On This Day: 12 October 1701

On this day in 1701, Thomas Bowrey’s father-in-law, Phillip Gardiner, supplied medicines, drugs and necessaries for the use of the surgeon on the ship Prosperous. It is a very long list of almost 200 different items. Gardiner was an apothecary who also invested occasionally in trading voyages to the East Indies and elsewhere.

Similar long lists of drug survive for two more of Bowrey’s ships but a fourth, the Scipio, returned with a cargo of drugs that were sold in London.

By this date, most merchant ships no longer carried a surgeon but they would often carry apothecary’s chests with instructions for use. That Bowrey’s ships carried both surgeon and apothecary’s chests may have been due to his personal experience of how dangerous sickness at sea could be.

Despite this, mariners were fatalistic about illness and believe that fate or the will of God had more influence on their survival than the surgeon or the apothecary’s chest.

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