Lives of the fellows

William Somerville

b.1768 d.25 June 1860
MD Aberd(1800) LRCP(1817) FRS(1817)

William Somerville, M.D., was descended from the ancient family of Somerville of Cambusnethan, a branch of the Somervilles of Drum, who were ennobled in 1424. He was the eldest son of the Rev. Thomas Somerville, minister of Jedburgh, and was educated as a surgeon, in which capacity he entered the army. He was present at the taking of the Cape of Good Hope, and was sent by the authorities to make a treaty with the savage tribes on the border, who had attacked the Dutch farmers and carried off their cattle. On a second excursion with a similar object, he reached the Orange river, and was the first white man who had ever been in that part of Africa. Subsequently he served in Canada and in Sicily under his friend Sir James Craig.

He graduated doctor of medicine at Aberdeen 27th June, 1800, and about 1813 was appointed head of the Army Medical Department in Scotland, when he settled in Edinburgh. In 1816 he was appointed one of the principal medical inspectors of the Army Medical Board of England, when it became necessary that he should remove to London. Dr. Somerville was admitted a Licentiate of the College of Physicians 25th June, 1817, on the 11th of December in that year was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and on the 13th November, 1819, was gazetted physician to Chelsea hospital in succession to Benjamin Moseley, M.D., deceased, an office which he retained for many years. He died at Florence on the 25th June, 1860, aged ninety-two. His name will descend to posterity as the husband of the most learned woman of her age, Mary Somerville, the distinguished mathematician and authoress, who survived him, and died at Naples, 29th November, 1872.

William Munk

(Volume III, page 168)

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