Capsule

The physician's apprentice

In the early 19th century, aspiring physicians learned by “reading and riding with the doctors.”

In March 1811, at the age of 22, Elijah Woodward Carpenter of Brattleboro, Vt., signed his name to an indenture, a contract with Cyrus Washburn, a doctor in the nearby town of Vernon. Carpenter agreed to serve as Washburn’s apprentice for the next two years or more and pay him a fee of $133.33. In return Washburn would provide room and board in his home, and would instruct Carpenter “personally and by the use of books, in the art & science of Anatomy, Surgery and Physic.”At that time only a handful of American medical schools existed, and Carpenter’s apprenticeship represented the most common form of medical training in the New World. The Medical Institution of Yale College had been chartered the previous...

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