Special Tercentennial Issue
Distinguished Graduates
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Sigmund Waterman

M.D. 1848


According to Dan A. Oren’s study Joining the Club: A History of the Jews and Yale, the first Jewish student to attend the University was Moses Simons (Class of 1809). Soon after, Judah Benjamin, of a Southern Jewish family, quit Yale after two years and embarked on a fascinating career. Benjamin was elected as the first Jewish U.S.senator in 1852, served as secretary of war and secretary of state in the Confederacy, and after the Civil War, fled to England where he practiced law in the highest circles.

Sigmund Waterman has the distinction of having been the first Jew to teach at Yale. An immigrant from Bavaria, he served for three years as an instructor of German, which had become important with the increase in the teaching of science.

Waterman’s contact with Yale led him to enroll in the medical department of the College. On receiving his M.D. (the first of his religion to do so at Yale), Waterman moved to New York. In a long, distinguished medical career, he was a police surgeon for 30 years, a professor of urology at the Eclectic Medical College of the City of New York, and founder and medical director of a B'nai B'rith-sponsored elders hospital. A specialist in the use of the spectroscope, Waterman published and lectured often on the instrument.