Thomas Skeete

Biography of Thomas Skeete

Thomas Skeete, born in Barbados in 1756, was by all accounts one of the most promising young physicians of his generation. He achieved much in a lifetime that was cut short by his death, aged thirty-two in 1789. Probably the son of Francis and Mary Skeete of St Philips, in which case he came from a prominent family on the island and was almost certainly the cousin of John Braithwaite Skeete, President of Barbados from 1775 to 1833.

He was sent to England, to Guy’s Hospital, to begin his medical education. He studied there with Dr. John Richard Farre, a distinguished doctor also born in Barbados, whose family was related to a later Glasgow medical student, John Richard Farre Hutson (see entry). From there Thomas went on to Edinburgh University to continue his studies and after two years moved to Glasgow, graduating M.D. in 1785. He practised in London and was elected to the prestigious post of Physician to Guy’s Hospital in 1788. The’ Medical and Philosophical Commentaries of 1790’ referred to the high expectations his friends had of his career at this time and described him as ‘a very learned and ingenious young physician, of whose name we have frequently had occasion to make honourable mention’. He had published his research begun as a student under William Saunders into the antiseptic properties of red Peruvian Bark (1786) and had investigated the role and mechanisms of opium use in some diseases.

Thomas Skeete also exercised his enquiring mind beyond the field of medicine. He was associated with the debating circle around Arthur Aiken, dissenter and republican champion of civil liberties. As a member of the Edinburgh Speculative Society from 1784 he contributed an essay on ‘Justice and Propriety of the Present State of Slavery in the West Indies’. A branch of the Skeete family owned over 300 enslaved people at the time of emancipation, though Thomas’s immediate family’s involvement in these estates is not established. He died on 29th May 1789.

Summary

Thomas Skeete
Born 1756.
Died 29 May 1789.
University Link: Graduate
GU Degree: MD, 1785;
Occupation categories: physicians
Record last updated: 12th Apr 2021

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