William Lempriere

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William Lempriere (1751-1834), a traveller and medical writer, was the third son of Thomas Lempriere of Jersey, British Consul at Faro, and Mary Garnaut of Lisbon.

Early career

He entered the Army Medical Service, and in 1789 was attached to the garrison of Gibraltar as Regimental Surgeon's Mate in the 11th Foot. In September of that year General O'Hara at Gibraltar received a letter from one of the Sultan of Morocco's sons, who was going blind, asking that an English doctor might be sent to treat him, offering in return "a liberal reward" and the release from slavery of ten shipwrecked British sailors.

"Impelled by that impetuous curiosity which is natural to youth”, Lempriere volunteered to go. He landed at Tangier on 14 September and escorted by two cavalrymen, rode on mule-back 530 miles down the coast to Mogador, and then another 130 miles to Tarudant, where he found the Prince. After five weeks treatment his patient's sight definitely improved.

But the old Sultan Mahomet XVI grew nervous lest this foreign doctor might be poisoning his son; so the prince was hurried off on pilgrimage to Mecca, and Lempriere sent 120 miles over the Atlas Mountains to Marrakesh. Here his medicines were handed to Moorish physicians to analyse. No notice was taken of his requests to be allowed to return to Gibraltar.

Successful book

Then the Sultan's favourite wife was poisoned by her rivals, and he was called in to attend her. By pretending that the necessary drugs could only be obtained in Europe, at last he secured permission to leave the country. He got back on 27 March 1790. In 1791 he published in London an account of his adventures, A Tour from Gibraltar to Tangier, Sallee, Mogodore, Santa Cruz, Tarudant, and thence over Mount Atlas to Morocco, including a particular account of the Royal Harem.

Among the subscribers were Dr Bandinel, Netherbury, Dorset; John Lempriere, British Consul at Faro; Charles Hilgrove Hammond of Trinity College, Oxford; and Arthur Atherly Hammond of St John's, Oxford. This book had a tremendous success. It reached a second edition in 1793, a third in 1800, a fourth in 1808 and a fifth in 1813.

In 1792 Lempriere was sent to the West Indies where he spent five years as surgeon to the Jamaica Light Dragoons. On his return he published two books, Practical Observations on the Diseases of the Army in Jamaica during the years 1792-7, and On the Situation, Climate, and Diseases of Jamaica and on the most probable means of Suppressing Mortality among the Troops and Europeans in Tropical Climates, 1799.

He took his MD at Aberdeen in 1799. His next station was the Isle of Wight, where he was Physician-General to the Troops. While there he published a Report on the Medicinal Effects of an Alumnious Chalybeate Water lately discovered at Sandrooks in the Isle of Wight, 1812, and Popular Lectures on the Study of Natural History and the Sciences, delivered before the Isle of Wight Philosophical Society, 1830.

He left the Army with the rank of Inspector-General of Hospitals, and died at Bath 24 July 1834.

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