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AARON DEXTER 1750-1829


From History of Massachusetts Lodge, p. 94:

Aaron Dexter, M.D., was the son of Richard Dexter, and born in Malden, Mass., 1750; he graduated at Harvard College in 1776; he made several voyages to Europe as medical officer, in one of which he was taken prisoner by he British. At the close of the Revolution he established himself as a physician in Boston, and became distinguished; he was made Erving Professor of Chemistry and Materia Medica in Harvard College in 1785, which office he retained until his death, February 28th, 1829, at the age of seventy-nine years. He was universally respected as a physician and a surgeon.

He received his first and second degrees in Masonry in St. Andrew's Lode, and the third in this Lodge, February 7th, 1780, and became a member March 6th, 1781. He was Grand Treasurer of the Grand Lodge in 1788-9, and Junior Grand Warden in 1790-92.

From A Cyclopedia of American Medical Biography, 1920, Page 312:

Aaron Dexter, first professor of chemistry and materia medica in Harvard College and founder of the Harvard Medical School, was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, November 11, 1750. His people came from Dedham, Massachusetts, but lived in Maiden near Chelsea when he entered Harvard College in 1772. He graduated in 1776 and studied medicine with Dr. Samuel Danforth, a chemist, in Boston.

Towards the close of the Revolutionary War he married Rebecca, daughter of Thomas Amory, of Boston, and began to practise in that city. He is said to have made several voyages to Europe as a medical officer during the Revolution and to have been captured by the British. His name does not appear among the medical men of the Revolution (Toner) and it is probable that he has been confused with William Dexter, who was surgeon's mate from Massachusetts.

Aaron Dexter was an incorporator of the Massachusetts Medical Society and its first treasurer and one of the first five to plan the formation of the Massachusetts Humane Society, a society still in existence. He was also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Massachusetts Historical Society. On May 22, 1783, Dexter was chosen professor of chemistry and materia medica in the newly formed Harvard Medical School, and he, with John Warren and Benjamin Waterhouse, formed the entire faculty.

In 1786 Harvard gave him her honorary M. D. and in 1805 Dartmouth did the same. In 1791 his professorship was endowed by Major William Erving (Harvard, 1763) as the Erving Professorship of Chemistry and Materia Medica. Dr. Dexter became emeritus professor in 1816, to be succeeded by John Gorham (q. v.).

He was remarkable for his urbanity and kindness, and gave long and valuable service to the school he helped found and to many literary and charitable institutions as well. He died of old age February 28, 1829, at his home in Cambridge. Dr. O. W. Holmes relates the following incident of one of Dr. Dexter's lectures in chemistry: bvlockquote> "This experiment, gentlemen, is one of remarkable brilliancy. As I touch the powder you see before me with a drop of this fluid, it bursts into a sudden and brilliant flame,"— which it most emphatically does not do as he makes the contact. "Gentlemen," he says, with a serious smile, "the experiment has failed, but the principle, gentlemen, the principle remains as firm as the everlasting hills." </blockquote>

Distinguished Brothers