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COLLECTION Identifier: B MS c25

Jacob Bigelow papers,

The Jacob Bigelow papers, 1770-1879 (inclusive), 1800-1879 (bulk), contain correspondence with Jacob Bigelow's (1786-1879) colleagues concerning botanical specimens, publication of the Pharmacopoeia of the United States from 1820 to 1831, and general medical matters. There is also correspondence with his family, including his parents, siblings, and his son, physician Henry Jacob Bigelow (1818-1890).

Dates

  • 1770-1879 (inclusive),
  • Majority of material found within 1800-1879 .

Language of Materials

Papers are in English, with a small amount of material in French and Latin.

Conditions Governing Access

Access requires advance notice. Contact Public Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Boston Medical Library does not hold copyright on all the materials in the collection. Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be directed to Public Services. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from Public Services are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright.

Extent

02.41 cubic feet (4 flat storage boxes and one legal size document box)

The Jacob Bigelow papers, 1770-1879 (inclusive), 1800-1879 (bulk), contain correspondence with Jacob Bigelow's (1786-1879) colleagues concerning botanical specimens, publication of the Pharmacopoeia of the United States from 1820 to 1831, and general medical matters. There is also correspondence with his family, including his parents, siblings, and his son, physician Henry Jacob Bigelow (1818-1890). Other material includes correspondence and records related to the Rumford Professorship at Harvard and his participation in medical and scientific associations; notes and lists relating to plants and flowers; patient medical records and case histories; drafts of lectures and revisions to the Pharmacopoeia; and accounts and bills. There is also correspondence of the Bigelow family after his death, compiled correspondence and records generated by medical colleagues, and newspapers and clippings.

Papers are in English, French, and Latin.

Biographical Notes

Jacob Bigelow (1786-1879), a physician and botanist in Boston, Massachusetts, served as lecturer at the Harvard Medical School; Rumford Professor and Lecturer on the Application of Science to the Useful Arts; Professor of Materia Medica; and as a member of Harvard's Board of Overseers from 1846 to 1854.

Jacob Bigelow was born in Sudbury, Massachusetts, in 27 February 1787, to Elizabeth and Jacob Bigelow (1742-1816), A.B., 1766, Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts. After graduating from Harvard College in 1806, the younger Jacob Bigelow received his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1810. In 1811, he established a medical practice in Boston and began a series of botanical lectures at Harvard College with William Dandridge Peck (1763-1822), Massachusetts Professor of Natural History. From 1815 to 1818, he was a lecturer in medicine, and in 1815, he was appointed Professor of Materia Medica at Harvard Medical School, a position he held until 1855.

In 1816, Bigelow was appointed the first Rumford Professor and Lecturer on the Application of the Sciences to the Useful Arts at Harvard, a post he held until 1827. Bigelow coined the term "technology" to describe the use of scientific ideas in the useful arts, and in 1829, he published his Rumford lectures under the title Elements of Technology, taken chiefly from a Course of Lectures delivered at Cambridge, on the Application of the Sciences to the Useful Arts.

Bigelow was active in the preparation of the first United States Pharmacopoeia in 1820, along with Lyman Spalding (1775-1821). He also was president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences from 1847-1863, and was a member of the Academy for 67 years. He additionally helped establish and design of Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. From 1846 to 1854, he was member of Harvard's Board of Overseers.

Bigelow published several works on botany, Florula Bostoniensis (1814) and American Medical Botany (1817-1820). He began work on a flora of New England with Dr. Francis Boott, but the project was abandoned.

Jacob Bigelow married Mary Scollay in 1817, and their children included anesthesia pioneer and Harvard Medical School Professor of Surgery Henry Jacob Bigelow (1818-1890). Jacob Bigelow died in Boston on 10 January 1879.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. I. Jacob Bigelow, 1800-1874, undated
  2. ___A. Correspondence, 1800-1874, undated
  3. ___B. Records related to Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, 1808-1855
  4. ___C. Academies, societies, and institutions, 1812-1875
  5. ___D. Patient case histories, 1828-1861, undated
  6. ___E. Manuscripts and lists, 1817-1872, undated
  7. ___F. Financial records, 1812-1869
  8. II. Bigelow family correspondence and papers, 1795-1879, undated
  9. III. Complied correspondence and manuscripts, 1770-1862, undated
  10. IV. Newspapers and newspaper clippings, 1807-1879

Related Records in the Harvard University Archives

Records of Jacob Bigelow, Rumford Professor and Lecturer on the Application of Science to the Useful Arts. UAI 15.1031.
Related Collections in the Gray Herbarium Archives, Harvard University Herbaria
  1. Jacob Bigelow Papers.

Resources on Jacob Bigelow

  • Ellis, George. E. Memoir of Jacob Bigelow. Cambridge: Wilson, 1880.

Processing Information

Processed by Brooke McManus, 2016 March.

Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine analyzed, rearranged, and described the papers, and created a finding aid to improve access in 2016. Call numbers where extant were eliminated from the finding aid, but the folder titles, as previously devised by staff, were retained.

Please note the following abbreviations have been used in folder titles: "A.D." for autographed document; "A.D.s." for autographed document signed; "A.L." for autographed letter; "A.L.s." for autographed letter signed; "A.M." for autographed manuscript; "A.M.s." for autographed manuscript signed; "MS.D." for manuscript document; "MS.L" for manuscript letter; "P.D." for printed document; "P.D.s." for printed document signed; and "P.L.s." for printed letter signed.
Link to catalog
Title
Bigelow, Jacob, 1786-1879. Papers, 1770-1879 (inclusive), 1800-1879 (bulk): Finding Aid.
Author
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
Sponsor
Preservation and description was supported in part by the Arcadia-funded Colonial North American Project at Harvard University.
EAD ID
med00234

Repository Details

Part of the Countway Library of Medicine Repository

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