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Memoirs and Biography

A Tyneside Martyr to Medicine

The story of John Dickinson, MB of Jarrow (1832-1863)


About this book:

  • ISBN: 9781904524908 (paperback)

  • Published 2012

  • Price £12.00 + postage

  • 92 pages

  • Illustrated with 59 photographs

About this Book:

John Dickinson was born in 1832 in Jarrow, then a small village beside the River Tyne. He was buried on the day of his 32nd birthday in a village in Central Africa beside the River Shire. The chief mourner was the most famous explorer of the day, Dr David Livingstone. As the son of a butcher in the early years of Queen Victoria's reign, Dickinson would not be expected to enter a prestigious university to study medicine. He was to become one of the first medical graduates of the University of Durham. He volunteered to join the first Universities' Mission to Central Africa, an Anglican based and combined endeavour of the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Dublin and Durham to commercialise and Christianise Africa to counter the slave trade. Early volunteers had already met up with David Livingstone and were on the Zambezi River, the portal to the largely unexplored area of Central Africa, when Dickinson left English shores as the Mission Medical Officer. His trip, to join them in Magomero, now Malawi, was regarded, even by Livingstone, as one of the most courageous of the time but it was to be an assault too far. Three of his missionary colleagues died before he requested to be allowed to be invalided out: his refusal to leave Africa until he was relieved by a successor, led to his death.


This is a fascinating and intriguing story told with enthusiasm and expertise by Dr Ian Conacher. His tale of a young doctor from Tyneside, John Dickinson, reminds us how crucial the medical profession were in spreading Christianity and expanding the British Empire. The author deploys all his training in describing the gruesome health challenges which faced the explorers in Africa when even the doctors, more often than not, themselves suffered early deaths. Lord Clark of Windermere





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