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Health was a large concern in the eighteenth century because many people died from illness and injuries. Since George and Martha both lost family members growing up, they took certain precautions to ensure the safety of their grandchildren and others under their care. Many of the enslaved were also wary of disease and injury, and took steps to protect themselves and their community.

George Washington's Take on Medicine and Health

George Washington took disease very seriously throughout his life. He often did everything in his power to try and save others from illness - but sometimes, wasn't successful.

Learn More about George Washington's Take on Illness

Dr. Craik- The Family Doctor of the Washington's

Dr. James Craik was a Scottish doctor from Edinburgh that met George Washington during the Revolutionary War. He soon became the Washingtons' favorite doctor, and was in the room when George Washington died.

Learn More about Dr. Craik and his Expertise

Primary Source: Smallpox Letter

Smallpox was a dangerous disease in the eighteenth century. Many of Washington's soldiers received inoculations during the war - a dangerous, yet effective treatment. Washington described this in a letter to David Grier in March 1777.

Read the Letter


Cancer was a concern for the Washington family, but it was difficult to treat and understand the disease. Click the link to learn more about doctors, treatments, and the cost of care.

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Want to explore more about Washington's teeth?

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More Dental Troubles

Medicine Jar

Just like us, George Washington often got sick and had to take medicine. However, his medicine came in jars instead of plastic bottles.

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Revolutionary Medicine

Fighting in the Revolutionary war was dangerous, and many people got hurt or sick as a result. Watch this video to learn more about medicine during eighteenth-century war.

Revolutionary Medicine

The Archives

Many people wrote about different medicines and treatments of the eighteenth century. Click the link to explore medical primary sources.

More documents

An Enslaved Midwife: The Story of Kate

Kate was an enslaved woman who lived and worked on the plantation. She knew that she wanted to serve her community, so she asked George Washington if she could become the midwife for the enslaved. He agreed, and even bought her a pair of scissors for her to use in her practices

Watch Kate's Story