Educated at College of New Jersey (B.A. 1754), London, and Edinburgh (M.D. 1761). Taught at Pennsylvania Hospital (1762-); pioneered use of dissection in medical education. Professor of surgery and anatomy at College of Philadelphia (1765); also interested in midwifery. Proposed reorganization of Continental Army medical department (March 1777). Chief physician of Continental Army (1777-81). President of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia (1805-08).
Son of William Shippen, a prominent Philadelphia physician, and his wife Susannah (Harrison) Shippen. Married Alice Lee, sister of Richard Henry Lee (c. 1760); one son.