(born 1676 or 1679 in Brookline, Massachusetts
; died 1766) was a medical doctor
. He apprenticed with his father, an English surgeon named Thomas Boylston. He also studied under the Boston physician Dr. Cutter, never attending a formal medical school (the first medical school in North America
was not founded until 1765).
Boylston is known for holding several "firsts" for an American-born physician: He performed the first surgical operation by an American physician, the first removal of gall bladder stones in 1710, and was the first to remove a breast tumor in 1718.
He was a great uncle of President John Adams.
During a smallpox
outbreak in 1721 in Boston
, he inoculated
about 180 people by applying pus
from a smallpox sore
to a small wound on the subjects, a method said to have been previously used in Africa. Initially, he used the method on two slaves and his own son. This was the first introduction of inoculations to the United States
. An African slave named Onesimus
taught the idea to Cotton Mather
, the influential New England Puritan minister.
His method was initially met by hostility and outright violence from some religious groups and most other physicians, and he was arrested for a short period of time for it (he was later released with the promise not to inoculate without government permission). In 1724, Boylston traveled to London, where he published his results as Historical Account of the Small-Pox Inoculated in New England, and became a fellow of the Royal Society two years later. Afterward, he returned to Boston.