Physician, Full Dress, 1805-1825


Physician, FULL DRESS, 1805-1825: drawn from Sick and Hurt Office reforms of January 23, 1805 and a portrait of Sir William Beatty in the Royal Museums at Greenwich

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The situation of a surgeon in the Royal Navy, prior to 1805, was, in the words of one of them, ‘neither profitable, comfortable, nor respectable’. Craftsmen rather than gentlemen, they were warrant officers who ranked somewhere between the master and the purser. Physicians on the other hand, who were members of a respected profession, were seldom found in the Navy, except in the very highest medical posts; and these were usually naval surgeons who had obtained a medical degree. The reforms of the Sick and Hurt Office in 1805 brought the Navy’s medical service into line with that of the Army. The details of the physicians’ coat have been taken from the portrait of Sir William Beatty in the National Maritime Museum. In Devis’ famous painting of the death of NelsonBeatty appears as a surgeon dressed in a full-dress coat, grey pantaloons, and Hessian boots.

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Dimensions 17.5 × 25.5 cm


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