British Doctors in Argentina - Dr. Michael O'Gorman


Dr. Michael O’Gorman

He was born in Ennistymon, County Clare, Ireland in 1749 (some sources claim that it was in 1736). He studied Medical Sciences in Paris and in Reims, acquiring a medical license later in Madrid. He was sent to London to study the latest methods of treatment for smallpox. On his return to Spain, he held posts in Public Health, and later in the Spanish Army.  In 1777 he accompanied Don Pedro Ceballos –first Viceroy of the Río de la Plata-  to Buenos Aires, where he set up his medical practice.

The progressive Viceroy Vértiz, who succeded Ceballos after his death in 1778, after founding the “Real Tribunal del Protomedicato del Río de la Plata”, named Dr. O’Gorman as Royal Physician in charge of surgery. The “Protomedicato” was an Institution functioning in Spain since the late 16th Century, evolving from earlier Institutions in the 14th and 15th Centuries. It was the rough equivalent of a Ministry of Public Health, which included medical education and supervision of physicians and surgeons, as also the use of medicines and pharmaceuticals.  In the colonies, there were Protomedicatos only in Mexico and Peru until then.
Dr. O’Gorman established the treatment for smallpox in Buenos Aires, and created establishments in the outlying suburbs to isolate contagious patients: this was seen to be very useful during a smallpox epidemic in the 1790’s. In 1805 he successfully introduced Dr. Jenner’s method for vaccination against this dreaded infection. At the beginning of the 19th Century, with Dr. Cosme Argerich, he was founder of the first Medical School in Argentina; there he taught medical students for several years and set up the first projects of Preventive Medicine.
He attended to the wounded soldiers during the English invasions in 1806 and 1807, and the following is a transcript from the Ennis Chronicle of November 28th, 1807:  “…the troops made prisoners in Buenos Ayres, who have returned to England, relate that the finest feelings of humanity were shown by many of the inhabitants towards them, particularly the ecclesiastics. The influence of the Bishops was very serviceable to all, and Dr. O’Gorman was extremely attentive.

Dr. O’Gorman, whose humanity and benevolence were so nobly exercised to the sick and wounded of our army at Buenos Ayres, is a native of this County. He left his own country young, and settled in South America, where he was promoted to the rank of State physician, the first place in the medical department, and one of high consideration.

A long residence in this sequestered part of the world did not render him unpractised in all the generous qualities of an Irishman:  he is in the highest estimation with persons of all rank in the Spanish part of South America, for his manliness and virtue. When his countrymen wanted the offices of humanity, every man found a friend in Dr. O’Gorman, whose munificence could not be exceeded by anything but his charity and philanthropy”

He died in Buenos Aires in 1819.

  • Doctors of Medicine, physicians and surgeons, serving the British Community in Argentina, in (Copywright of Jeremy Howat, December 2006).
  • José Babini (1963). La Ciencia en la Argentina. Biblioteca de América, libros del tiempo nuevo. EUDEBA.
  • Julio A. Luqui Lagleyze (1994). Buenos Aires, sencilla historia: La trinidad. Librerías Turísticas. ISBN 950-94400-8-9.
#Both retrieved from