American Medical Biographies/Abbott, Samuel Warren

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Abbott, Samuel Warren (1837–1904)

Samuel W. Abbott, who had the distinction of being the first secretary of Massachusetts' first state board of health, was born in Woburn, Massachusetts, June 12, 1837. His father was a descendant of George Abbott, who emigrated from England about 1640, and his mother from Edward Winn, who came from North Wales about 1642. Samuel's great grandfather was Joseph Winn, who fought at Lexington and Bunker Hill. Samuel was educated at Phillips Andover Academy, Massachusetts, and graduated A. M. from Brown University (Rhode Island) in 1858.

He began to study medicine with Dr. Benjamin Cutter of Woburn, and afterwards at the Harvard Medical School, where he graduated in 1862. He was assistant surgeon in the United States Navy from 1861 to 1864, then surgeon to the First Massachusetts Cavalry from 1864 until it was mustered out at the close of the war.

Dr. Abbott's chief interest was in hygiene. He was coroner of Middlesex County from 1872 to 1877 and medical examiner of the same county, under the new law, from 1877 to 1884. After the war he practised medicine in Woburn for four years and in Wakefield for the rest of his life. He was health officer of Massachusetts from 1882 to 1886 and secretary of the State Board of Health from its organization in 1886 up to a short time before his death, which occurred in Newton, Massachusetts, October 22, 1904. Thus he took part in two important medical advances in his native state, the inauguration of a medical examiner system, replacing the antiquated coroners, and in the formation and perpetuation of a progressive state board of health, one that acquired an enviable reputation throughout the country.

Dr. Abbott married Martha W. Sullivan, of Woburn, in 1864.

He was a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society, Massachusetts Medico-Legal Society, Société Française d'Hygiène and president of the Middlesex East District Medical Society in 1874–75.

His contributions to medical literature were many. Among them are: "Uses and Abuses of Animal Vaccination," American Public Health Transactions, 1882; "The Influenza Epidemic of 1889–1890;" State Board of Health Report, 1890; "The Distribution of Diphtheria in Massachusetts," International Congress of Hygiene, London, 1891.

Boston Med. and Sur. Jour., 1904, vol. cli.
Phys. and Surgs. of U. S. W. B. Atkinson, 1878.
Biog. Eminent Amer. Phys. and Surgs., R. F. Stone. 1894.