American Medical Biographies/Hartshorne, Joseph

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Hartshorne, Joseph (1779–1850).

Joseph Hartshorne was born in Alexandria, Virginia, December 12, 1779, son of William Hartshorne and Susannah Saunders. The father was a flour merchant and manufacturer whose residence was "Strawberry Hill," a country seat about six miles from Mt. Vernon. His ancestor, Richard Hartshorne, left his home in Leicestershire, England, because of his religious belief as a Friend, and came to America in 1669 and purchased land in the Highlands of Neversink on Shrewsbury River and the land nearby, including what is now Sandy Hook, New Jersey. The land on which Sandy Hook lighthouse stands was bought from the family by the United States Government in 1816.

William Hartshorne's sympathies were with the revolutionists, while those of his family were with the Royalist party, and this probably influenced him in seeking a home in the south. His nearness to the home of Washington made him both neighbor and friend; he was long treasurer and secretary of the Potomac Navigation Company, of which Washington was president.

Joseph Hartshorne had an attack of smallpox when he was five years old and was treated with large doses of calomel, to which was attributed an inflammation of the feet, leaving him permanently lame. With a vigorous mind and body and deterred from sports, he took to books, and was a distinguished student. On leaving school he entered his father's counting-house, but soon began to read medicine and later entered the office of Dr. James Craik (q. v.), Washington's physician. In 1801 he became resident apprentice and apothecary in the Pennsylvania Hospital; he studied at the University of Pennsylvania and graduated M. D. in 1805, offering as his thesis "Effects Produced by Air on Living Animals."

He prepared an American edition of Alexis Boyer's Lectures . . . . on Diseases of the Bones," adding an appendix, with notes on cases (1805).

After two long voyages as surgeon and supercargo he returned to Philadelphia, but practice was slow and he had to struggle for an existence. His father offered him a shelter in the old Virginia home, but Joseph declared that he would never go back until he could take with him "bank-notes enough to paper the walls of the best room at 'Strawberry Hill,' a determination said to have been fulfilled, for he returned home a rich man.

In 1813 he married Anna, daughter of Isaac Bonsall of Philadelphia.

In 1815 he was elected a surgeon of the Pennsylvania Hospital and was a colleague of Physick and John Syng Dorsey. He was a member of the Philadelphia Medical Society, the American Philosophical Society and of the College of Physicians. He became seriously ill in 1849, probably from gall-stones, and was taken to Brandywine Springs, where he died August 20, 1850. His sons, Edward and Henry (q. v.), both physicians, survived him.

Lives of Emin. Philadelphians, H. Simpson, 1859.
Appleton's Cyclop. Amer. Biog., New York, 1887.