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Travel and Natural History
The Opposable Thumb: The Chronicles of Dr Charles James Meller (1836-1869)  

More Details:

  • ISBN: 978-1-910237-53-3

  • Published August 2021

  • Price £30.00 + postage

  • 330 pages

  • Illustrated with 146 colour and black & white photographs




About this Book:

Dr Ian Conacher has written two previous books on the theme of the medical doctors who accompanied the great Africa explorer, David Livingstone: A Tyneside Martyr to Medicine (2012), and An Ocean Without Shells (2016).
Dr Conacher was a Consultant Anaesthetist for nearly 30 years with the National Health Service. His primary education was in the Mandated Territory of Tanganyika; his secondary completed in a Quaker school in Somerset. He graduated in Medicine at St Andrews University in 1971, and has a Doctorate from the University of Dundee. He is a Fellow of the Faculty of Anaesthetists of the Royal College of Surgeons of London and a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. He is married has four children and five grandchildren and lives close to Newcastle upon Tyne.
A brief commitment to Médecins Sans Frontières took Dr Conacher to Armenia, and a role in the surgical management of drug resistant tuberculosis. But, as what his grandson calls a ‘tired doctor,’ Dr Conacher has continued to research the wider and deeper aspects, such as the religious and philosophical motives, of those who served on the Zambezi Expedition of 1858-1864 under the leadership of David Livingstone.
In researching and writing this book Dr Ian Conacher has travelled the road and routes across the globe that were taken by Dr Charles James Meller, and delved into the lives and bibliographies of those who influenced, commanded, inspired and motivated this early traveller in Madagascar, shortly after the death of its despotic and horrific Queen, Ranavalona.
Meller, born in Surrey in 1836, trained as a doctor at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, London. In the mid-1860s he explored Madagascar around the same time as some of the earliest expeditions to Africa. Meller’s Duck, which lives on the eastern slopes of the central highlands of Madagascar is named after him – the duck is currently threatened by habitat and climate change.
Dr Meller became a director of Pamplemousses Botanic Garden, near Port Louis, Mauritius, the oldest botanical gardens in the Southern Hemisphere. The garden is famous for its pond of giant water lilies and also features spices, ebonies, sugar canes, and many varieties of palms.
In the mid-nineteenth century the sugar industry had been developing in Mauritius and the gardens were used for introducing new cane varieties from around the world. Dr. Meller was sent to Australia to bring back new varieties of sugar cane but sadly died on his return journey.





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By the same author:

An Ocean Without Shells

A Tyneside Martyr to Medicine


Copyright © Hayloft Publishing Ltd