Presented At The Annual Fall Meeting
Friends of the Old Burying Ground
November 14, 2010

Monument of Town Founders
courtesy Tom Elwertowski,
This is a photo of a much deteriorated tomb for Dr. Zabdiel Boylston and his wife Jerusha. He died in 1766.

Dr. Boylston's fame relates to his work as the physician who was the first in America to inoculate against smallpox, one of the most devastating diseases in the history of man. Dr. Boylston was following the advice of Cotton Mather, the famous Puritan minister and writer, son of the equally famous Increase Mather, a president of Harvard.

Mather learned about the ancient procedure for inoculation in 1706 from an African slave named Onesimus.

Mather investigated further and, convinced that the method would work, became an advocate for the procedure. The only physician who took Mather's research seriously, however, was Zabdiel Boylston. In 1721 Dr. Boylson inoculated his only son and two slaves. All recovered in about a week. The rest is history.
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