Lives of the fellows

Robert Harvey

b.10 March 1842 d.1 December 1901
CB DSO MB CM(1863) MD Hon LLD Aberd FRCP(1894)

Robert Harvey was born at Aberdeen, the eldest son of Alexander Harvey, Regius professor of materia medica in the University. He was himself educated at Aberdeen and Glasgow Universities, graduating as M.B, C.M, with highest honours, in 1863. Having spent a year as resident accoucheur to the Birmingham General Dispensary, he passed second into the Army Medical Department and transferred to the Bengal Medical Service in 1865. He was engaged in the Bhutan campaign soon after his arrival in India, but in 1866 was appointed residency surgeon to the Eastern Rajputana Agency, a post he held till 1871, when he volunteered for the Lushai expedition. He next served with the Central India Horse for four years until his appointment as civil surgeon at Simla in 1876. In 1878 he became sanitary commissioner for Lower Bengal. For his work in publishing the medico-legal records of Bengal he was made a fellow of Calcutta University in 1879. In the following year he was made professor of midwifery at the Calcutta Medical College and obstetric surgeon to the Eden Hospital. At the same time he began a highly successful private practice. He was also principal of the Medical College for a short period.

In compliance with I.M.S. regulations, Harvey returned to military service in 1890. He was principal medical officer, first at Peshawar and then, from 1891 to 1893, with the Punjab Frontier Force. In the latter capacity he served in the Miranzai and Isazai expeditions, winning the D.S.O. in the former. A short interval of civilian employment intervened. He became inspector-general of civil hospitals in Lower Bengal, and in 1894 was largely responsible for the success of the first Indian Medical Congress at Calcutta, in which he held the office of president. In 1895 he was given the military post of principal medical officer to the Punjab Command. He received the C.B. for his part in the Tirah campaign. In 1898 he was promoted to be director-general of the I.M.S. and held the appointment through three critical years, in which India was swept by famine and plague, until his death at Simla in 1901.

Harvey was a man of many parts, a capable organiser, a shrewd commentator, a competent lecturer and an exemplary leader. He combined, in fact, all the qualities needed by an I.M.S. officer of his day. His wife was Emmie Josephine Drayton, daughter of J. Drayton Grimke of Charleston, U.S.A.; they had no children.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1901; B.M.J., 1901; Times, 2 Dec. 1901; Roll of I.M.S., 168]

(Volume IV, page 370)

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