Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Martin, Sir James Ranald (1796 - 1874)

CB 1860; Knight Bachelor, 1860; MRCS Oct 7th 1814; FRCS Dec 11th 1843 one of the original 300 Fellows; FRS 1845.

21 May 1796
Kilmuir, Isle of Skye
27 November 1874
General surgeon


Born at Kilmuir, Isle of Skye, on May 12th, 1796, the twin son of the Rev Donald Martin, and was educated at the Royal Academy, Inverness. He remained a student at St George's Hospital and at the Windmill Street School of Medicine until 1817, when on Sept 5th, he was appointed Assistant Surgeon on the Bengal establishment of the HEICS. In 1818 he was Assistant Garrison Surgeon at Fort William, and then spent three years in Orissa. In 1821 the Governor-General appointed him Surgeon to his Bodyguard. Towards the end of 1823, on the advice of Simon Nicolson, then the leading physician in Calcutta, he was selected by the Governor-General, Lord Amherst, to go to Haidarabad to attend Sir Charles Metcalfe, the Resident, who was seriously ill. He treated him successfully, brought his patient to Calcutta, and resumed his position in the Bodyguard. He served with this corps in the First Burmese War of 1824-1826 and was present at the capture of Donabew. On his return from Burma he was appointed Assistant Surgeon to the General Hospital in Calcutta, and on Sept 22nd, 1828, reached the rank of Surgeon. Later in the year he was appointed Surgeon to the Governor-General, Lord William Bentinck. In 1829 Martin was Garrison Surgeon at Fort William and Officiating Surgeon of the General Hospital. In 1830 he became a Presidency Surgeon, and in November of the same year succeeded Simon Nicolson at the Calcutta Native Hospital - appointments he held until January, 1840.

Martin retired from the Indian Medical Service on May 20th, 1842, settled in London, and lived for some time in Grosvenor Street. On March 31st, 1860, being then Physician to the Secretary of State for India, he was nominated one of the seven members of the Senate of the newly established Army Medical School at Fort Pitt, Chatham, and on Oct 31st, 1864, he was appointed President, with the rank of Inspector-General, of the Medical Board of the India Office. He was also a member of the Army Sanitary Commission. Martin resigned his appointments on Nov 17th, 1874, and died of bronchitis ten days later at his house in Upper Brook Street, Grosvenor Square. He married in 1826 a daughter of Colonel Patten, CB.

Martin was considered by Lieut-Colonel Crawford (History of the Indian Medical Service, 165) to have been "one of the most distinguished officers who have ever served in the Indian Medical Service". Whilst carrying on a large practice in Calcutta he found time to put forward many plans for improving the condition of the city and of the Indian Medical Service. For the latter he recommended in 1835 that medical officers should be called upon to write medico-topographical reports on their stations and districts, and set them an example by his Notes on the Medical Topography of Calcutta. In 1838 he submitted minutes on promotion and pension in the IMS, and in 1856, after his retirement, he wrote an important minute on the status of the army medical officer. He was also instrumental in obtaining the grant of such military honours as the Victoria Cross, the CB, and KCB to officers of the Army Medical Department and of the Indian Medical Service, though it was not until 1860 that he was himself decorated CB and made a Knight Bachelor. He had been elected FRS in 1845. Martin also recommended that the Medical Corps should be looked upon as a scientific corps and should rank next after the Royal Engineers.

Sir Ranald Martin was one of the first surgeons who used injections of iodine for the treatment of hydrocele.

Notes on Medical Topography of Calcutta, 1837, Calcutta, 2nd ed, 1839.
On the Influence of Tropical Climates on European Constitutions, 1841; 7th ed., 1856, re-written; 8th ed, 1861.
A View of the Formation, Discipline and Economy of Armies (with JOHN GRANT), London, 1845. It contains an account of Robert Jackson, the famous Army Surgeon (1750-1827).

Sources used to compile this entry: [Dict Nat Biog, sub nomine et auct ibi cit. Barker and Edwards' Photographs of Eminent Medical Men, with biography, 1867. Sir Joseph Fayrer's Life of Sir James Ranald Martin. Crawford's History of the Indian Medical Service, passim].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England