The Cow-Pock-- or, the Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation, 1802, James Gillray, color engraving.

(Photo: Courtesy of NYU Press)
The health care debate raging in this country is hardly new. In fact, it goes all the way back to the founding fathers.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin all had a hand in shaping America's health care system.

They lived in a sickly time: Diseases like malaria, yellow fever and smallpox were rampant, as were treatments that did more harm than good, like bloodletting.

At one point, when yellow fever was tearing through Philadelphia, city leaders suggested setting off cannons to “clear the air.” Foul air was often blamed for poor health.

University of Denver historian Jeanne Abrams writes about all this in her new book “Revolutionary Medicine: The Founding Fathers and Mothers in Sickness and in Health.” Read the first chapter courtesy of NYU Press.