Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Colin Arrott Browning (1791–1856)

by Charles Bateson

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Colin Arrott Browning (1791-1856), naval surgeon from Scotland. He was appointed an assistant surgeon in the navy on 7 July 1813, and surgeon on 8 February 1817. He became an M.D. of Edinburgh University Medical College in 1825. He first visited Australia as surgeon-superintendent in the convict ship Surry to Sydney in 1831 and later served in a similar capacity in the Arab (to Hobart, 1834), Elphinstone (Hobart, 1836), Margaret (Sydney, 1840), Tortoise (Hobart, 1842), Earl Grey (Hobart, 1843), Mount Stewart Elphinstone (Hobart, 1845) and Hashemy (Sydney, 1849).

Browning, a kindly and religious man but restricted and narrow in outlook, protested against sick prisoners being embarked and complained of the quantity and quality of the medicines and medical comforts placed in convict ships. He was attentive in the medical care of the prisoners and sought to further their education. After the voyage of the Elphinstone Browning published England's Exiles; or a View of a System of Instruction and Discipline … (London, 1842). It included verbatim reports of his frequent sermons, with medical details relegated to the appendix. An account of his experiences in the Earl Grey was published under the title The Convict Ship; a Narrative of the Results of Scriptural Instruction and Moral Discipline … (London, 1844).

Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Franklin more than once recommended him for further appointments and in 1843 detained him in Hobart to assist in forming female schools and in establishing a ladies' society for visiting the female prisoners. Browning died of cancer at Charlton, Woolwich, on 23 October 1856, leaving an estate valued at under £1500 to his wife, Elizabeth.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Bateson, The Convict Ships. (1787-1868) (Glasgow, 1959)
  • M. L. Verso, ‘A Medical Account of a Voyage on a Convict Vessel’, Medical Journal of Australia, 13 May 1950, pp 625-27
  • Adm 101/4 (National Archives of the United Kingdom).

Citation details

Charles Bateson, 'Browning, Colin Arrott (1791–1856)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 16 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]




23 October, 1856 (aged ~ 65)
Woolwich, England

Cause of Death

cancer (not specified)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Passenger Ship