In the early eighteenth century, a slave taught Reverend Cotton Mather how to inject a patient with a smallpox vaccine, which was a serum made from a weaker form of the disease.
A perfected version of that method is still used today to make vaccines for many illnesses, including the flu.
Another slave, known only as Cesar, created a cure for rattlesnake bites, which was published in the South Carolina Gazette in 1751. This accomplishment led the South Carolina General Assembly to grant his freedom.
Wilcie Elfe of Charleston, South Carolina, was a black pharmacist who had been trained by his owner, a doctor. Elfe later ran his own very successful practice; he even patented his drugs and sold them all over South Carolina.
Another slave, James Derham, served as a medical assistant to his slave owner, Dr. Robert Dove, eventually purchasing his freedom. Derham later set up his own practice.
David K. McDonough developed a national reputation when he served on staff at New York’s Eye and Ear Infirmary during the eighteenth century.