Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Smith, Andrew

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SMITH, Sir ANDREW (1797–1872), director-general army medical department, the son of T. P. Smith of Heron Hall, Roxburghshire, was born in 1797. He commenced the study of medicine with Mr. Graham, a surgeon in the county, with whom he served an apprenticeship of three years. He afterwards studied medicine at the university of Edinburgh, attending the Charles House Square Infirmary, the Royal Infirmary, and Lying-in Hospital. He graduated M.D. on 1 Aug. 1819, taking as the subject of his thesis ‘De variolis secundariis.’ He entered the army as a hospital mate on 15 Aug. 1815. His intelligence and energy soon brought him into notice, and his rise was rapid. Becoming temporary hospital mate on 15 Aug. 1815 and hospital assistant on 14 March 1816, he went to the Cape in 1821 and remained there sixteen years, being promoted assistant surgeon 98th foot on 27 Oct. 1825, staff assistant surgeon on 23 Feb. 1826, and staff surgeon on 7 July 1837. In 1828, at the request of the government and commander-in-chief of the Cape, he reported on the bushmen, and in 1831 on the Amazooloo and on Port Natal. In 1834 he superintended an expedition for exploring Central Africa from the Cape, fitted out by the Cape of Good Hope Association (expedition 1834–6), and was directed to negotiate treaties with the native chiefs beyond the northern boundary of the colony. For several years he performed the duties of director of the government civil museum at Cape Town without salary. He received the thanks of the home government for these services. His scientific researches in southern Africa he embodied in many able papers on the origin and history of Bushmen, and in his ‘Illustrations of the Zoology of South Africa,’ 1838–47, 4to, 5 vols. Some copious and valuable notes regarding the aborigines of South Africa and the different Kaffir tribes have not been fully published. On all questions relating to South Africa he was regarded as an authority, and it was due to his representation and counsel that Natal became a colony of the British crown.

After returning to England in 1837 Smith acted as principal medical officer at Fort Pitt, Chatham. On 19 Dec. 1845 he was made deputy inspector-general, and in 1846, at the instance of Sir James McGrigor, the director-general of the army medical department, he was transferred to London as ‘professional assistant.’ He was promoted inspector-general on 7 Feb. 1851, and on 20 Feb. following, when Sir James retired, Smith was appointed by the Duke of Wellington his successor as inspector-general and superintendent of the army medical department. On 25 Feb. 1853 he was nominated director-general of the army and ordnance medical departments. During the Crimean campaign he was accused of dereliction of duty in the press and elsewhere, and grave imputations were cast upon his department. The evidence and documents laid before the Sebastopol and other committees did much to vindicate his reputation as an administrator. He resigned his post as director-general, owing to impaired health, on 22 June 1858, and was on 9 July following created K.C.B.

Smith was elected a fellow of the Wernerian Society in 1819, an honorary fellow of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow in 1855, of the College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1856, of the Medico-Chirurgical Society of Aberdeen in 1855, and a doctor of medicine honoris causa of Trinity College, Dublin, in 1856. Acuteness of mind and varied accomplishments left their impress on every enterprise he embarked upon. He died on 12 Aug. 1872 at his residence in Alexander Square, Brompton. His portrait in oils now hangs in the ante-room of the officers' mess, Netley, Hampshire.

[Lancet, 1872; British Medical Journal, 1872; Medical Times and Gazette, 1872; Catalogue Brit. Mus. Library; Royal Society's Cat. of Scientific Papers; Army Lists; Record of services preserved at the War Office; Men of the Reign; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.]

W. W. W.