John S. Sappington is Born: May 15, 1776

John S. Sappington
Missouri History Museum

John S. Sappington was born in Havre de Grace, Maryland on this date in 1776. He is one of several notable Missourians to have lived in Arrow Rock, and invented the quinine pill to treat malaria.

Sappington was an influential American physician and pioneer in the field of medicine during the 19th century. He moved to Missouri in the early 1800s, where he would make his most significant contributions. Sappington is best known for his development of a quinine-based treatment for malaria, a disease that was rampant in the American South and Midwest during his time.

Sappington’s journey into medicine was motivated by a desire to address the widespread health issues in the frontier regions. Malaria, also known as “ague” or “fever and ague,” was particularly devastating, and existing treatments were largely ineffective. After studying various medical texts and experimenting with different compounds, Sappington developed “Sappington’s Anti-Fever Pills,” which contained quinine, a substance derived from the bark of the cinchona tree. His treatment proved to be highly effective and became widely used, significantly reducing the mortality rate from malaria.

In addition to his medical practice, Sappington was a prominent figure in Missouri’s early history. He was a successful businessman, operating a large plantation where he kept several people as slaves. He authored a book titled “The Theory and Treatment of Fevers,” which disseminated his findings and treatment methods to a broader audience, further cementing his legacy as a pioneer in American medicine.

John S. Sappington’s work laid the groundwork for the widespread use of quinine in treating malaria, a practice that continued well into the 20th century until more advanced treatments were developed.