Nelson's Surgeon by Laurence Brockliss
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Nelson's Surgeon
By Laurence Brockliss

Nelson's Surgeon

William Beatty, Naval Medicine, and the Battle of Trafalgar

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Format: Hardback

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Nelson's Surgeon by Laurence Brockliss

Book Awards

  • Winner of Royal Society of Medicine Prize 2006.

Book Description

In the lead-up to the bicentenary of Trafalgar a number of important new studies have been published about the life of Nelson and his defeat of the Combined Fleet in 1805. Despite the significant role played by the health and fitness of the British crews in securing the victory, little has been written hitherto about the naval surgeon in the era of the long war against France. This book is intended to fill the gap. Sir William Beatty (1773-1842) was surgeon of the Victory at Trafalgar. An Ulsterman from Londonderry, he had joined the navy in 1791. Before being warranted to Nelson's flagship, Beatty had served upon ten other warships, and survived a yellow fever epidemic, court martial, and shipwreck to share in the capture of a Spanish treasure ship. After Trafalgar, he became Physician of the Channel Fleet, based at Plymouth, and eventually Physician to Greenwich Hospital, where he served until his retirement in 1838. As the book makes clear in drawing upon an extensive prosopographical database, Beatty's career until 1805 was representative of the experience of the approximately 2,000 naval surgeons who joined the navy in the course of the war. The first part of the biography provides a detailed and scholarly introduction to the professional education, training, and work of the naval surgeon. But after 1805 Beatty became a member of the service elite, and his career becomes interesting for other reasons. In the final decades of his life, Beatty was far more than a senior naval physician. As a Fellow of the Royal Society, director of the Clerical and Medical Insurance Company, and director of the London to Greenwich Railway, he was a prominent figure in London's business and scientific community, who used his growing wealth to build a large collection of books and manuscripts. His later life is testimony to the much wider contribution that some naval and army medical officers made to the development of the new Britain of the nineteenth century. In Beatty's case, too, the contribution was original. By publishing in 1807 his carefully crafted Authentic Narrative of the Death of Lord Nelson, he was instrumental in forging the myth of the hero's last hours, which has become a part of the national consciousness and has helped to define for generations the concept of Britishness.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780199287420
ISBN-10: 0199287422
Format: Hardback
(242mm x 162mm x 19mm)
Pages: 236
Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publish Date: 6-Oct-2005
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions...


Books By Author Laurence Brockliss

Isaiah Berlin and the Enlightenment by Laurence Brockliss Isaiah Berlin and the Enlightenment, Hardback (October 2016)

Isaiah Berlin and the Enlightenment explores the development of Berlin's conception of the Enlightenment, noting its indebtedness to a specific German intellectual tradition. The book examines his comments on individual writers, arguing that some assigned to the Counter-Enlightenment have closer affinities to the Enlightenment than he recognized

Mass Education and the Limits of State Building, C.1870-1930 by Laurence Brockliss Mass Education and the Limits of State Building, C.1870-1930, Hardback (February 2012)

The first comparative study of the spread of mass education around the world in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this unique new book uses a bottom-up focus and demonstrates, to an extent not appreciated hitherto, the gulf between the intentions of the government and the reality on the ground.

Nelson's Surgeon by Laurence Brockliss Nelson's Surgeon, Paperback (July 2008)

The death of Admiral Nelson on the Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 is the basis of a well-known story. This book focuses on William Beatty, the surgeon who attended Nelson in his last hours and was later to publicize the deathbed scene. It traces his life and career as a leading naval surgeon during the Napoleonic Wars and afterwards.

Advancing with the Army by Laurence Brockliss Advancing with the Army, Hardback (January 2007)

Provides a statistical study of a professional cohort in the era of the industrial revolution. This prosopographical study, of some 450 surgeons who joined the army medical service during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, charts their background, education, military and civilian career, marriage, sons' occupations, and wealth at death.

» View all books by Laurence Brockliss

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