Historical Figures of Nursing
Whenever people mention or think of the history of nursing or nursing education many instantly think of Florence Nightingale or Clara Barton. Granted, Florence deserves credit for the advancements she made in nursing, but nursing goes back further than Florence Nightingale. One nurse, that little is known about is James Derham. James was born into slavery in approximately 1762, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. James was known to be owned by three different individuals, all of whom were doctors, one in Philadelphia, a British army surgeon, and a New Orleans physician (Hansen, A. 2002). In the 18th century it was common for nursing education to be obtained through an apprenticeship, which is exactly how Derham became a nurse, assisting all three of his masters and learning from them. One of his masters, Dr. Robert Dove of New Orleans, encouraged Derham's interest in medicine. James worked as a nurse and purchased his freedom in 1783 (Wikipedia). After purchasing his freedom, Dr. Derham opened a medical practice in New Orleans, by age 26 his annual earrings exceeded $3,000.00 (Cobb, W. 1963). Dr. James Derham is the first African-American to formally practice medicine in the United States, although he never received a medical degree (Nursetini, 2009). Dr. Derham was known to speak English, French and Spanish. Dr. Derham returned to Philadelphia where he specialized in throat diseases and diseases related to climate (Wikipedia). Dr. Benjamin Rush, the father of American medicine, spoke with Dr. Derham and had the following to say “I have conversed with him upon most of the acute and epidemic diseases of the country where he lives. I expected to have suggested some new medicines to him, but he suggested many more to me. He is very modest and engaging in his manners. He speaks French fluently, and has some knowledge of Spanish” (Bennett, L. 1970). Derham disappeared around 1802, fate unknown (Nursetini). In 1960 New...
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