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Biographical entry Wylie, John (1790 - 1852)

CB (mil) 1850; MRCS May 1st 1812; FRCS (by election) Aug 26th 1844.

20 May 1790
16 June 1852
General surgeon


Born on May 20th, 1790, the son of George Wylie, of Glasgow. He entered the Madras Army as Assistant Surgeon on June 11th, 1812, being promoted to Surgeon on July 1st, 1825, to Superintending Surgeon on Feb 1st, 1838, to Inspector-General of Hospitals on Dec 18th, 1846, to Surgeon General on Aug 1st, 1850, and to Physician General on Jan 1st, 1851. He saw active service in the Third Maratha, Pindari, or Dekkan War (1817-1818), and took part very gallantly in the Battle of Corygaum, being mentioned in dispatches (GOCC, Jan 21st, 1818). He received the CB on Aug 17th, 1850, when the Order of the Bath was first conferred on medical officers. He retired on Feb 12th, 1851, and on leaving Madras received the well-deserved compliment of a General Order of the Governor in Council, expressive of the sense entertained of his "highly meritorious services during a lengthened period of thirty-seven years".

Physician General Wylie died suddenly at his residence at Arndean, Dollar, NB, on June 16th, 1852. He is cited by Lieut-Colonel Crawford (History of the Indian Medical Service, 1914) as one of the twenty-nine officers of the Indian Medical Service to be elected FRCS on Aug 26th, 1844.

The following appeared in the Monthly Journal of Medical Science (Edinburgh), 1852, xv, 228:-

"Dr Wylie was one of the medical officers of the Queen's and EIC's services, who were, in 1850, selected for admission into the Military Order of the Bath. The honour thus conferred on Medical Officers of the public services has been universally recognized as a merited, though somewhat tardy, compliment to the profession generally, and to the individuals who were thus distinguished. To none of them was the admission into a military order more appropriate than to Dr Wylie who, at an early period of his career, was called upon to render to his country a service more purely military than it commonly fails to the lot of a medical officer to perform. The exploit is notorious to every servant of the EIC; but many of our readers may not have heard of the affair of 'Corygaum' where one professional brother fell, and another bore a conspicuous part in achhieving a victory under desperate circumstances.

"The following account of this remarkable combat is taken from a divisional order of Brigadier-General Smith, of 7th January, 1818.

"'The commanding officer having received the official accounts of an attack made by the Peishwah's army on a small detachment, commanded by Captain Staunton, of the 2nd battalion 1st regiment Bombay NI at the village of Corygaum, has great satisfaction in publishing the particulars NI, general information, and in holding it up to the force, as one of the most brilliant examples of gallantry and perseverance recorded in our Indian annals.

"'This detachment, consisting of a detail of Madras artillery and two six-pounders, 2nd battalion 1st regiment NI, about 600 strong, and about 300 auxiliary horse, the whole under Captain Staunton, marched from Seroor to Poonah, at 8 pm, on the 31st December, and reached the heights overlooking Corygaum about ten o'clock in the forenoon, 1st January, from whence the whole of the Peishwah's army, estimated at 20,000 horse, and several thousand infantry, were discovered in the plain south of the Beemah River.

"'Captain Staunton immediately moved upon the village of Corygaum, with the intention of occupying it, and had scarcely succeeded in reaching it with his detachment, when he was attacked in the most determined manner by three divisions of the Peishwah's choicest infantry, supported by immense bodies of horse, and the fire of two pieces of artillery.

"'The enemy's troops were stimulated to their utmost exertions by the presence of the Peishwah on a distant height, attended by the principal Mahratta chiefs, who flattered his Highness with the prospect of witnessing the destruction of this gallant handful of British troops.

"'The enemy obtained immediate possession of the strongest parts of the village, from which it was found impossible to dislodge them, and the possession of the remaining part was most obstinately contested from noon till nine pm, during which time almost every pagoda and house had been repeatedly taken and re-taken, and one of the guns at one time was in possession of the enemy.

"'Towards the close of the evening, the detachment was placed in the most trying situation. At this period nearly the whole of the artillerymen were killed or wounded, and about one-third of the infantry and auxiliary horse. The exertions which the European officers had been called upon to make in leading their men to frequent charges with the bayonet had diminished their numbers. Lieutenant Chisholm of the Artillery and Mr. Assistant-Surgeon Wingate, 2nd battalion 1st Bombay NI, were killed; and Lieutenants Swanston, Pattinson, and Connellan were wounded, leaving only Captain Staunton, Lieutenant Jones, and Mr Assistant-Surgeon Wylie nearly exhausted, to direct the efforts of the remaining part of the detachment, who were nearly frantic from the want of water, and the almost unparalleled exertions they had made throughout the day, without any sort of refreshment, after a fatiguing march of twenty-eight miles.

"'Under cover of the night, they were enabled to procure a supply of water; and at nine pm the enemy were forced to abandon the village, after sustaining an immense loss in killed and wounded.

"'The British character was nobly supported throughout the whole of the arduous contest by the European officers, and a small detail of Madras artillery.

"'The medical officers also led on the sepoys to charges with the bayonet, the nature of the contest not admitting of their attendance to their professional duties; and in such a struggle, the presence of a single European was of the utmost consequence, and seemed to inspire the native soldiers with their usual confidence of success.

"'At daylight on the 2nd, the enemy were still in sight, but did not renew the attack, although it prevented the troops, whose ammunition was nearly expended, from procuring any supply of provisions.

"'Captain Staunton, however, made provisions for moving according to circumstances; and the manner in which that officer availed himself of the few resources which remained to him after such a contest, to prosecute his march and bring away the numerous wounded of his detachment, is highly praiseworthy.

"'The detachment moved, during the night of the 2nd, upon Seroor, which they reached at nine o'clock on the forenoon of the third, having had no refreshment from the 31st December.

"'Captain Staunton brought in nearly the whole of the wounded, and both guns and colours of the regiment, which the enemy had vainly hoped to present as trophies to the Peishwar.

"'Dr Wylie's own account of his share in this transaction is highly characteristic of the modesty which distinguished him. Writing to a friend a few days afterwards, he says: "Swanston, who was twice wounded - severely, very early in the day - I took him to a pagoda, dressed him, and also Lieutenant Connellan, and some others; but I did not remain long, finding it absolutely necessary to render the two remaining officers all the assistance in my power, in another way."'

"Some of the circumstances connected with the action at Corygaum are illustrative of the neglect with which it was formerly too much the custom to treat the services of medical officers. In a general order by the Governor in Council, promulgated in the succeeding month, embodying the very divisional order from which we have quoted above, and also in a general order by the Commander-in-Chief, we have the thanks of Government conveyed to the captain and lieutenants, to the native commissioned and non-commissioned officers and privates, but the name of Dr Wylie is omitted from both. It is, however, only just to the memory of the Governor-General, the Marquis of Hastings, to state that, in his general order of March 18th, Dr Wylie is mentioned by name along with the other officers."

Sources used to compile this entry: [Crawford's History of the Indian Medical Service, ii, 204, 205, 213, 251].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England