Samuel Bard Biography (1742-1821)


Samuel Bard was a man of great prestige who helped further medical educationin the United States. A well known physician in his own right, he helped to found the second medical school in America. Interested in many areas of science, he wrote and taught a variety of subjects, contributing to the educationsof most of the great physicians that would come after him.

Samuel Bard was born on April 1st, 1742 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father was a prominent physician and a good friend of Benjamin Franklin. When Samuel was four, his family moved to New York City where his father set up another successful medical practice.

Little of Bard's life is known until he was fourteen. At that time he enrolled in King's College (later to be renamed Columbia University) to further hiseducation. He was a student of the classics under the guidance of a professornamed Leonard Cutting. During Bard's first year at the college he suffered from fever and was sent to the country to spend the summer and restore his health. He was sent to the estate of the man who was at that time lieutenant governor of New York. Bard became friends with the lieutenant governor's daughter and she introduced him to the field of botany. Throughout the rest of his life Bard would be interested in the study of plants.

In 1761, after an apprenticeship with his father, Bard was admitted as a pupil to St. Thomas's Hospital in London. Once his tenure there was complete, heenrolled at Edinburgh University's medical school. During his time in medicalschool Bard studied much more than medicine. He also studied French, Latin,and drawing. The dissertation that Bard wrote in order to receive his medicaldegree was a study of the effects of opium on the human body. He received his medical degree in 1765.

After receiving his degree, Bard returned to New York City where he went intopractice with his father, and eventually took the practice over. In 1770 Bard married his cousin, Mary, and together they had three children.

Bard had always been interested in medical education, and together with a number of other physicians, he helped to found the second medical school in theUnited States, the first one in New York State. Bard became a professor of theory and practice of medicine at the college, and also lectured and taught acourse on chemistry. The medical school was started as a part of King's College, and when the revolutionary war broke out in 1776 it had to be shut down.

During the war Bard had Loyalist sympathies and moved from New York to New Jersey, leaving his successful medical practice behind. Eventually financial problems forced him to return to New York where he reestablished his medical practice. After the war, Bard served as George Washington's private physician during the time that the new government was centered in New York. At one timehe removed a carbuncle (infected boil) from Washington's thigh.

After the war, King's College was renamed Columbia University. When the medical school was reestablished there, Bard again became a professor, and was also named a trustee and dean. In 1813 the medical school became part of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Bard was named the new school's first president.

Bard retired and left his practice to his partner, David Hosack, in 1798. Hemoved to Hyde Park, New York, where he spent twenty-three years of retirementbefore his death.

During his retirement Bard continued to be very active in the medical field.He had always been interested in obstetrics and midwifery, and during his retirement he found time to write a book on the subject. It was the first textbook of its type written by an American and was used as the standard text on the subject for many years. Bard also wrote a book about the diseases that affect sheep. The effort was spawned by his attempts to raise merino sheep and his concern about the diseases that they suffered from.

Samuel Bard spent much of his retirement serving on boards for various groupsin New York that were associated with the science, medicine, and culture ofthe time. He continued to support the creation of medical schools and tried to spread his theory that experience was the best way a physician could learn.He died at his estate in Hyde Park on May 24th, 1821, just twenty-four hoursafter his wife passed away.

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