Medical Officers of the Malta Garrison Robinson Frederick
199 Surgeon Frederick Robinson MD (St And 1847) MRCS (Eng 1847) MRCPI (1859) FRCPI (1874) 16 Mar 1826 [Greenwich] – 21 July 1901 [Eastbourne]
Surgeon-Major Frederick Robinson trained at the Newcastle School of Medicine and qualified in 1847. He entered the Army Medical Service as Assistant Surgeon on 19 November 1847.
Surgeon-Major Robinson served with the Scots Fusilier Guards throughout the Eastern Campaign of 1854 – 1855 and was at the battles of Alma, Balaklava, Inkerman, the siege and fall of Sebastopol and the sortie of 26 October 1854. He was awarded the Crimean Medal with four clasps, the Order of the Medjidie (5th Class) and the Turkish Medal. He was recommended for the Victoria Cross for distinguished conduct in the field at the Battle of Alma, and was personally complimented for his conduct during the campaign at Inkerman, by Lord Raglan, and at Alma by the Duke of Cambridge.
Among his publications were:
A diary of the Crimean War. London (Bentley) 1856.
Compound fracture of the skull with depression. Death arising from abscess 24 days after trephining complicated with epilepsy. Lancet 18 September 1858 vol 2.
Empyema and purulent deposits in the brain. AMD Report Vol 1 (1859).
Case of ligation of the femoral artery for traumatic aneurysm AMD Report Vol V (1863).
Diseases of soldiers in Home Service. Lancet 1852 vol 1.
On hospital stoppages. United Service Magazine.
Notes on sedatives in pneumonia. Lancet 1880 vol 1.
The New Religio Medici: Chapters on present day subjects (1887).
In 1887, the New Religio Medici was reviewed in the British Medical Journal which passed the following comments.
It is not a book at all after the fashion of the Religio Medici of Sir Thomas Browne, but a collection of slight essays,
several of which have been published before in the Churchman, on subjects deeply religious, but in the treatment of which Dr Robinson feels generally some medical interest. Some of the papers, such as the first, on the most desirable arrangement of the Prayer Book and the advisability of extempore prayer in Church service, have no medical side. In Jewish history he touches briefly on the acute dysentery of Jehoram; the senile gangrene, possibly elephantiasis, both common in the East, of Asa's feet; and the carbuncle of Hezekiah. He dwells longer on the dementia of Saul, but here we must confess that he fails to give us so vivid and masterly a portrait as that which we owe to Mr Robert Browning's poem. Dr Robinson treats it as an instance of those phenomena in insanity not merely not opposed to, but rather in accord with possession, as represented in the Bible; more cannot be affirmed, more we do not presume to advance. As long, indeed, as what M. Ribot now calls Les maladies de la personnalité exist, so long must we expect some interest in a hypothesis of possession to account for them. In a paper curiously entitled Universalism through the Flesh, Dr Robinson loses himself a little in the world-old problems into which he is attracted by some criticism of Hinton's book, The Mystery of Pain. He feels much sympathy with Hinton's original endeavour to reach the bottom of some great questions which many men leave on one side as unfathomable such as the reason of the existing distribution of pain and pleasure in the world. Hinton had felt himself obliged to assume a beneficent order of the universe, and came to the conclusion that we could only feel what seemed to us unjust pain or sorrow from some morbid tendency on our part. That such a tendency was universal and nevertheless unnatural did not seem to him too paradoxical to be true. Dr Robinson gently remonstrates with him, and urges the orthodox theory that all pain is a training leading to improvement. There is medical illustration and flavour throughout these essays, and a high-toned sincerity that is attractive in matters so disputable and difficult.1
Surgeon-Major Frederick Robinson was a member of the Pathological Society. In 1881, he retired to 9 Chiswick Place Eastbourne. He died at Eastbourne on 21 July 1901, aged of 75 years.2
Service Record — Frederick Robinson
19 Nov 1847 Assistant Surgeon 74th (Highlanders) Regiment of Foot.
31 Dec 1852 Assistant Surgeon 1st Scots Fusilier Guards.
Malta 19 Mar 1854 Arrived from England. Quartered at the Lazaretto until departing for Turkey on 21 Apr 1854.
20 Mar 1857 Promoted Battalion Surgeon 2nd Scots Fusilier Guards and subsequently to the 1st Battalion.
In 1857, when stationed at Windsor, the extent and severity of venereal diseases in his battalion induced Surgeon Robinson to write a letter to the General Officer Commanding. In it he pointed out that three-fourths of the sick of his battalion consisted of venereal cases. This was equivalent to thirty or about 4 1/2 % out of a nominal strength of 659 non-commissioned officers and men. His letter was ignored and no preventive measures were enforced.
2 Mar 1858 Awarded the Imperial Order of the Medjidie (5th Class) by the Sultan for his distinguished services before the enemy during the war against Russia.
19 Nov 1867 Promoted Surgeon-Major on completion of 20 years full-pay service in accordance with the Royal Warrant of 1 October 1858. Surgeon-Major Robinson, however, continued in his regiment in the rank of Battalion Surgeon.
24 March 1871 Voiced his opinion at a meeting of the Surgical Society of Ireland during the debate on Vaccination and re-vaccination against small pox. Surgeon-Major Robinson spoke in favour of re-vaccination. He informed the meeting that the men joining his regiment were invariably re-vaccinated, and that, though in London they had been more exposed to the contagion of small-pox than most troops, the cases of the disease among them were extremely few. All the officers had also been re-vaccinated, and scarcely one had suffered from the operation.4
20 Feb 1876 Surgeon-Major 2nd Scots Fusilier Guards.
July 1879 Presented evidence to the the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the workings of the Contagious Diseases Acts and its effect on reducing venereal infections in the Scots Fusilier Guards since the Acts had come into operation. The Select Committee was to report on the advisability of maintaining, extending, amending or repealing the Contagious Diseases Acts. The evidence given by Sir William Muir, Inspector General Lawson, Surgeon-Major Robinson and Surgeon Arthur Bowen Richards Myers Coldstream Guards showed conclusively that the Acts had brought about an immense improvement in the health and efficiency of soldiers in the protected districts.5
The Contagious Diseases Act of 1864 was enacted for the prevention of Contagious Diseases at certain Naval and Military Stations. The Act provided for the appointment of a medical inspector to certify any hospital in certain districts mentioned in the Act for the reception of patients and their treatment. It also empowered the police to take into custody any prostitute whom a policeman had reason to believe to be suffering from a contagious disease. The woman was then to be taken before a magistrate, who had the power of ordering her to be examined in a certified hospital. If the woman were found to be diseased, she was detained until cured, or for a period not exceeding three months.
The Act failed to reduce the incidence of venereal diseases in garrison towns. In October 1864, a Commission composed entirely of medical men was appointed to inquire into the whole subject. Mr Skey was Chairman of this Commission, which, after examining a large number of witnesses, reported in favour of an extension of the Act.
Another Contagious Diseases Act was passed in 1866, which superseded that of 1864. By the Act of 1866, it was no longer necessary to prove that the woman had a contagious disease. If the policeman could satisfy the magistrate that a woman was a common prostitute, the magistrate had power to send her to a certified hospital for examination, and the hospital authorities were empowered to require this woman, so long as she remained a common prostitute in the district under the Act, to attend for examination as often as they should think fit. There was also a provision in this Act for the moral and religious instruction of the women whilst under treatment; and power was likewise given to detain every woman who entered the hospital with a contagious disease until she was cured. The detention, however, was limited to six months.
Between 1860 and 1867, there was no diminution in the number of cases of venereal disease in the Scots Fusilier Guards at Windsor. In 1867, the regimental authorities at Windsor placed a guard over a certain brothel, from where the soldiers were found chiefly to have contracted syphilis.
In 1868, the House of Lords appointed a Committee to inquire into the subject, and they came to the conclusion that a still further extension of the Acts was desirable. In the following year, the House of Commons appointed a Select Committee to inquire into the working of the Act of 1866. In accordance with the recommendation of this Committee, an Act was passed in 1869 enlarging some of the provisions of the Act of 1866, and extending its operations. Under the Act passed in 1869, fifteen places in England and three in Ireland became subject to the operation of the Contagious Diseases Acts. These were: Aldershot, Canterbury, Chatham, Colchester, Dover, Gravesend, Maidstone, Plymouth and Devonport, Portsmouth, Sheerness, Shorncliffe, Southampton, Windsor, Winchester, Woolwich, the Curragh, Cork, and Queenstown.5
In 1868, when the Contagious Diseases Acts came into force at Windsor, an immediate amelioration took place; but the benefit derived by the troops at Windsor was lost when they visited London, due to the virulence of the disease in the capital. Dr Robinson originally thought that voluntary Lock Hospitals for prostitutes might be effective. He later modified his views and held the opinion that coercive measures were also necessary. In the Scots Fusilier Guards, the men were periodically inspected for venereal disease. Although the practice fell into disuse, it was revived when the Contagious Diseases Acts came into operation. Robinson believed that regular examination of soldiers would contribute very much to the efficiency of the Acts. He was in favour of extending the Acts to all military stations, because of the great loss to the service resulting from the direct and indirect consequences of syphilis. In his annual reports Robinson wrote of the great benefit it would be to the service if the Acts were extended to London, not only in promoting the efficiency of the army, but also in diminishing constitutional disease both in parents and their offspring.3
1880 At No 47 Claverton Terrace St George's Road SW London.
16 Mar 1881 Retired with the honorary rank of Brigade Surgeon.
5 July 1882 In a letter to the British Medical Journal of 1882 Dr Robinson described the case of a young Scots Guardsman who became infected with syphilis following tattooing.
As illustrating somewhat aptly one of the channels by which syphilis is engendered ab extra, the following case may prove useful. The patient was the finest man, as to physique, in the Scots Fusilier Guards, and his general character being equally good, it was a matter of regret that the misfortune did not befall a less worthy representative of the corps. He was a young Scotch soldier drawn from the agricultural class, six feet four inches in height, with chest and limbs fully proportioned and symmetrical, when he came to hospital. He had two circular patches situated on the hand and feet of a tattooed figure about four inches long, which embellished the forearm. This figure is of somewhat classical order, and rather epicene in general aspect, but possibly represents the goddess of war, as a crown surmounts the head of the personage. The spots resembled blind boils, to which recruits are subject, and no special attention was given in the first instance, the patient declaring his health to be, as it appeared, good. The eruption remained stationary however; the bogginess changed to induration of base, with a scaly surface; feverishness and sore throat ushered in eruption on the face, and the nature of the ailment stood clearly revealed.
I regret that inquiry failed to elicit satisfactorily the source from whence the virus came, although the artist was a private in the regiment, in fact its professional tattooer. My late colleague, Dr Campbell, who served in China and Japan, informs me that syphilitic inoculation through this medium is not at all infrequent in the latter country, where tattooing, according to recent travelers has reached the acme of perfection. (Vide Miss Bird's Travels in Japan). In past years, when deserters were marked, and afterwards sought to obliterate the letter D by merging it into a flower pot and rose bush, there was more scope for the practice than at present. And, en passant, let me add that until the legislature relaxes somewhat its present excessive philanthropy, and reverts to a distinctive mark, there can be no hope of materially lessening the many thousands of deserters who cost the country annually so large a sum.6
Drew R., 1968. Entry No: 4946. Medical Officers in the British Army 1660 – 1960. Volume 1: 1660 – 1898. London: Wellcome Historical Medical Library.
RAMC/PE/3/27/Drew. Manuscript for Drew's Roll.
1Robinson F. (1887). The new Religio Medici: Chapters on present day subjects. BMJ (1887); 2: 776 (Published 8 October 1887).
2Obituary, Brigade-Surgeon Frederick Robinson MD, FRCP. BMJ (1901); 2: 2 (Published 27 July 1901).