Anderson Ruffin Abbott

Anderson Ruffin AbbottM.D. (7 April 1837 – 29 December 1913) was the first Black Canadian to be a licensed physician. His career included participation in the American Civil War and attending the death bed of Abraham Lincoln.[1][2]

Abbott was born in Toronto as the son of Wilson Ruffin Abbott and Ellen (Toyer) Abbott. The Abbotts were a prominent black family in Toronto who had left Alabama as “free people of color”[3] after their store had been ransacked. After living a short time in New York, they relocated to Canada in 1835 or 1836. The family’s prosperity allowed Anderson Ruffin Abbott to receive an excellent education. He attended both private and public schools including William King’s school in the black settlement of Buxton, near Chatham. He was an honour student at the Toronto Academy and later attended at Oberlin College in Ohio. After returning to Canada he graduated from the Toronto School of Medicine in 1857. He matriculated in medicine that year at theUniversity of Toronto and then studied for four years under Alexander Thomas Augusta, a fellow black physician. Abbott received a licence to practise from the Medical Board of Upper Canada in 1861, thus becoming the first Canadian-born black doctor.[1]

He served in Washington, D.C. from June 1863 to August 1865, first at the Contraband Hospital and then at the Freedman’s Hospital. He then went to a hospital in Arlington, Virginia. Receiving numerous commendations and becoming popular in Washington society, Abbott was one of only eight black surgeons to serve in the Civil War, a fact that fostered a friendly relationship between him and the president.[3] Abbott was among the group who stood vigil in Petersen House over the mortally-wounded Lincoln in April 1865, and Abbott kept “minutes” recording Lincoln’s condition through the night before his death on April 15.[4] Mary Todd Lincoln later presented Abbott with the plaid shawl that Lincoln had worn to his 1861 inauguration.[1][2][3]

Anderson Ruffin Abbott