© Duane A. Cline 2001
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Ship Surgeon's Mate
The responsibilities of the Ship Surgeon's Mate as Woodall outlined them were: his responsibility to God, to the surgeon and to the knowledge of his calling. He warned specifically against open disagreement with his chief for this was prone to unsettle the confidence of the ship's company. Additionally, if the mate was to hazard his life on a dangerous voyage, every opportunity must be seized to profit from the experience and record it on paper. This advice to keep a journal not only benefited the mate, but also Woodall himself, who clearly digested such accounts to determine the contents of the chests, and ultimately , to consolidate his book. Disapproval is expressed of idling, excessive drinking, smoking and neglect of seamen, particularly when afflicted by unseemly and miserable conditions such as rectal prolapse. Not only was the mate to pursue his studies, clean and sharpen instruments, weight and make up pharmaceutical preparations, work as the ship's barber, but also act as nurse and menial to the seriously ill; after all, the surgeon himself was low on the ship's hierarchy being accorded the same status as the steward, the cook, the coxwain and the carpenter, whose tools were largely interchangeable with the surgeon's instruments.
Last modified February 13, 2001
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