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Biographical entry Annesley, Sir James H [1] (1774 - 1847)

Knight Bachelor 1844; Member of the Company of Surgeons Feb 5th 1795; FRCS Dec 11th 1843; one of the original 300 Fellows; FSA 1844.

County Down, Ireland
14 December 1847
Florence, Italy
General surgeon


Son of the Honourable Marcus Annesley, born in County Down, Ireland, about 1774, and educated at Trinity College and the College of Surgeons in Dublin, also at the Windmill Street School in London. On April 29th, 1799, he received a nomination in the medical service of the HEIC on the Madras side from Sir Walter Farquhar, and arrived in India in December, 1800. He was at once appointed to the Trichinopoly Corps and saw hard fighting with the field force in Southern India during the whole of the year 1801. He served with a battalion of native infantry at various stations from 1802-1805, when he was invalided home. Two years later he returned from England and was appointed Garrison Surgeon at Masulipatam, where he made himself well acquainted with native diseases and their treatment. He took careful notes of every case which came under his care, recording the symptoms, the remedies used, and the results.

Annesley was placed in medical charge of the 78th British Regiment during the Java expedition in 1811. He had the satisfaction of landing 1070 men fit for duty out of a strength of 1100, and the field hospital at Cornalis being in an unsatisfactory condition, Annesley, although the junior officer, was ordered to take command, and it is on record that in ten days he had the hospital in proper order, with its 1400 or 1500 patients clothed, victualled, and treated.

He was soon ordered back to Madras to superintend a field hospital established by Government for the native troops who had lost their health in the expedition to the Isle of France and Java. His administration proved so successful that he was publicly thanked by the Commander-in-Chief for "the ability, exertion and humane attention displayed by Surgeon Annesley, equally honourable to his professional talents and public zeal, which His Excellency trusts will entitle him to the good opinion and favourable notice of government". Native troops had been employed upon foreign service, and as a result of Annesley's treatment the Madras Sepoys were said to be willing to volunteer for any service in any part of the world.

In 1812 Annesley joined the Madras European Regiment, with which he remained until 1817, when the last Mahratta and Pindaree War began. Annesley was appointed Superintending Surgeon to the advanced divisions of the Army and served in the field until the end of 1818, being repeatedly mentioned in general orders for his zeal and ability. He was appointed Garrison Surgeon at Fort St George on his return to Madras, and placed in charge of the General Hospital, where he remained until he was invalided home in 1824. On leaving India on furlough the Admiralty presented him with a piece of plate of the value of one hundred guineas "as a mark of the sense their Lordships entertained of his gratuitous medical attendance on the officers and men of His Majesty's ships in Madras Roads, 1823".

Annesley returned to India in 1829, and was immediately appointed to examine the Medical Reports of former years with the view to selecting such cases as might tend to throw light upon the diseases of India. He made a digest of the Reports from 1786 to 1829, and also reported upon the climate, healthiness, and production of the hills in the Madras presidency. The digest occupied twelve volumes and was accompanied by four volumes of medical observations, all of the highest value. The digest had been made without cost to the Government, but on its completion the Court of Directors of the HEIC voted Annesley an honorarium of 5000 rupees.

He was appointed a member of the Medical Board in 1833, and in 1838 was permitted to retire from the Honourable Company's service on the pension of his rank, having served in India for the long period of thirty-seven years. On his return to England he received the honour of knighthood in [2] 1844; he was also elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

During his later years he lived at 6 Albany, Piccadilly. He died at Florence on Dec 14th, 1847.

Annesley did good service to the medical profession by his zeal, tact, and administrative ability, for he founded the tradition upon which was built the high reputation afterwards gained by the Indian Medical Service both amongst the Europeans and the native population of India.

Sketches of the Most Prevalent Diseases of India, Comprising a Treatise on Epidemic Cholera of the East, London, 1825, 2nd ed., 1828 [3]. Annesley discusses cholera with extensive first-hand information and makes some inquiries on the historical side in regard to the disease. The sketches include "Topographical, and Statistical Reports of the Diseases most prevalent in the different stations and divisions of the Army under the Madras Presidency", and "Practical Observations on the Effects of Calomel on the Mucous Surface and Secretions of the Alimentary Canal; and on the Use of this Remedy in Disease, more Particularly in the Diseases of India". For these sketches he received the Monthyon Prize, and the section on cholera was translated into German by Gustav Himly, Hannover, in 1831.
Researches into the Causes, Nature and Treatment of the more Prevalent Diseases of India, and of Warm Climates Generally, 4to, 2 vols., with 40 coloured engravings, London, 1828. The work is rendered unwieldy by its wealth of detail. [4]

[Amendments from the annotated edition of Plarr's Lives at the Royal College of Surgeons: [1] The 'H' is deleted and the following added - Crawford's Roll of I.M.S; Madras list no 435; [2] Crawford says knighted 13 May 1844 'F.R.S. 1840'; [3] 3rd edition 1841; [4] Digest of Madras Medical Reports 1788-1829 (Crawford) & ? above p.29; Portrait in College Collection]

Sources used to compile this entry: [Pettigrew's Biographical Memoirs of the Most Celebrated Physicians and Surgeons, iii, 1-18, with steel engraving by J. Cochran from a portrait by H. Room. Wernich and Hirsch's Biographisches Lexikon, Wien, 1884. Crawford's History of the Indian Medical Service, 2 vols., 1914].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England