Nautical Medicine

Nautical Medicine

Our December list is a diverse selection of books and manuscripts relating to nautical medicine. Most material concerns the problem of scurvy in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and some publications arise from the experiences of James Cook at sea. They include Sir John Pringle’s famous Royal Society address of 1776 amongst other lesser known works. The reaction of French surgeons and naval authorities to English advances in the treatment of scurvy is amply represented, see for example the Conseil de Marine manuscript report of 1777 (number 6).

Of special interest are the accounts of surgeons aboard convict transports, charged with caring for men and women under often atrocious conditions. Also included are two Acts of Parliament that changed the Australian convict history forever: one makes surgeons mandatory aboard transports while another empowers them to administer punishments at sea (items 16 and 17). The list concludes with a First Fleet classic by Australia’s foremost convict surgeon John White, bearing the early ownership inscription of another physician.

No such selection would be complete without some mention of that ubiquitous scourge of marine life – venereal disease – here tackled by none less than Admiral George Anson and his peers in the first item.