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Views & Reviews Medical Classics

The Adventures of Roderick Random

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 14 September 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5718
  1. Wendy Moore, freelance writer and author, London
  1. wendymoore{at}

For the most vivid account of 18th century naval surgery, nothing beats Tobias Smollett’s comic novel The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748). A ribald romp in the best traditions of bawdy Georgian humour, Smollett’s first novel drew on his experience as a surgeon’s second mate during the ill fated British expedition to the West Indies during war with Spain in 1740-1.

Scottish born Smollett (1721-71) served five years’ apprenticeship to two surgeons in Glasgow before heading to London to take the examination in surgery that qualified him to enrol with the navy. But after his gruesome experience on board the battleship HMS Chichester …

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