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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c17

Waterhouse family papers


Waterhouse family papers, 1780-1894 (inclusive), 1811-1818 (bulk) principally consist of the correspondence of Benjamin Waterhouse (1754-1846) and John Fothergill Waterhouse (1791-1817) with family members. Also included are medical, subject, and lecture notes; writings; a journal; and a biography of Benjamin Waterhouse.


  • 1780-1894 (inclusive),
  • Majority of material found within 1811-1818 .


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. Contact Public Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

Public Domain.


0.5 cubic feet (1 flat storage box and 1 half legal document box)
The Waterhouse family papers, 1780-1894 (inclusive), 1811-1818 (bulk), consists of correspondence from Benjamin Waterhouse (1754-1846) to his children, son-in-law William Ware (who was married to his daughter, Mary Ware), and wife Elizabeth Oliver Waterhouse, as well as correspondence from John Fothergill Waterhouse (1791-1817) to his father, sisters and brothers, brother-in-law Henry Ware, and Sylvanus Fansher. Correspondence from Sylvanus Fansher concerns John Fothergill Waterhouse's request for vaccine, discussions about the vaccine and how to broaden its use, and Fansher’s suggestion that John Fothergill Waterhouse travel to India to promote its use. Correspondence from Benjamin Waterhouse, Jr. (1797-1843) to his father Benjamin (1754-1846) and sisters about his personal experiences at Edisto Island, South Carolina, updates on his activities at Phillips Academy, and his time spent in Charleston, South Carolina and Georgia are included. Correspondence among other Waterhouse family members includes letters of Elizabeth Oliver Waterhouse to her children containing updates on her activities in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The collection also contains a biography of Benjamin Waterhouse written by his second wife, Louisa Lee Waterhouse. The biography focuses on Waterhouse's youth and his influences. Records in box two (Accession 2010-001) consist of additional Waterhouse family correspondence acquired at a later date, including letters of Benjamin Waterhouse (1754-1846), John Fothergill Waterhouse, and Elizabeth Oliver Waterhouse. Box two also contains medical, patient, lecture, and subject notes ("magnesia genus," whales), as well as a copy of Observations Upon Paralitic Affections Including Apoplexia made in Philadelphia by John Fothergill Waterhouse.

Materials are entirely in English.

Biographical Note

Benjamin Waterhouse (1754-1846), Hersey Professor of Theory and Practice of Physic at Harvard Medical School, introduced vaccination against smallpox to the United States. Born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1754, Waterhouse traveled to Europe in 1775, studying at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Leyden in the Netherlands, where he earned an MD in 1780. While attending Leyden, Waterhouse stayed in the home of John Adams, then American minister to the Netherlands. After returning to the United States, he became the first professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School (1782) and was one of the three original members of the Harvard Medical School faculty. Waterhouse married Elizabeth Oliver in 1788 and they had six children: Andrew Oliver (1789); John Fothergill (1791); Elizabeth Watson (1793); Daniel Oliver (1795); Benjamin, Jr. (1797); and Mary (1799). Elizabeth Oliver Waterhouse died in 1815, and Waterhouse remarried in 1819 to Louisa Lee. Benjamin Waterhouse died in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1846 at the age of 92.

John Fothergill Waterhouse was Waterhouse's second-eldest son. He studied at Phillips Academy, Andover, before graduating from Harvard College (1811) and University of Pennsylvania Medical School (1813). After obtaining his MD, John Fothergill Waterhouse began a medical practice in Philadelphia, but he contracted tuberculosis, and died in 1817.


  1. Records have been maintained in the order in which they were originally cataloged.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Includes accession number 2010-001.

Digitized Items

View digitized items from this collection:

Related Papers in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Center for the History of Medicine

  1. Papers of Benjamin Waterhouse. H MS c16.
  2. Papers of Benjamin Waterhouse. B MS c10.

Processing Information

Processed by Bryan Sutherland in October 2009, with additional processing conducted by Sutherland in November 2015 and Brooke McManus in 2016 as part of the Harvard in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries initiative (later, Colonial North America).

Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine analyzed, arranged, and described the papers, and created a finding aid to improve access in 2009; folder level scope and content notes were added, and call numbers where extant were eliminated in November 2015.

Please note that the following abbreviations have been used: "A.L." for autographed letter; "A.L.s." for autographed letter signed; and "A.D.s." for autographed document signed.
Link to catalog
Waterhouse family. Papers, 1780-1894 (inclusive), 1811-1818 (bulk): Finding Aid.
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
Preservation and description was supported in part by the Arcadia-funded project Harvard in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.

Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

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