Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

William Donnelly R. N.,

Convict Ship Surgeon-Superintendent

William Donnelly was employed as Surgeon Superintendent on the Emperor Alexander to Van Diemen's Land in 1833.

He kept a Medical Journal from 13th March to 16th August 1833.

Gilbert Blane Gold Medal

William Donnelly, ship's surgeon on HMS Hussar, was awarded the Sir Gilbert Blane Gold Medal in 1832 for his work in examining the nature and treatment of syphilis and rheumatic fever, including detailed anatomic studies of the effects of the latter on the cardiovascular system.[1]

.....Bronze specimen of the medal

Medical Officers of the Navy

The New Navy List in 1830 included a history and description of the award including a list of previous recipients.......

Notice is hereby given to the Medical Officers of the Royal Navy, that Sir Gilbert Blane, Bart., First Physician to his Majesty, and formerly Member of the Board for Sick and Wounded Seamen, with the concurrence and approbation of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, has, for the encouragement of Naval Medical Science, and the excitement of an emulation that may conduce to the interests of an important branch of the public service, established a Fund in perpetuity, for the purpose of providing the means of conferring a gold medal, once in every two years, on such two Medical Officers, whether Surgeons, or Assistant-Surgeons acting as Surgeons, as shall produce the most approved journals of their practice, whilst actually serving in King's Ships.

The selection of the journals will, in the first instance, be made by the Medical Commissioners of the Victualling Board, on the 12th of August, 1831, and will consist of not more than ten, nor less than five of those journals delivered into office between the 12th of July, 1827, and the 12th of July, 1831; and the subsequent selections will be made from those delivered within the period of every two succeeding years; and the adjudication of the medals will, during the life of Sir Gilbert Blane, be made by him, and will subsequently be vested in the Senior Medical Commissioner, the President of the College of Physicians, and the President of the College of Surgeons, London.

Medical Officers who have received Sir Gilbert Blane's Gold Medal. -

Alexander M'Kechnie, M.D., Surgeon.

Robert Henderson Broun, Surgeon.

James Ormiston McWilliam M.D. Surgeon

Samuel Irvine, M.D., Surgeon

Robert Purkis Hillyar, (Inspector)

John Liddell, M.D. (Inspector.)

John Tarn, Surgeon.

William Donnelly, M.D. Surgeon [2]

Naval Service

William Donnelly M.D., was appointed surgeon to H.M.S. San Josef at Plymouth on 25 April 1840. H.M.S. San Josef was a Spanish ship captured at St. Vincents and used for the service of the ordinary at Plymouth and the flag of Admiral Superintendent. Captain Joseph N. Tayler and Commander Harry L. Richards. [3]

Notes and Links

1). A description of William Donnelly's publication in the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal in January 1831 on the Treatment of Venereal Diseases, the results of his observations while on board H.M. Ships Hussar and Sparrowhawk.....The North American Medical and Surgical Journal, Volume 11

2). National Archives. Reference: ADM 101/25/8 Description: Medical journal of the Emperor Alexander, convict ship from 13 March to 16 August 1833 by William Donnelly, surgeon and superintendent, during which time the said ship was employed in conveying convicts from England to Van Diemen's Land


[1] Sir Gilbert Blane : the man and his legacy - Lt Cdr Jowan G Penn-Barwell

[2]. The New Navy List and General Record of the Services of Officers by Joseph Allen

[3] Haultain, C. (compiled), The New Navy List, 1840, p. 220