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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Browning, Colin Arrott (1791–1856)

by Charles Bateson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

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 27 September 2020.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

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