January 21, 1801 The Philadelphia Water Works opens, making Philadelphia the first major city in the U.S. to provide clean drinking water citywide.
1811 New York City purchases Belle Vue farm and builds a new almshouse along the East River.
1812 Benjamin Rush, M.D. (1745-1813), a signer of the Declaration of Independence, publishes the first psychiatric textbook in the United States, "Inquiries and Observations on Diseases of the Mind."
1820 Eleven physicians meet in Washington, DC, to establish the first compendium of standard drugs for the United States. This results in the creation of the "Pharmacopoeia."
July 1832 Cholera strikes New York and cities along the eastern seaboard; New York suffers 3,513 deaths and begins planning to bring clean water to the city from a source upstate.
1835 The Cook County Hospital (Illinois) traces its origins to the Board of Commissioners, which establishes the Poor House to provide free medical care to indigents.
1840 The Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, the world's first dental school, is established.
1842 The Home for Worthy, Aged, Indigent Colored People, now Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, opens in New York City.
October 14, 1842 The Croton Aqueduct provides New York with its first supply of clean water needed to combat disease, fight fires and meet the demands of a rapidly growing city.
1844 American inventor Charles Goodyear (no connection to the tire manufacturer) patents the vulcanization of rubber, which will make possible the mass production of condoms.
October 16, 1846 The first public demonstration of ether as anesthesia takes place during surgery performed by Dr. William T.G. Morton at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
1847 The Health Insurance Company of Philadelphia offers the first commercial health insurance in the U.S., but it fails due to inaccurate actuarial information.
1847 The American Medical Association is founded in Philadelphia to deal with the lack of standards and regulations in medical care and education.
1848 The University of Maryland School of Medicine is the first American medical school to make anatomical dissection compulsory.
1848 The Drug Importation Act passed by Congress requires U.S. Customs Service Inspection to stop the entry of adulterated drugs from abroad.
January 23, 1849 Elizabeth Blackwell becomes the first woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree.
1850 The report of a General Plan for the Promotion of the Public and Personal Health of Massachusetts is released, leading to the start of the American public health movement.
1854 Bellevue physicians promote the "Bone Bill," which legalizes the dissection of cadavers for anatomical studies.
1854 The Nursery for the Children of Poor Women, the first nursery in New York, opens on St. Mark's Place.
1855 St. Elizabeth's Hospital opens in Washington, DC, the first federal hospital devoted entirely to the mentally ill.
1858 The Long Island College Hospital (later to become SUNY/Downstate Medical Center) becomes the first U.S. medical school to make use of bedside teaching of medical students.
1859 French chemist Louis Pasteur suggests that living organisms, also called germs, are responsible for spreading disease.
April 20, 1862 Frenchmen Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard complete the first test for pasteurization, the process by which milk, wine and beer could be made pure of bacteria and molds.
March 1, 1864 Rebecca Lee becomes the first African-American woman to earn a medical degree, from the New England Female Medical College in Boston.
1865 The Association of New York issues its final report on the sanitary conditions of New York City, pressuring the city and state to organize a permanent Metropolitan Board of Health in 1866.
1866 Bellevue physicians are instrumental in developing New York City's sanitary code, the first in the world.
July 1, 1867 New York passes the first tenement house statute, requiring fire escapes and minimum standards of sanitation for any house occupied by four or more families.
1869 Dr. Robert Dalton creates the world's first hospital ambulance, a horse-drawn carriage serving Bellevue Hospital in New York.
1869 Dr. George M. Beard diagnoses neurasthenia for a wide variety of neurological disorders. This culturally oriented diagnosis attributes mental and physical symptoms to the excess of nervous energy brought on by the stresses of modern society.
1870 New York City creates the Department of Public Works, consolidating the Croton Aqueduct Department and the Street Department under the authority of Boss William M. Tweed.
1872 The U.S. Postmaster General is given authority to forbid use of mail to "persons operating fraudulent schemes," which constitutes the first federal power to regulate misleading advertising.
1873 Congress passes the Comstock Act (named for anti-obscenity crusader Anthony Comstock), making it illegal to send contraceptive devices and information through the mail.
1873 Colgate begins to mass-produce scented toothpaste in a jar.
1873 The nation's first nursing school based on Florence Nightingale's principles opens at Bellevue in New York City. Nursing students work on the hospital wards 12 hours a day, six days a week. By 1910, there are more than 1,000 nursing schools in the country.
March 3, 1879 The National Board of Health is created, representing the first organized, comprehensive, national medical research effort of the federal government.
1883 Dr. Harvey W. Wiley becomes chief chemist, expanding the Bureau of Chemistry's food adulteration studies. Campaigning for a federal law, Dr. Wiley is called the "crusading chemist" and "father of the Pure Food and Drug Act."
1885 New York City builds America's first garbage incinerator on Governor's Island.
August 1886 Stanton Coit organizes America's first settlement house, the Neighborhood Guild, on Manhattan's Lower East Side. It continues today as the University Settlement.
September 18, 1889 Hull House, a settlement house, is opened in Chicago's Near West Side by Jane Addams, offering social, educational and artistic programs for the neighborhood poor.
1891 Chicago's Provident Hospital and Nursing Training School, founded by Dr. David Hale Williams, opens as the first African-American-controlled hospital in the nation.
July 1893 Henry Street Settlement and Henry Street Visiting Nurse Service are founded on New York's Lower East Side by Lillian D. Wald and Mary Brewster.
October 1893 Johns Hopkins University Medical School, the first modern medical school in the U.S., opens, following a generous gift by Mary Elizabeth Garrett stipulating that men and women be admitted to the school on the same terms.
1894 The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine establishes the first laboratory within a hospital.
1894 The University of Michigan School of Dentistry becomes the first dental school to offer graduate courses in dentistry.
1895 The National Medical Association, for African-American physicians, is founded in Atlanta.
1895 Colonel George E. Waring is appointed Commissioner of Street Cleaning by New York City Mayor William Strong. Waring reorganizes the department and develops the Juvenile Street Cleaning League, which spreads hygiene information to children's non-English speaking parents.
January 8, 1896 William Roentgen discovers x-rays. The first clinical x-ray is taken at Dartmouth Medical School.
1898 Cornell University Medical College is founded.
1898 The Johnson & Johnson Company patents dental floss.
1899 Indiana reform school superintendent Harry Sharp uses vasectomy for eugenic sterilization for the first time.