Portrait of William Beaumont painted by Chester Harding

Portrait of William Beaumont painted by Chester Harding

William Beaumont was born on November 21, 1785 in Lebanon, Connecticut. At the age of twenty-five, he apprenticed himself to Dr. Benjamin Chandler of St. Albans, Vermont. After serving two years as an apprentice, Beaumont was licensed by the Vermont Medical Society to practice medicine. When the War of 1812 broke out between England and the United States, Beaumont joined the American army as a surgeon’s mate where he served much of his time treating soldiers at York (now Toronto, Canada) and Plattsburgh, New York. He resigned his commission from the army in 1815 and opened a private medical practice in Plattsburgh.

Beaumont rejoined the army in 1820, where he was granted the rank of post surgeon. Before leaving for his new post at Michilimackinac (Mackinac Island) in Michigan, he married Deborah Platt Green. While stationed at Fort Mackinac, he treated a French Canadian named Alexis St. Martin who had been accidentally shot in his left side. Beaumont saved the patient’s life, but St. Martin’s wound healed with a permanent opening in his abdomen through which the interior of his stomach was exposed. This accident, along with St. Martin’s cooperation during the following two decades, afforded Beaumont the opportunity to conduct experiments on the functions of the human stomach. Beaumont eventually published the results of these investigations in Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice and the Physiology of Digestion, a landmark of American medical research.

Following his service in Michigan, Beaumont continued serving in the army where he was transferred to Fort Niagara (New York) in 1825, to Fort Crawford (Wisconsin) in 1829, and finally to Jefferson Barracks (Saint Louis, Missouri) in 1834. While stationed in Missouri, he was appointed Professor of Surgery at the Medical Department of Saint Louis University in 1837. Rather than be transferred again, Beaumont finally resigned from the army in 1839 at the age of fifty-two. Upon his resignation, he remained in Saint Louis where he maintained a private practice until his death on April 25, 1853.

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Correspondence  (1807-1879)