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Nathan Mossell was born on this date in 1856. He was a Black Canadian physician.
Nathan Francis Mossell was born in Hamilton, Canada, the fourth of six children. Both his parents, Eliza Bowers and Aaron Albert Mossell, were descended from freed slaves. According to Mossell's autobiography, his mother's stories of the discrimination and hardship their families faced strengthened her own children's determination to succeed.
His maternal grandfather had resisted all attempts by his owner to make him work and was eventually freed. He married and settled in Baltimore, but the entire family, including Mossell's mother, who was a child at the time, were deported to Trinidad. Mossell's paternal grandfather, who had been transported from West Africa, managed to buy his freedom and that of his wife. He too settled in Baltimore, where Mossell's father was born.
Mossell's parents met and married in Baltimore after his mother's family return from Trinidad. His father learned the brick making trade and saved enough money to buy a house. After the birth of their third child, the couple decided to move to Canada, as free Blacks were prohibited from being educated in Maryland and they wanted education for their children. They sold their house in Baltimore and settled in Hamilton, Ontario. His father bought a tract of clay-bearing land and set up his own brickworks.
Young Mossell had shown academic promise at Lincoln University, where he was the winner of the Bradley Medal in Natural Science. Lincoln awarded Mossell its Bachelor of Arts degree in 1879. He received the Doctor of Medicine degree in 1882 at Penn where he took second honors in his class. After graduation he was trained by Dr. D. Hayes Agnew in the Out-Patient Surgical Clinic of the University Hospital.
Mossell's post-graduate studies included an internship in the Guy's, Queens College, and St. Thomas hospitals in London. In 1888 he was elected to membership in the Philadelphia County Medical Society, the first Black physician to be so honored. In August 1895, he was the leading figure in the founding of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital and Training School. He served as chief-of-staff and medical director there until his retirement in 1933.
Though Nathan Mossell died in 1946, in 1948, Douglass Hospital merged with another predominantly Black hospital, Mercy, and in 1955, the new Mercy-Douglass Hospital building opened on Woodland Avenue, between 50th and 51st Streets in West Philadelphia. There it offered health care services to still another generation of Black Philadelphia citizens before it was closed in 1973.
Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century.
Edited by Leon Litwack and August Meier
Copyright 1998, University of Illinois Press