Dr. Antoine Francois Saugrain was born 17 February 1763 in Versailles, France – died 5 March 1820 in St. Louis, Missouri. Saugrain was educated in Paris as a physician and chemist by Antoine Fourcroy and Mathurin-Jacques Brisson.
In 1783 he traveled to North America to serve as a mineralogist for Gilbert Antoine de St. Maxent at New Orleans, where he was admitted to the practice of surgery. In 1787 Dr. Saugrain traveled to the United States bearing a letter of introduction to Benjamin Franklin. He became part of a scientific expedition to explore the Ohio River led by the botanist Picque in 1788. However, Saugrain was injured during an Indian raid and returned to France. Dr. Saugrain was soon forced to flee France because of his royalist beliefs at the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789.
He returned to the United States and helped found a French émigré community at Gallipolis, Ohio. It was there that he married Genevieve Rosalie Michau on March 20, 1793. In 1799 the Saugrains moved to St. Louis. Dr. Saugrain was the city's only physician until the United States took possession of St. Louis following the Louisiana Purchase.
Saugrain prepared specimens for Meriwether Lewis to send to President Thomas Jefferson in early 1804. He also provided the Lewis and Clark expedition with medical supplies.
Dr. Saugrain was the first physician west of the Mississippi river to use the Jenner cowpox vaccine to prevent smallpox, beginning in 1809. From a public health perspective, his willingness to vaccinate anyone, regardless of ability to pay is especially noteworthy. The Missouri State Historical Society has a copy of an advertisement of Dr. Saugrain’s offering vaccine to all persons of indigent circumstances as well as to doctors who lived outside of his practice area.
Outside of medicine Dr. Saugrain also had interests in mineralogy, physics and chemistry. Saugrain experimented with early versions of phosphorus matches and manufactured thermometers and barometers at Gallipolis.
In 1944 Liberty ship SS Antoine Saugrain was named in his honor.