|Description||The records consist of 89 letters written by John Franklin to Richardson between 1820 and 1845, together with 2 letters written by Franklin to his niece, and Richardsons's wife, Mary, 1833-1834, 5 letters from other correspondents, 1825-1850, assorted extracts or copies of documents relating to Arctic exploration, and examples of his published writings, including "The Polar Expedition" of 1861.|
|Administrative History||John Richardson (1787-1865) was born on 5 Nov 1787 in Dumfries, Scotland, the son of Gabriel Richardson and his wife Anne (nee Mundell). He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh (as well natural history) and became a navy surgeon in 1807. After leaving the navy in 1815, he tried his hand at setting up a private practice, but this failed. He was then appointed naturalist and surgeon to John Franklin's first Arctic land expedition (1819-1822): the expedition achieved only partial success in its mission to survey coastlines in the Canadian Arctic and suffered heavy loss of life, including one "voyageur" named Michel Terahoute, whom Richardson himself had shot in Oct 1821, fearing that he and his colleague John Hepburn were in grave danger following the death of their colleague Robert Hood, who had been shot, they believed, by Terahoute. On the expedition's return, there was no inquiry by the Admiralty into the circumstances of Terahoute's death. |
Richardson had become a great friend and loyal colleague of Franklin, and preparations were made in for a second Arctic land expedition together. Although Richardson had been appointed surgeon to the Marine Division at Chatham in 1824, he was given leave to accompany Franklin again. This second expedition (1825-1827), though not without incident, was largely successful in its aims, with Richardson himself completing his study of plants and animals, with the assistance of Thomas Drummond; during the expedition Franklin had split the expedition into two groups to survey the coastline, with Franklin leading his group west and Richardson his group eastwards.
Following the expedition's return, Richardson was appointed Chief Medical Officer of the Melville Hospital at Chatham. In 1838 he was appointed Senior Physician at the Haslar Royal Navy Hospital, and in 1840 Inspector of Hospitals. He was knighted in 1846.
With his friend Franklin not having returned from the Arctic expedition which set off in May 1845, Richardson was appointed, with John Rae as his second-in-command, in 1847 to be commander of an overland expedition, with John Rae as his deputy, to search for him and his men in a similar area to that of the first land expedition. As no trace was found of the Franklin expedition, he left the expedition in the hands of the much younger Rae and returned to England in 1849. Overlooked for promotion, he retired from his job in 1855 to live at Easedale in Westmorland on an estate inherited by his third wife. He died at Easedale on 7 June 1865.
He married three times, all to women with the forename Mary: first in 1818 to Mary Stiven, who died in 1831; second in 1833 to Mary Booth (niece of his friend Sir John Franklin), who died in 1845, having given birth to 7 children by him; and lastly in August 1847, Mary Fletcher, who survived her husband to live until 1880.