Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thomas Reid (1791–1825)

by Charles Bateson

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Thomas Reid (1791-1825), naval surgeon and prison reformer, was born in Ireland and educated near Ballinderry, County Tyrone. He entered the navy about 1811, passed examinations at the Royal College of Surgeons in London in 1813 and was admitted a member in November 1815. He was appointed a naval surgeon on 10 January 1814. At the instigation of Elizabeth Fry he made voyages as surgeon-superintendent of the convict ships Neptune, to Sydney in 1818, and Morley, to Hobart Town and Sydney in 1820, and both Governor Lachlan Macquarie and Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell reported on his conduct in these voyages with exceptional warmth; but Reid regarded transportation with repugnance, detested its brutalities and declined to make further voyages in convict transports.

After arriving in Sydney in the Morley, Reid accompanied Macquarie on his tour of inspection to Bathurst, and the governor described him as 'a most agreeable, good humoured and entertaining friend and associate'. Reid contemplated settling in New South Wales, but decided not to, perhaps because it was a penal settlement. He dedicated his Two Voyages to New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land (London, 1822) to Elizabeth Fry. He also published Travels in Ireland, in the Year 1822, Exhibiting Brief Sketches of the Moral, Physical, and Political State of the Country (London, 1823). He died at Pentonville, London, on 22 June 1825. He was a capable surgeon, and a strong advocate of the employment of prisoners in a rational manner, believing this a necessary step towards their reformation.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 9-10, series 3, vol 3
  • L. Macquarie, Journals of His Tours in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, 1810-1822 (Syd, 1956)
  • C. Bateson, The Convict Ships, 1787-1868 (Glasgow, 1959).

Citation details

Charles Bateson, 'Reid, Thomas (1791–1825)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 27 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]




22 June, 1825 (aged ~ 34)
London, Middlesex, England

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