Medical Writing Criticism: Colonial America - Essay

Richard Harrison Shryock (essay date 1946)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Benjamin Rush from the Perspective of the Twentieth Century,” in Medicine in America: Historical Essays, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1966, pp. 233-51.

[In the following essay, which was originally published in 1946, Shryock points out the lack of empirical data in Benjamin Rush's work, but praises him for his philosophical interests.]

It has recently been observed that “One often hears and sees Rush's name mentioned, but in a few tiresomely repeated connections; as a man and as a writer he is little known.”1 This is doubtless true so far as the general public is concerned: in contrast to his friends John Adams and Jefferson, Rush has...

(The entire section is 5721 words.)

Richard Harrison Shryock (essay date 1954)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Early American Immunology: As Formulated by the Reverend Cotton Mather of Boston, 1725,” in Medicine in America: Historical Essays, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1966, pp. 252-58.

[In the following essay, originally published in 1954, Shryock argues the importance of Cotton Mather's medical writing as the sole example of germ theory in eighteenth-century American writings.]

Little has been written about medicine as it existed in the English-American Colonies prior to about 1750. Yet European medicine was practiced in these Colonies for well over a century before that time. The reasons for this neglect of early Colonial medicine are obvious enough....

(The entire section is 1864 words.)

Gordon W. Jones (essay date 1972)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Introduction,” in The Angel of Bethesda by Cotton Mather, Barre, Mass.: American Antiquarian Society and Barre Publishers, 1972, pp. xi-xxx.

[In the following excerpt, Jones discusses the significance of Cotton Mather's medical writings and traces the influences on his thinking.]


Cotton Mather (1663-1728) represents a landmark in the development of the American mind, the first long step in the series from Benjamin Franklin (whose boyhood studies he encouraged) and Thomas Jefferson to Robert McCormick and Henry Ford. His background was essence of English Puritan. One grandfather was the Reverend John Cotton (1584-1652) of the...

(The entire section is 8318 words.)