Lives of the fellows

Humphry Sandwith

b.1822 d.16 May 1881
MD Lond Hon DCL Oxon FRCP(1859)

Humphry Sandwith was born at Bridlington, the eldest son of Humphry Sandwith, surgeon, by his wife, a daughter of Isaac Ward of Bridlington. He attended several schools to little advantage and was then employed in the dispensary of an uncle at Beverley, where he compensated for the daily monotony of his work by nightly duck-shooting expeditions. In 1846 he graduated from St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, and in 1847 was appointed house surgeon to the Hull Infirmary. Two years later he went to Constantinople with letters of introduction to Sir Stratford Canning, the British Ambassador, and was invited to join the second expedition of Layard, the archaeologist, to Mesopotamia. When the Crimean War broke out, he served as staff surgeon under General Beatson, with a corps of Bashi-Bazouks on the Danube, and, later, as inspector-general of hospitals under Williams during the siege of Kars. When Kars surrendered, he was given his liberty in recognition of his humane treatment of Russian wounded. On his return to England, after a journey on foot across the Armenian mountains, he published an account of his experiences which took London by storm, and he was summoned to recount his adventures to the Queen and her ministers. He was made C.B, given an honorary degree by Oxford, and awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honour by France and the Order of St. Stanislaus by Russia.

In 1857 Sandwith went to Mauritius as colonial secretary but resigned, owing to ill health, after three years and thereafter began to interest himself in politics. He was a member of the Jamaica Committee and stood for the parliamentary borough of Marylebone in 1868. During the Franco-Prussian War, he visited France on behalf of the National Aid Society, and in 1872 he was invited by the municipality of Belgrade to attend Prince Milan’s coronation. As a result he became closely involved in Serbian politics. When the war with Turkey broke out, he devoted himself to the Serbian cause, caring for the sick and wounded and raising large sums of money for their relief. His efforts had disastrous effects on his health and, though he persevered to the last with his humanitarian causes, his endeavours were to a great extent vitiated by illness. "Straight as an arrow he flew through life," wrote Max Müller of him, "a devoted lover of truth, a despiser of quibbles." Yet his single-mindedness displayed a partisanship common among enthusiasts. He married in 1860 Lucy, daughter of Robert Hargreaves of Accrington, whose brother William was a friend of Cobden’s.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1881; B.M.J., 1881; D.N.B., 1, 281]

(Volume IV, page 118)

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