Anderson Ruffin Abbott was the first black licensed as a physician in Canada. As a renowned surgeon, he cared for dying President Abraham Lincoln.
Abbott was born on April 7th, 1837 in Toronto. His family left Alabama as free people of color after their store had been ransacked. After living in New York for a while, they left for Upper Canada.
Because of Abbott’s family’s wealth, he was able to own property and some of the best schools for blacks during the time. He was educated at the Buxton Mission School, a racially integrated school near Chatham, Canada West (as Upper Canada was called after 1841), that was noted for its superior education. The school was part of the Elgin Settlement, a safe haven for refugees from enslavement established in 1849. Later, Abbott studied at the Toronto Academy, where he was an honor student, followed by Oberlin College in Ohio. In 1857, Abbott enrolled at University College in Toronto to study chemistry. In 1858, he began studies at the Toronto School of Medicine, which later became affiliated with the University of Toronto.
Following a supervised placement with Alexander Augusta, the first black doctor in North America and the head of Toronto City Hospital (later Toronto General Hospital), Abbott was licensed in 1861 to practice medicine and became the first Canadian-born black doctor in Canada.
Abbott’s first commitment was provided the needed medical services to the American Civil War Colored Troops. He acted as a civilian surgeon in several Washington, D.C., hospitals that served Union forces.
Among his experiences as a surgeon, Abbott cared for a dying President Abraham Lincoln. Upon his return to Canada, Abbott married and moved to Chatham. There he was appointed the coroner for Kent County. He was also a public advocate for integrated schools. After living in other Ontario towns, he accepted an appointment in Chicago, Illinois, becoming medical superintendent of Provident Hospital, a training hospital for black nurses, in 1896. Anderson Abbott died on December 29, 1913.