Ranby, John (DNB00)

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RANBY, JOHN (1703–1773), sergeant-surgeon, the son of Joseph Ranby of St. Giles-in-the-Fields in the county of Middlesex, innholder, put himself apprentice to Edward Barnard, foreign brother of the Company of Barber-Surgeons, on 5 April 1715, paying him the sum of 32l. 5s. 0d. On 5 Oct. 1722 he was examined touching his skill in surgery. His answers were approved, and he was ordered the seal of the Barber Surgeons Company as a foreign brother. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on 30 Nov. 1724. He was appointed surgeon-in-ordinary to the king's household in 1738, and in 1740 he was promoted sergeant-surgeon to George II. He became principal sergeant-surgeon in May 1743, and in this capacity accompanied his master in the German campaign of that year. He was present at the battle of Dettingen, and there had as a patient the Duke of Cumberland, the king's second son. In 1745 Ranby's interest with the king and the government of the day was sufficient to insure the passing of the act of parliament constituting a corporation of surgeons distinct from that of the barbers. His exertions in promoting this separation were rewarded by his nomination as the first master of the newly founded surgeons' company, an especial favour, as he had never held any office in the old and united company of Barber-Surgeons. Joseph Sandford, the senior warden of the old company, and William Cheselden, the junior warden, took office under him as the first wardens. He presented a loving cup to the company to mark his year of office, and it is still in the possession of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. He was re-elected master of the company in 1751, when the company entered into occupation of their new theatre in the Old Bailey, and for a third time in 1752. Ranby was appointed surgeon to the Chelsea Hospital on 13 May 1752 in succession to Cheselden. He died on 28 Aug. 1773, after a few hours' illness, at his apartments in Chelsea Hospital, and is buried in the south-west portion of the burying-ground attached to the hospital, in a square sandstone tomb with a simple inscription (Gent. Mag. 1773, p. 415). He married, in 1729, Jane, the elder daughter of the Hon. Dacre Barrett-Lennard. Queen Caroline, says Lord Hervey, ‘once asked Ranby whilst he was dressing her wound if he would not be glad to be officiating in the same manner to his own old cross wife that he hated so much.’

Ranby had a large surgical practice, and Fielding introduces him into his novel of ‘Tom Jones.’ He was a man of strong passions, harsh voice, and inelegant manners. Queen Caroline called him ‘the blockhead’ before submitting to the operation for hernia of which she died (see Mahon, Hist. of England, ii. 314).

His works are: 1. ‘The Method of Treating Gunshot Wounds,’ London, 1744, 2nd edit. 1760; 3rd edit. 1781, all 12mo; an account of some of the surgical cases which came under Ranby's care when he served under Lord Stair in the German campaign terminating at the battle of Dettingen. The work is of extreme simplicity in style, and foreshadows that associated aid for the wounded in battle which has only recently been adopted by the formation of an Army Medical Service. He extols the use of Peruvian bark in the suppuration following upon gunshot wounds, and makes the acute observation that its virtue is increased if the elixir of vitriol be given with it. He thus anticipates by many years the use of quinine. He also gives a detailed account of a wound in the leg sustained by the Duke of Cumberland, who attended his father, George II, in the campaign. Finally, he relates cases of death from tetanus occurring after gunshot wounds. 2. ‘A Narrative of the last illness of the Earl of Orford, from May 1744 to the day of his decease, 18 March following,’ London, 1745; 2nd edit. 1745. This pamphlet, relating to the last illness of Sir Robert Walpole, gave great offence to the physicians, for in it Ranby utterly condemned the use of the lithontryptic lixivium in the treatment of stone. 3. ‘The True Account of all the Transactions before the Right Honourable the Lords and others Commissioners for the affairs of Chelsea Hospital as far as relates to the Admission and Dismission of Sam. Lee, Surgeon,’ London, 1754. This work incidentally exposes the methods adopted by a hernia-curing quack to whom the government of the day had paid large sums of money. 4. ‘Three Curious Dissections by John Ranby, esq., Surgeon to His Majesty's Household and F.R.S. 1728,’ printed in William Beckett's ‘Collection of Chirurgical Tracts,’ London, 1740. 5. Paper in the ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ 1731, vol. xxxvii.

A natural son of the sergeant-surgeon, John Ranby (1743–1820), born in 1743, assumed the name of Ranby by royal license, in exchange for that of Osborne, in 1756. He states that he knew Richard Watson [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Llandaff, at Trinity College, Cambridge, where, however, he did not graduate. He ‘huzzaed after Mr. Wilkes’ in 1763, but developed into a partisan pamphleteer on the other side. In 1791 he published ‘Doubts on the Abolition of the Slave Trade,’ which Boswell (who calls Ranby his ‘learned and ingenious friend’) highly commended. In 1794, in his ‘Short Hints on a French Invasion,’ he deprecated the general tendency to panic. Three years later he supported Bishop Watson in his controversy with Gilbert Wakefield [q. v.], and in 1811 he attempted to explode the theory of the increasing influence of the crown. In later life he resided first at Woodford in Essex, where he befriended Thomas Maurice [q. v.] the orientalist, and then at Bury St. Edmunds, where he died on 31 March 1820. He was buried at Brent Eleigh in Suffolk, where there is a monument to him and his wife Mary, daughter of Edward Grote and Mary (Barnardiston). She died on 3 Jan. 1814 (notes furnished by G. Le G. Norgate, esq.; Davy's manuscript Athenæ Suffolcenses, iii. 104; Maurice, Memoirs of the Author of Indian Antiquities, pt. iii. p. 6).

[South's Memorials of the Craft of Surgery, edited by D'Arcy Power, London, 1886; article by Dr. Irving on Military Medical Literature in the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, 1845, lxiii. 93; information kindly supplied by Mr. Sidney Young, F.S.A., master of the Barbers' Company, and Rev. Sydney Clark, M.A., Chaplain to the Chelsea Hospital; Burke's Peerage, 1893, sub nomine ‘Hampden;’ Hervey's Memoirs of the Reign of George II, 1848, ii. 507, 526.]

D’A. P.