745–1801)". Advameg, Inc. Retrieved July 16, 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Dr. Richard Bayley". St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Museum. Archived from the original on April 15, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  5. ^ Leffler CT, et al. (2017). "Ophthalmology in North America: Early Stories (1491–1801)". Ophthalmology and Eye Diseases. 9: 1–51. doi:10.1177/1179172117721902. PMC 5533269. PMID 28804247.
  6. ^ a b "Famous Staten Islanders". Staten Island on the Web. Archived from the original on February 10, 2009. Retrieved July 16, 2014.
  7. ^ Ferreri, James G. (May 25, 2012). "Bayley Seton: Serving Staten Island for more than a century". Staten Island Advance. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  8. ^ "Letter to Dr. Richard Bayley". Vincentians. February 13, 1797. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  9. ^ "Early History of Medicine in New York", Part II, Americana, Vol.9, National American Society, 1914.

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