The Long Life of William Blanding: Doctor, Apothecary, Naturalist
Abstract

William Blanding, physician and naturalist, was born in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, in 1773. He graduated from Rhode Island College (Brown University), studied with a Massachusetts doctor and moved to Camden, South Carolina, where he spent the next several decades, treating patients and running an apothecary shop. In the 1830s, he retired to Philadelphia and then finally returned to Massachusetts to die in 1857 on the farm where he’d been born. This essay, based on the 2015 SHEAR presidential address, uses Blanding’s correspondence to explore connections between the everyday concerns of this man and his family and the larger economic, political, and cultural issues that shape the history of the Early American Republic. It explores Blanding’s place in a network of amateur American naturalists, looks at the importance of his wife’s benevolent networks, traces his ties to the slave-based economy of South Carolina and to former slaves settled in Liberia, and, using the Cistuda blandingii (“Blanding’s turtle”) that bears his name, teases out histories behind the specimens Blanding collected and donated to Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences.


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