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Jacob Bigelow

Jacob BigelowBorn: 27-Feb-1787 [1]
Birthplace: Sudbury, MA
Died: 10-Jan-1879
Location of death: Boston, MA
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA

Gender: Male
Religion: Congregationalist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Botanist, Doctor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: American Medical Botany

Botanist Jacob Bigelow was an early 19th century physician at Massachusetts General Hospital who, seeking to procure better medicines for his patients, became his era's leading expert on New England botany. His three-volume American Medical Botany, published 1817-20, was the most advanced such text of its time, detailing dozens of plants and their medicinal uses, and it was the first American book with printed color illustrations, most of which were drawn by Bigelow himself. He also popularized the word technology in its modern sense.

Through his research and teaching, he helped define the proper use and eschewed the overuse of medicines, and warned of the dangers of narcotics. He wrote that some therapies then commonly used by the medical profession, including bloodletting and purging, not only had no effect on the natural course of diseases but could actually be detrimental, and he argued for the end of such practices. Concerned about diseases potentially spread through the common practice of human burials under and near churches, in 1831 he founded the Mount Auburn Cemetery on a sprawling, scenic site four miles outside of Boston. Bigelow and his wife are buried at the cemetery he established.


[1] 1786 according to some sources. 1787 was the date written in his family Bible's genealogy pages.

Father: Jacob Bigelow (Congregationalist minister, b. 19-Feb-1743, d. 12-Sep-1816)
Mother: Sarah Heartwell Bigelow (m. 14-Jan-1783, two sons)
Sister: Elizabeth Bigelow Wheeler (stepsister, b. 28-Dec-1777 to father's first wife)
Brother: Henry Bigelow (merchant, b. 11-Oct 1783, d. 10-Aug-1815 gunshot)
Wife: Mary Scollay Bigelow (b. 14-Jan-1793, m. 15-Apr-1817, d. 27-July-1882, five children)
Son: Henry Jacob Bigelow (physician, b. 11-Mar-1818, d. 30-Oct-1890)
Son: William Scollay Bigelow (b. 17-Dec-1819, d. 14-Jun-1820)
Daughter: Mary Anna Bigelow (b. 10-Mar-1821, d. 1910)
Daughter: Catherine Scollay Bigelow Parkman (b. 20-Feb-1827 twin, d. 30-Dec-1848)
Son: James Jackson Bigelow (b. 20-Feb-1827 twin, d. 26-Dec-1835)

    University: BA, Harvard University (1806)
    Medical School: Harvard Medical School (attended, 1806-08)
    Medical School: MD, University of Pennsylvania (1810)
    Teacher: Boston Latin School (1806-08)
    Lecturer: Botany, Harvard University (1812-15)
    Professor: Materia Medica, Harvard Medical School (1815-55)
    Professor: Rumford Professor, Harvard University (1816-27)

    American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1796 (President, 1847-63)
    Massachusetts General Hospital

Author of books:
Flora Bostoniensis (1814, botany)
American Medical Botany (1817-20, botany; 3 volumes)
U.S. Pharmacopeia (1820, pharmaceuticals; with Samuel Latham Mitchell, Lyman Spalding)
Treatise on the Materia Medica (1822, pharmaceuticals)
Elements of Technology (1829, biology)
Discourse on Self-limited Diseases (1835, biology)
The Useful Arts (1840, biology)
Nature in Disease and Other Writings (1854, medical essays)
Eolopoesis, American Rejected Addresses (1855, poetry; anonymous)
Brief Expositions of Rational Medicine (1858, pharmaceuticals)
A History of the Cemetery of Mount Auburn (1860, non-fiction)


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