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Dr Colin Chisholm (1754/55 - 1825)

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Dr Colin Chisholm of Inverness graduated from Aberdeen University in 1793 and was a medical practitioner in Grenada, landowner in Demerara and the author of An essay on the malignant pestilential fever. In Grenada he was in parnership with Dr William Munro who succesfully treated him during a bout of fever. In Inverness (22 Dec 1794) he married Elizabeth Cooper, daughter of the late John Cooper of St Kitts (The Scots Magazine - Monday 01 December 1794). Later in life he lived in Bristol and sponsored Bristol students who attended the University of Aberdeen.

Dr Chisholm was one of the first to argue that yellow fever was a contagious disease, introduced to the Caribbean through the transportation of slaves from Africa. He reached this conclusion following his own observations as an army surgeon.

In 1797 he spent time with Governor Van Battenburgh, in Berbice. In his 1801 book Malignant Fever in the West Indies, Chisholm wrote:

I probably hazard the implication of credulity by the following note:—In the year 1797, happening to be at Govenor Van Battenburgh's plantation, in Berbice, the conversation turned on a singular animal which had been repeatedly seen in Berbice river, and some smaller rivers. This animal is the famous Mermaid, hitherto considered as a mere creature of the imagination. It is called by the Indians mene mamma, or mother of the waters. The description given of it by the Governor is as follows:—The upper portion resembles the human figure, the head smaller in proportion, sometimes bare, but oftener covered with a copious quantity of long black hair. The shoulders are broad, and the breasts large and well formed. The lower portion resembles the tail-portion of a fish, is of immense dimension, the tail forked, and not unlike that of the dolphin, as it is usually represented. The colour of the skin is either black or tawny. The animal is held in veneration and dread by the Indians, who imagine that the killing it would be attended with the most calamitous consequences. It is from this circumstance that none of these animals have been shot, and, consequently, not examined but at, a distance. They have been generally observed in a sitting posture in the water, none of the lower extremity being discovered until they are disturbed; when, by plunging, the tail appears, and agitates the water to a considerable distance round. They have been always seen employed in smoothing their hair, or stroking their faces and breasts with their hands, or something resembling hands. In this posture, and thus employed, they have been frequently taken for Indian women bathing.

He was related to the Inglis and Bailie families and well known to Scots in Guiana. In 1808 Edward Fraser wrote to his mother from Berbice saying that he was 'thinking of trying Dr Chisholm’s plan of drinking nothing but water – malt liquors and porter being prejudicial to health'.

Chisholm made a donation of 100 guineas towards the establishment of the Northern Infirmary, in Inverness, which opened in 1803.





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