James Drummond Marshall (1808 - 1868):
James Drummond Marshall was a Belfast physician from a medical family. His father had his own practice and was an attending surgeon at the Fever Hospital in the town, and he was a nephew of James Lawson Drummond, who had a significant rôle in the foundation of the Belfast Academical Institution-Belfast Fever Hospital medical school: he was foundation secretary of the medical faculty board.
Marshall was born in the centre of Belfast, at 94 High Street (the date and even year are not clear though it appears to have been 1808 or 1809) and educated at the Belfast Academical Institution (now the Royal Belfast Academical Institution) which he entered in November 1814 and attended until 1826. In 1823 he was admitted as a licensed apprentice by Apothecaries’ Hall, Dublin. Deciding on a medical career he went to Edinburgh, where he took the Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1830 and the Doctorate of Medicine in 1832. He returned to Belfast and by 1834 was in practice as a physician and apothecary with his brother and father in High Street. This was a successful concern to which he devoted much time and talent. He was a medical attendant during the 1837 fever epidemic and joined the Belfast Medical Society in 1843.
In the autumn of 1835 the Belfast Academical Institution (where his uncle James Lawson Drummond was Professor of Anatomy and Physiology, and also Professor of Botany) appointed five professors to its Faculty of Medicine; Marshall was elected as Professor of Materia Medica and Pharmacy. He was also elected secretary of the Faculty and later its treasurer as well. He was as dedicated to these roles as he was to his own practice, for example writing exemplary minutes of the 113 meetings of the faculty which he attended (out of 124 which were convened). When the Academical Institution’s medical faculty was wound up, in December 1848 he applied for the Chair in Materia Medica at Queen’s College, Belfast, but was unsuccessful. In the 1850s he gradually wound down his various activities and moved to Holywood, County Down.
Marshall also had academic and cultural leanings: he was one of the founders of the Belfast Museum in 1831, was a member of the Belfast Literary Society and addressed the British Association in 1852. He read a number of academic papers in his career, beginning when still attending the Academical Institution. He had an interest in natural history, was a member of the Belfast Natural History Society for whom he demonstrated specimens, and spent some time on Rathlin Island, Country Antrim, preparing studies on the natural history and zoology of the island which were later published with his own illustrations.
Marshall married, in 1837, Jane Sheridan Knowles, whose father was James Sheridan Knowles, well-known playwright, teacher, later a Baptist preacher and writer; and relative of the playwright RB Sheridan. She died in 1854; Marshall himself in March 1868.
Professor Sir Peter Froggatt
John Gray & Wesley McCann (eds): An Uncommon Bookman: Essays in Memory of JRR Adams (Belfast, Linen Hall Library, 1996), pp 74-99, (Sir Peter Froggatt); John Jamieson: The History of the Royal Belfast Academical Institution 1810-1960 (Belfast, 1959)
© 2022 Ulster History Circle