By Miriam Estensen
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Additional resources for The life of George Bass: surgeon and sailor of the enlightenment
He had behind him five years of experience at sea and saw himself, as he would later write to his mother, as a man of two professions: he was a surgeon and a sailor.
On ships the surgeon was generally the only member of the company who had a scientific education, and at times was instructed by the Admiralty to report on natural history matters. William Anderson, surgeon on Cook’s second and third voyages, accumulated valuable collections of specimens from the Pacific islands. Robert Brown, naturalist on Matthew Flinders’s Investigator, was an army surgeon prior to the voyage. Now Bass linked his scientific training to botanical investigations, and work and studies in this and other aspects of natural history, probably from this point on, became one of his favourite pursuits.
In 1795 the physician to the Channel Fleet, Thomas Trotter, wrote to the group’s commander, Admiral Lord 11 Life of George Bass PAGES 2/6/05 3:21 PM Page 12 Th e L i f e o f G e o r g e B a s s Richard Howe, on the rapid cure of scurvy aboard the ships after they were supplied with lemons and oranges. ’ and fresh beef broth to which onions, leeks or greens were added. 1 Yet it was more than 40 years before the naval physician Gilbert Blane, a Fellow of the Royal Society and a commissioner of the Admiralty’s Sick and Hurt Board, ordered a standard issue of citrus fruits to all ships.