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William Beaumont

Beaumont, William, 1785–1853, American physician, b. Lebanon, Conn. He was privately educated and was licensed (1812) to practice in Vermont. His Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice and the Physiology of Digestion (1833; fac. ed. 1929, with biographical essay by Sir William Osler; repr. 1941) was an exhaustive account of a case famous in medical history. In 1822, while serving as army post surgeon on Mackinac Island, Beaumont treated Alexis St. Martin, a youth of 19 whose abdomen had been torn open by an accidental gunshot at close range. All efforts to close the wound failed, although St. Martin recovered his health and strength. Later, when he realized what a unique opportunity this was to study the digestive process, Beaumont, with the assent of his sometimes rebellious patient, began a series of experiments that completely revolutionized the knowledge of the subject. In all, about 238 experiments were reported, starting (1825) at Mackinac Island and continuing at intervals over a number of years at Plattsburgh, N.Y., Fort Crawford (Prairie du Chien, Wis.), and Washington, D.C.

See J. S. Myer, Life and Letters of Dr. William Beaumont (1912, new ed. 1939).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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