Dr. Thomas Shapter
Gibraltar, British Overseas Territory
1902 (93 years)
Dr. Thomas Shapter, LL.D., M.D., FRCP (1809–1902) was born in Gibraltar, graduated from Edinburgh University, and arrived in Exeter in the year cholera arrived, 1832. Today, Dr Shapter is best known for the account he wrote of this devastating cholera outbreak, entitled The History of the Cholera in Exeter in 1832.
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Shapter soon developed a medical practice in Exeter and became a member of the governing body of the City, the Chamber, in 1835. As Newton puts it "his early admission into the restricted governing class of a cathedral city is a measure of his personality, as well as of his political and religious orthodoxy". Such ties were further cemented by his marriage in 1840 to the Reverend Samuel Blackhall’s daughter. He was later to become Mayor (twice) and Sherriff of the City.
He was appointed physician in 1847 at the Devon and Exeter Hospital but he also worked for the Magdalen Hospital, The Lying-in Charity and St Thomas’ Hospital for Lunatics (1845). He led an active public life and when cholera again posed a threat in 1867 he opposed plans to transfer the powers of the Improvement Commissioners to the Board of Health under the 1858 Health Act. He appears to have still believed in the efficacy of the measures and institutions established during the 1830s.
He retired from the staff of the Devon and Exeter Hospital in 1876 and later moved to London. Newton states that his departure from the city was under something of a cloud "His reputation seems to have suffered locally from the injudicious acceptance of a legacy from a mental patient under his care". In old age he went blind and died in 1902 aged 93.
Apart from his famous work on cholera he also published books a number of other books which included. Leprosy in the Middle Ages and Climate of the South of Devon. He was also a collector of art which he used to furnish his home at no. 1 Barnfield Crescent.
Title Page of the original edition
Shapter is now best known for his interest in environment and disease through his work "History of the Cholera in Exeter in 1832" which was published in 1849. This account was described in the Brit