Thomas Trotter (1760–1832) was a Scottish naval physician and author who was a leading medical reformer in the Royal Navy and an ardent critic of the slave trade.Trotter was born in Melrose, Roxburghshire, and studied medicine under Alexander Monro (secundus) in Edinburgh. His major work, the Medicina Nautica, was published in 1802 and provides a detailed examination of the state of naval medicine during the French Revolutionary Wars.
The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.
Abolitionism in the United Kingdom was the movement in the late 18th and early 19th centuries to end the practice of slavery, whether formal or informal, in the United Kingdom, the British Empire and the world, including ending the Atlantic slave trade. It was part of a wider abolitionism movement in Western Europe and the Americas.
Roxburghshire or the County of Roxburgh is a historic county and registration county in the Southern Uplands of Scotland. It borders Dumfriesshire to the west, Selkirkshire to the north-west, and Berwickshire to the north. To the south-west it borders Cumberland and to the south-east Northumberland, both in England.
Trotter was a champion of vaccinations for naval medical staff, and as the Navy's Physician of the Fleet he required that all naval surgeons and assistants be inoculated against smallpox. After an extensive naval career, Trotter retired to private practice in 1802 and died in 1832.
Smallpox was an infectious disease caused by one of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The last naturally occurring case was diagnosed in October 1977 and the World Health Organization (WHO) certified the global eradication of the disease in 1980. The risk of death following contracting the disease was about 30%, with higher rates among babies. Often those who survived had extensive scarring of their skin and some were left blind.
Trotter was born in Roxburghshire in 1760. He enlisted in the Royal Navy at the age of nineteen and, despite a lack of medical training, was assigned the rank of surgeon's mate aboard the 74-gun ship of the line HMS Berwick. Britain was then at war against the Dutch, French and Spanish, and Trotter saw active service during the Battle of Dogger Bank in 1781, and in the lifting of the Great Siege of Gibraltar in 1782. He was discharged from the Navy in 1783, at the conclusion of the wars.
A surgeon's mate was a rank in the Royal Navy for a medically trained assistant to the ship's surgeon. The rank was renamed assistant surgeon in 1805, and was considered equivalent to the rank of master's mate/mate. In 1807, first-rate would have three, a third-rate two, and frigates and sloops one.
A ship of the line was a type of naval warship constructed from the 17th through to the mid-19th century to take part in the naval tactic known as the line of battle, in which two columns of opposing warships would manoeuvre to bring the greatest weight of broadside firepower to bear. Since these engagements were almost invariably won by the heaviest ships carrying the most powerful guns, the natural progression was to build sailing vessels that were the largest and most powerful of their time.
HMS Berwick was a 74-gun Elizabeth-class third rate of the Royal Navy, launched at Portsmouth Dockyard on 18 April 1775, to a design by Sir Thomas Slade. She fought the French at the Battle of Ushant (1778) and the Dutch at the Battle of Dogger Bank (1781). The French captured her in the Action of 8 March 1795 during the French Revolutionary Wars and she served with them with some success then and at the start of the Napoleonic Wars until the British recaptured her at the Battle of Trafalgar. Berwick sank shortly thereafter in a storm.
Unemployed and without family or political connections, Trotter elected to sign on as surgeon aboard a Guineaman, or slaving ship, engaged in the transportation of slaves from Africa to the Caribbean. He later considered this to be the lowest point of his life, and his exposure to the misery of the slaves converted him to the anti-slavery cause. An outbreak of scurvy on board also fixed his attention on the disease.
Scurvy is a disease resulting from a lack of vitamin C. Early symptoms include weakness, feeling tired, and sore arms and legs. Without treatment, decreased red blood cells, gum disease, changes to hair, and bleeding from the skin may occur. As scurvy worsens there can be poor wound healing, personality changes, and finally death from infection or bleeding.
Trotter pursued medical studies in Edinburgh, and graduated M.D. in 1788. During the Spanish armament of 1790, he was appointed by Vice-admiral Robert Roddam, to be surgeon of his flagship HMS Royal William, and in 1793 was surgeon of HMS Vengeance for a voyage to the West Indies and back. In December he was appointed second physician to the Royal Hospital at Haslar, near Portsmouth, and in April 1794 was nominated by Lord Howe physician to the Channel fleet. In this capacity he served through the campaigns of 1794 and 1795, was present in the battle of 1 June 1794, appears to have been with Cornwallis on 16–17 June 1795, and to have joined the fleet under Lord Bridport very shortly after the action of 23 June. When going on board one of the ships to visit a wounded officer, he was accidentally ruptured, and rendered incapable of further service at sea.
Robert Roddam was an officer of the Royal Navy who saw service during the War of the Austrian Succession, the Seven Years' War, and the American War of Independence. He survived to see the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, but was not actively employed during them.
HMS Prince was a 100-gun first rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built by Phineas Pett the Younger at Deptford Dockyard and launched in 1670.
HMS Vengeance was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 25 June 1774 at Rotherhithe. By 1780, she was at the island of Martinique, and was driven ashore and damaged at Saint Lucia in the Great Hurricane of 1780 but recovered and made her way to Portsmouth to be repaired. Finished in 1803, the ship was put into reserve before becoming a prison ship in the year 1808.
Trotter was granted a pension; he settled in private practice at Newcastle, which he gave up, but continued to write, mostly on professional subjects. He died at Newcastle on 5 September 1832. He was twice married.
At the age of 16 Trotter wrote verses which were published in Walter Ruddiman's Edinburgh Magazine in 1777 and 1778. His M.D. dissertation was De Ebrietate ejusque effectibus in corpus humanum, published in English as An Essay, medical, philosophical, and chemical, on Drunkenness, and its Effects on the Human Body (1804; 4th edit. 1812). In England, while in private medical practice at Wooler in Northumberland, he wrote up his notes on scurvy to order, and published them as Observations on the Scurvy (1786; 2nd edit., much enlarged, 1792). Treatment for scurvy had been demonstrated by James Lind in his Treatise of 1754; Trotter corroborated Lind's thesis by extensive observations. In 1795, through Sir Gilbert Blane, the Admiralty endorsed the general use of lemon juice.
Other works were:
Trotter contributed also to the European Magazine , Medical Journal and other periodicals.
James Lind was a Scottish doctor. He was a pioneer of naval hygiene in the Royal Navy. By conducting one of the first ever clinical trials, he developed the theory that citrus fruits cured scurvy. He argued for the health benefits of better ventilation aboard naval ships, the improved cleanliness of sailors' bodies, clothing and bedding, and below-deck fumigation with sulphur and arsenic. He also proposed that fresh water could be obtained by distilling sea water. His work advanced the practice of preventive medicine and improved nutrition.
Admiral Charles Middleton, 1st Baron Barham PC was a Royal Navy officer and politician. As a junior officer he saw action during the Seven Years' War. Middleton was given command of a guardship at the Nore, a Royal Navy anchorage in the Thames Estuary, at the start of the American War of Independence, and was subsequently appointed Comptroller of the Navy. He went on to be First Naval Lord and then First Lord of the Admiralty. Middleton also played a crucial role in the abolition of the slave trade.
Sir Gilbert Blane of Blanefield, 1st Baronet FRSE FRS MRCP was a Scottish physician who instituted health reform in the Royal Navy. He saw action against both the French and Spanish fleets, and later served as a Commissioner on the Sick and Wounded Board of the Admiralty.
Admiral Edward Vernon was a British naval officer. He had a long and distinguished career, rising to the rank of admiral after 46 years service. As a vice admiral during the War of Jenkins' Ear, in 1739 he was responsible for the capture of Porto Bello, seen as expunging the failure of Admiral Hosier there in a previous conflict. However, his later amphibious operation against Cartagena de Indias suffered a severe defeat. Vernon also served as a Member of Parliament (MP) on three occasions and was out-spoken on naval matters in Parliament, making him a controversial figure.
George Busk FRS was a British naval surgeon, zoologist and palaeontologist.
Sir William Beatty was an Irish surgeon who served in the Royal Navy. Born in Derry, Ireland, he joined as a surgeon's mate in 1791 at the age of 18. He is best known as the Ship's Surgeon aboard HMS Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar, at which he witnessed the death of Admiral Horatio Nelson, and for authoring an account of that battle – The Death of Lord Nelson.
The Sick and Hurt Commissioners were responsible for medical services in the Royal Navy. They were a separate body to the Navy Board, supplying surgeons to naval ships, providing them with medicines and equipment, and running shore and ship hospitals; they were also responsible for prisoners of war.
Admiral Alan Gardner, 1st Baron Gardner, was a British Royal Navy officer and peer of the realm. He was regarded by some as one of the Georgian era's most dashing frigate captains and, ultimately, a respected senior admiral.
Thomas Denman, the elder, M.D. (1733–1815) was an English physician. He was the second son of John Denman, an apothecary born at Bakewell, Derbyshire, on 27 June 1733. After a career in naval medicine he made a considerable amount of money in midwifery. The phenomenon of Denman's spontaneous evolution, by which a spontaneous impaction of the shoulder of a foetus resolves a difficult transverse delivery during childbirth, is named after him. He used his authority to support inducing premature labour in cases of narrow pelvis and other conditions in England.
Sir James Lind KCB was an officer of the Royal Navy who served during the American War of Independence and the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The son of James Lind, a distinguished naval physician, Lind also embarked on a career at sea, but served in a more front line role. After serving on a number of different ships he finally received his own command in 1800, but his first chance to show his ability came only in 1803 when in command of HMS Sheerness. Here he captured a French privateer after his imitation of a merchant ship encouraged the privateer to actually attack his heavily armed frigate. He then revealed the true nature of his ship and the hapless privateer had no choice but to swiftly surrender. Promoted to command the 50-gun HMS Centurion Lind had another opportunity to distinguish himself, when the convoy under his protection was attacked in the harbour of Vizagapatnam by a heavily armed French squadron under Rear-Admiral Charles-Alexandre Durand Linois. Despite being on shore at the time Lind hurried back to take command and supervise operations to resist the French, who though were able to capture one of the merchants, decided not to risk pressing the attack on the Centurion and withdrew. The survival of the Centurion in the face of overwhelming forces was hailed as a great achievement back home in Britain, with Lind being knighted for his efforts.
Admiral Sir George Elliot was a Royal Navy officer who served during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, and the First Opium War.
HMS Salisbury was a 50-gun fourth rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. She was built during the War of the Austrian Succession and went on to see action in the Seven Years' War, serving in the East Indies.
Dr Alexander Tweedie FRS was a Scottish physician and writer.
Robert Robertson (1742–1829) was a British surgeon and a Fellow of the Royal Society.
James Ormiston McWilliam (1808–1862) was a Scottish naval surgeon, physician and writer on infectious diseases, best known as medical officer to the 1841 Niger expedition.
Dr George Kellie MD, FRSE (1770–1829) was a Scottish surgeon who, together with Alexander Monro secundus gave his name to the Monro-Kellie doctrine, a concept which relates intracranial pressure to the volume of intracranial contents and is a basic tenet of our understanding of the neuropathology of raised intracranial pressure. The doctrine states that since the skull is incompressible, and the volume inside the skull is fixed then any increase in volume of one of the cranial constituents must be compensated by a decrease in volume of another. Previous research about George Kellie (1720–1779) may have been hampered by a widely cited incorrect year of birth, by the spelling of his name as Kellie or Kelly and by confusion with his father, also a surgeon in Leith, with the same name and subject to similar spelling variations.
Sir Benjamin Fonseca Outram KCB (1774–1856) was an English naval surgeon, physician and medical inspector.
Sir David James Hamilton Dickson OSV FRSE FRCSE FRCPE FLS (1780–1850) was a Scottish naval surgeon, medical author and amateur botanist, serving during the Napoleonic Wars and War of 1812 between Britain and the United States.
Prof Christopher Girtanner FRSE (1760–1800) was a short-lived but influential Swiss author, physician and chemist. He was also Privy Councillor to the Duke of Saxe-Coburg.