Adams Jewett, M.D.

(26 July 1807 – 11 March 1875)


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU) has cataloged eight vascular plant specimens collected by Adams Jewett.  All were collected in 1839 in Mobile, Alabama, and most were acquired by NCU as a gift from Jesup Herbarium of Dartmouth College (HNH) in 2002.  As only approximately 13% of NCU’s vascular plant collection has been cataloged it is possible that more specimens will be found.

The University of Michigan Herbarium (MICH) has approximately 5,000 specimens  (2,500 species) that were in Adams Jewett’s collection.  These were given to MICH in 1868 by Adams Jewett’s son, Henry S. Jewett, M.D., who was a graduate of the University of Michigan (A.B. in 1868, M.D. in 1870 and Ph.C. [Pharmaceutical Chemist] in 1870).1, 15

Other herbaria curating specimens collected by Adams Jewett include C (Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen), ILL (University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois, USA), W (Naturhistorisches Museum Wien in Austria), and P (Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France). 2

Adams Jewett was pivotal in the acquisition of books by the Library of the Surgeon General’s Office.8  John Shaw Billings (1838-1913), librarian, surgeon, and Director of the Library of the Surgeon General’s Office (1865-1895), contacted Adams Jewett and asked for his assistance in obtaining medical books and journals.  In addition to donating his own extensive library of medical books and journals from America and Europe, Jewett actively sought out colleagues’ books for acquisition by the Surgeon General’s Library.  This collection became the core of the present-day United States National Library of Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Maryland.14


Adams Jewett was born in St. Johnsbury, Vermont on 26 July 1807.  His parents were Luther Jewett, M.D. (1775-1860), a graduate of Dartmouth College in 1795, and Elizabeth Adams (1772-1816). 16

Adams Jewett was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in 1826 and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1827. As part of commencement ceremonies, Jewett gave a speech entitled “The Present Devotedness of Genius to the Amusement of the World.”8

In the autumn of 1827 he moved to Claiborne, Alabama ** and worked as a private teacher.  It is during this time that he collected the herbarium specimens that are now in NCU’s collection.  In approximately 1831 he moved to Mobile, Alabama.  The 1852 notes about the class of 1827 (reference 3, below) lists Jewett as a professor at Spring Hill College for two years.  Spring Hill College, Alabama’s oldest institution of higher learning, was founded in 1830 by Michael Portier, Mobile’s first Roman Catholic Bishop.  The school was on 300 acres about six miles west of Mobile.9  While Jewett may have had an association with the College, Richard Weaver, Librarian at Spring Hill College, finds it unlikely that he was a professor.  “The Jesuits were fierce in their willingness to instruct, and very disciplined.  It wasn’t until much later that things opened up for lay professors, and those were exceptions to the norm.”  Weaver adds, “Our earliest records are formal deeds and documents, mostly in French, and mostly detailing the travails of building something from nothing.  We are lucky to have those since the College has suffered three significant fires, and has lost many primary documents and photographs.”

While living in Mobile, Jewett began studying medicine with Dr. Thomas Casey.

From February, 1833 to April, 1838 Jewett resided in Paris, France and studied medicine with Louis* and Velpeau.3   Alfred-Armand-Louis-Marie Velpeau (1795-1867) was the chair of clinical surgery at the University of Paris from 1833 until his death in 1867.  In addition to being a prominent surgeon and anatomist, Velpeau is credited with being the first physician to accurately describe leukemia.  Like other surgeons of his time, Velpeau was slow to accept that surgery could be pain-free.  Anesthetics were introduced to medicine in the 1840’s — ether in 1842 and chloroform in 1847 – and Velpeau said of them, “On the subject of ether, that is a wonderful and terrible agent, I will say of chloroform, that it is still more wonderful and more terrible.”10, 11, 12

In the autumn of 1837 Adams Jewett received the M.D. degree from the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, Scotland.  On 22 October, 1838 Jewett sailed to the United States on the passenger ship the American.7 Jewett returned to Mobile, Alabama, practiced medicine, and built upon the library of medical and scientific books that he had begun in Europe. 8

Adams Jewett married Mary Prescott Putnam Smith on 3 July 1841 in Mobile.  They had five children — Henrietta (? – 1842), Sarah (1843-1854), Henry Smith (1846 -1929),  and Luther Hibbard (1851-1872), and Florence (1853-1854). 4, 6, 16 In 1842 the Jewetts moved to Dayton, Ohio, where he practiced medicine with his brother, Hibbard Jewett, M.D.

Both Hibbard and Adams Jewett were ardent abolishonists.  “Perhaps because of his long residence in the South, he [Adams Jewett] bore an implacable hatred to human slavery, and every fugitive black man who knocked on is door was sure of a cordial reception and of substantial aid in his run for freedom.” 5

Both brothers died in Dayton, Ohio — Hibbard in 1870 in Dayton, and Adams in 1875.3, 5

Adams Jewett’s son, Henry Smith Jewett (1846-1929), went on to become a noteworthy botanist and collector.


*Probably refers to Pierre Charles Alexandre Louis (1787-1872), a French physician who, in 1835, published Researches sur les effets de la saigneé dans quelques maladies inflammatoires which proved that bloodletting was not effective in treating fevers.13

** Kershaw, Sarah (2008)  Amid the ghosts of Alabama.  The New York Times, 18 April 2008.  “Like other towns around the rivers of Alabama, Claiborne, which had a population of roughly 5,000 at its peak in the 1802s and 1830s, was struck by yellow fever and cholera.  The Civil War also struck a heavy blow to Claiborne.  Alabama was one of the last areas occupied by Union soldiers, and after the war ended, in April 1865, thousands looted the town for days, leaving little behind…  By the 1870s, Claiborne was still a shipping point on the river, but the school was gone, the churches were gone, the merchants were moving out and the population was dwindling.  Then in the early 1900s a railroad came through Monroe County, bypassing Claiborne and spelling doom for the town’s shipping mainstay, the moving of cotton by steamboat along the river.”


  1. Calendar of the University of Michigan for 1879-80.  University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.  page 17.
  2. 18 September 2011.
  3. Class of 1827, of Dartmouth College; Proceedings at their meeting in July, 1852; and Brief Notices of the Members.  Lynn:  W. W. Kellogg, Printer Over the Depot, Typographic Hall, 1853.
  4. 1860 US Census: Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio.
  5. 18 September 2011.
  6. 1850 US Census: Dayton,Mongtomery County, Ohio.
  7. New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Year: 1838; Microfilm Serial: M237; Microfilm Roll: M237_37; Line: 2; List Number: 655 .
  8. Schullian, Dorothy M. (1961) Adams Jewett and John Shaw Billings, Partners in Acquisition. Bull. Med. Libr. Assoc. 49(3):  443-449.
  9. accessed 18 September 2011.
  10. 18 September 2011.
    11. accessed 18 September 2011.
  11. 18 September 2011.
  12. 18 September 2011.
  13. 18 September 2011.
  14. University of Michigan Catalogue of Graduates, Non-Graduates, Officers, and Members of the Faculties, 1837-1921.  Ann Arbor:  University of Michigan Press, 1923.
  15. Paxton/Bunker/Tuttle Family Tree.  Owned by:  jpaxton1951.  accessed 20 September 2011.
  16. Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 24 October 2021), memorial page for Adams Jewett (26 Jun 1807–10 Mar 1875), Find a Grave Memorial ID 154125936, citing Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum, Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio, USA ; Maintained by Anna (contributor 47126745) .