Antoine Saugrain in profile, illustration
Public Domain

Dr. Antoine Francois Saugrain is born: February 17, 1763

Antoine Saugrain, a French physician and scientist who played a significant role in the early history of St. Louis, was born on this date in 1763 in France. Saugrain was educated in Paris, where he developed an interest in chemistry and medicine. His early career was marked by his involvement in scientific research, including work with the famous chemist Antoine Lavoisier.

In the late 1780s, Saugrain moved to the United States, initially settling in Philadelphia. There, he became acquainted with prominent figures such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. His scientific expertise, particularly in chemistry and mineralogy, was well regarded, and he contributed to various scientific endeavors during his time in Philadelphia.

Saugrain’s life took a significant turn when he moved to the frontier town of St. Louis in 1799. At that time, St. Louis was a small settlement, and Saugrain became one of its first physicians—it has been speculated that he was actually the only physician there before the Louisiana Purchase transferred ownership of the city to the US. Saugrain was instrumental in addressing the health needs of the community, treating various illnesses and injuries. His medical practice was diverse, as he also served as a pharmacist, preparing medicines for his patients. Saugrain was the first doctor west of the Mississippi to administer the Jenner Cowpox vaccine.

Beyond his medical contributions, Saugrain was involved in the scientific exploration of the region. He conducted studies on local mineral resources and participated in efforts to promote scientific knowledge in the growing community. He also helped prepare specimens from the Corps of Discovery to send to Thomas Jefferson in 1804. His work in St. Louis established him as a respected figure in both the medical and scientific fields.

Saugrain’s legacy in St. Louis is remembered for his pioneering role as a physician and scientist. He was a key figure in the early development of the city’s medical and scientific infrastructure. Antoine Saugrain passed away in 1820, leaving behind a lasting impact on the community he served. His contributions to medicine and science in the early American frontier are a testament to his dedication and expertise.