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August 1, 2003

The Art and Mystery of 18th-Century Health Care Revealed in Newest Book from Colonial Williamsburg

A bilious fever and St. Anthony’s Fire took the life of Lord Botetourt, one of colonial Virginia’s best-loved royal governors, in 1770 despite the best efforts of physician Dr. John de Sequeyra and apothecary Dr. William Pasteur, two of 18th-century Williamsburg’s leading medical professionals – all chronicled in a new book on period medical practice.

“Physick,” the newest publication in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Trades book series, explores the art and mystery of the professional practice of medicine in Williamsburg from 1740 to 1775. Written by the staff of Colonial Williamsburg’s Pasteur and Galt Apothecary Shop, the 56-page book explores with surgical precision the healing arts of the time, including medical theory, education, treatments, surgery and biographical sketches of several local practitioners. The authors are specialists in 18th-century medical history and each focuses on a different aspect using the clinical practice of medicine as a unifying theme. The book presents the material in an interesting, enthusiastic and understandable manner, even for those unfamiliar with medical history.

“Physick” also connects medical practice of the period with modern medicine. Organic and inorganic materials used in therapies of the time were later found to contain chemicals or compounds used in modern drugs. Even the 18th-century use of leeches in the long-abandoned practice of bloodletting finds similar application in modern microsurgery.

Just as in today’s health care environment, the practice of medicine in colonial Virginia was experiencing changes wrought by new discoveries. Rooted in European tradition, dominant medical theory combined traditional philosophies with new science. The Scientific Revolution, with its origins in the 17tth century, began to force changes in older traditional theories dating to the ancient Greeks and Romans. The authors of “Physick” track those changes while providing fascinating insights into the practice of medicine in 18th-century Williamsburg and its practitioners.

“Physick” was written by Sharon Cotner, Kris Dippre, Robin Kipps and Susan Pryor. Published by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the volume is illustrated with historical documents, and color photography by Dave Doody. “Physick” (ISBN: 0-87935-219-1) is available for $6.95 in Colonial Williamsburg retail shops, from the WILLIAMSBURG® Catalog at (800) 446-9240 and on the Internet at

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that operates the restored 18th-century capital of Virginia. Known worldwide as the nation’s largest living history museum, Colonial Williamsburg recently was recognized as the “Best Historic Site” by readers of Southern Living magazine for the seventh straight year. Colonial Williamsburg is located 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information or reservations, call toll-free (800) HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

Media Contact:
Jim Bradley
(757) 220-7281