Richard Bayley Biography (1745-1801)
Richard Bayley was a well known physician of the 18th century. He taught anddid research on the most prominent medical problems of the time, and developed a new treatment for diphtheria that helped save many lives. He was also deeply involved in the health of the immigrants that came to the United States through Ellis Island in New York.
Richard Bayley was born in 1745 in Fairfield, Connecticut. As a child he waswell educated in a variety of subjects including French and the classics. Little is known about his life until 1766, when he took an apprenticeship with John Charlton. Charlton was a very well known physician who lived and worked in New York. During the time that he was an apprentice, Bayley courted Charlton's sister. Eventually they married and three children. In 1977 his wife died, and a year later he married Charlotte Barclay, with whom he had four children.
Bayley's daughter by first wife, Elizabeth Bayley Seton, converted to Catholicism, became a nun, established the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, and established the first Catholic parochial school in the United States. In 1976, she was the first American to be canonized as a Saint.
After three years of apprenticeship, Bayley went to London to continue his study of medicine. There he studied with an anatomist named William Hunter. Bayley studied in London for three years, and in 1772 he returned to America.
When Bailey returned to the United States, he work in research and opened upa medical practice with his old teacher John Charlton. Bayley's research included discovering that diphtheria was different from strep throat. He did pathological observations and autopsies, and eventually found that diphtheria causes death by strangulation, while forms of strep throat do not kill victims in this way. Bayley soon developed a new treatment for diphtheria based on this research. His techniques for helping diphtheria patients rapidly came intowide use across the country.
Bayley kept in touch with his mentor Hunter while he was in the United States, often sharing with him research and new treatment methods. In 1775 Bayley once again sailed to England, returning to America in the spring of 1776 as the Revolutionary War was beginning.
Bayley became a military surgeon for the British in the Revolutionary War, and served under the General William Howe. Bayley was stationed in Newport, Rhode Island for about a year, and then his wife fell ill, and Bayley resigned his post and returned to New York to be with her. She never recovered and passed away only shortly after his return to New York.
Bayley stayed in New York after his wife's death and did not return to military service. He spent much of his time giving medical lectures and he reestablished the practice that he had once held. In 1788 there were rumors that medical students at the hospital where Bayley lectured were guilty of grave robbing. The mob also believed that Bayley had conducted horrendous and inhumane experiments on the soldiers he had treated during the war. There was a massiveriot and a mob destroyed nearly all of Bayley's anatomical collection. Bayley, himself, luckily managed to escape without injury.
Bayley began to become more interested in teaching in his later years. In 1792 he became a professor at Columbia College. He taught a number of subjects including anatomy and surgery. He also continued his research and was innovative in his surgical techniques, developing a new technique of arm amputation at the shoulder joint. Bayley was the first person in the United States to successfully remove an arm at the shoulder joint.
Bayley always had an interest in public health. He helped the cities poor byassisting in the founding of the New York Dispensary. The city was overtakenby a series of yellow fever epidemics that began in 1795. He became interested in the disease and helped to discover how the disease was spread. His discoveries in this area helped to create quarantine laws for New York City. Because of his work on yellow fever he was appointed to the position of health physician. His job was to check the ships that were trying to enter the New Yorkharbor and checking the health of their passengers and crew.
Throughout the rest of his life Bayley continued his research and worked as the health physician. Sadly, it was this post that would soon cause his death.He became fatally ill after having checked a ship abroad which a large groupof Irish immigrants were dying of yellow fever. He came down with the disease and died of it August 17, 1801.